The Old-Time Herald Volume 13, Number 11

Everyone Sounded Different: An Interview with Chris Coole
By Thomas Grant Richardson
Rodney Wilson


For more than 15 years, a strong and vibrant old-time music community has been growing steadily just north of the 49th parallel, in Toronto, Ontario. Sparked by Cary Fagan’s article in the OTH (Vol. 11, No. 12), which gave a thoughtful overview of old-time music in Toronto, I began in-depth research there for my doctoral work in folklore and ethnomusicology. In Toronto, we have a rich case study of a contemporary scene located within a densely populated area (the city has a population of over 2.5 million), which has found value and sustenance in this traditional American art form . . .
Throughout the course of my research nearly everyone has talked about Chris Coole, as one of the best banjo players and teachers in Toronto (and beyond), and as one of the founding pillars of the current scene there. An accomplished clawhammer banjo player as well as flat-pick guitarist, Chris is equally comfortable in old-time and bluegrass, and maintains steady gigs with the bluegrass band the Foggy Hogtown Boys. This gives him a unique perspective on the confluence of these genres. As one of the stalwarts of the Toronto scene, he also has insight on the community, its history, practices, and aspirations.
On a cold Saturday afternoon in 2013, I sat down with Chris in his kitchen in the west end of Toronto, and we talked about instruments, old-time and bluegrass, John Hartford, Bill Monroe, and teaching, all while he made us a dinner of homemade pizza. This is an excerpt from that conversation. –Thomas Grant Richardson

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