Since the late 1970s I have been seeking out, learning, performing and teaching the grassroots music of my home province of Ontario, Canada. I have continued this work up to the present, and while not conducted in any systematic manner my collecting has over the years created a sizeable private database. It includes recordings of, and written music for traditional/historical songs, instrumental music, written dance instructions, and many early references to music performances and dance taken from published and private journals, diaries, posters, playbills, newspaper articles, and other writings.
This collection is by no means comprehensive, or representative of anything beyond my own interests and musical abilities. Some has survived in the oral tradition, some in printed sources. It is largely English language and for the most part comes from Ontario’s settler Scots, Irish, English and African-American traditions. It also includes a small amount French and Gaelic material. Some of it was acquired through personal contact and interaction with tradition-bearers, some was found in print and other published sources. It is what it is - and there is quite a lot of it.
Over the last four decades countless people have come up to me at my performances and handed me things that they (rightly) thought might interest me – instruments, books, binders of sheet music, song manuscripts, cassettes, 78s, lists of songs their grandmother knew. More recently these offerings have included PDFs and other digital gifts.
The ONTRAD Library is intended to make this material easily available to anyone who might be interested in learning about or performing these songs and tunes from Ontario’s past. It is loosely based on a similar website about the folk music of Gloucestershire, UK that was pointed out to me some years ago by Brad McEwan. Thanks to them and him for the inspiration!
The ONTRAD Library was originally launched on Groundhog Day 2017. In late 2022 it was ruthlessly cyber-attacked by internet pirates and sank with all hands. It has been rebuilt and launched again with the generous assistance of David Bowen in 2023.
If there is any material in this collection on which feel you have some personal claim, and which you would rather not be included in the library, please contact me by e-mail. Likewise for any errors or omissions you may notice. Thanks!