John Leeder has been around homemade music, much of it folk music, all his life. Growing up in the village of Inglewood, Ontario, he learned traditional songs from his mother, and from Edith Fowke's and Alan Mills's folk music programs on CBC radio. As a child, he was taught Hawaiian guitar by his father, who played many stringed instruments, and in his teens he began picking up guitar and 5-string banjo, as well as a smattering of fiddle and mandolin. The banjo became his main instrument at that time, but later on the octave mandolin was added, and became one of his mainstays. Canadian traditional music is his first love, with British "trad" and American old-time music coming a close second. His own songwriting reflects these interests -- "big choruses" and strong storytelling are hallmarks of his songs.

While attending university in Toronto, John was caught up in the mid-'60s coffeehouse scene there, and spent countless hours absorbing music in clubs like the Bohemian Embassy, the Village Corner, the Gate of Cleve and Fiddler's Green. After seven years learning and working in Toronto, he lived in Huntsville, Ontario, before moving to Calgary in 1974. There he became part of that city's folk music community as a performer and organizer. He helped run the Rocky Mountain Folk Club for over 11 years, and also worked to propogate Canadian traditional music on the national level. He was president of the Canadian Folk Music Society for two years, and has been on the board of that organization (now called the Canadian Society for Traditional Music) continuously since 1982 (he has most recently been secretary). For the same period he has been involved with the Canadian Folk Music Bulletin, the society's newsletter and magazine, including stints as editor and co-editor at various times.

John plays five-string banjo in a modified clawhammer style that is coming to be called "Leeder style" in some quarters. He plays a clear melodic line without losing the strong rhythm which is central to clawhammer picking, and he brings that style to his own compositions and takes it to places that were never envisioned by the Appalachian old-timers. On octave mandolin, again his way of playing is his own, developed from influences such as Jesse McReynolds, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and his father, Gerry Leeder.

Finally the opportunity presented itself for John to give in to the urging of his friends and record some of his music. The result is Fresh Forest Breeze, a montage of Canadian and British traditional music, John's own songs and tunes in the same vein, and a couple of favourite songs by other writers. The CD runs the gamut from unaccompanied traditional songs, to big "juicy" choruses, to instrumentals (some "Celtic"-style, some with a North American flavour). On some tracks he is joined by full bands: folk group The Sunday Night Band, Celtic session band Gan Ainm and neoCeltic band The Buccaneers. Numerous other musical friends contribute individually, and an eclectic bunch of those friends form a Singing Throng for chorus vocals. The CD was released in August 2002, and in a short time has garnered plaudits from many knowledgeable quarters.

Solo:
Water Valley Traditional Celtic Music Festival, Water Valley, Alberta
Celtic Folk, Calgary
Rocky Mountain Folk Club, Calgary
Banff Trail Community Hall, Calgary (Songs for the Seasons concert series)
NDP House, Calgary
Bitters' Pub, St. John's, Nfld.
Folk Xpress, The Portman, Boscombe, England
House concert (opening for Bill Usher), Calgary
Nancy Appleby Theatre, Athabasca, Alta.
Mount Royal College, Calgary
Douglas College, New Westminster, B.C.
EcoFest, Calgary

With Gan Ainm:
James Joyce Irish Restaurant, Calgary
The Joyce on Fourth, Calgary
The Barley Mill, Calgary
Tullamore Restaurant, Calgary (Celtic Festival)
Water Valley Traditional Celtic Music Festival, Water Valley, Alberta

With other session players:
The Tipperary House, Calgary
Shillaleigh's, Calgary
The Joyce on Fourth, Calgary
Water Valley Traditional Celtic Music Festival, Water Valley, Alta.
Fionn MacCool's, Calgary
T.A. Vern's, Calgary
Henry VIII Pub, Calgary

 

 

 

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