On a journey just begun…
The Common Cup Company has moved into a fourth decade of music-making! Our beginnings go back to Winnipeg in 1979 when Ian Macdonald and Jim Uhrich moved to Augustine United Church, forming a team ministry and met Gordon Light, the neighbouring Anglican priest at St. Luke’s Church. We discovered we had all been writing music, and began to play and sing together. Bob Wallace – with his wonderfully rich baritone voice – moved to St.Stephen’s-Broadway United in 1982 and joined us.
At that time, we weren’t a group so much as four clergy who shared in weekly Bible Study, and planned fall and Lenten forums which involved our churches in learning, worshiping and singing together. But our interest in writing and music grew. We found we both challenged and fed each other… songs began to flow. And we began to receive invitations to lead worship and sing at ecumenical and denominational events. (In one unforgettable moment in 1984, Ian arranged for us to be transported to Melita, Manitoba in a CPR railcar called The Killarney. Linked to the end of a coal train, and shunted to a siding in Melita, The Killarney became our home during the Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario Conference meeting. It was also a hospitality centre with singalongs into the wee hours of the morning!)
In the ensuing years, each of us moved – some often! – to other points in Canada. And yet we continued to write and to come together whenever possible. The origin of the name Common Cup Company is now lost, but it came about sometime in the mid-eighties as we were asked more and more to provide leadership in Canada-wide and local settings. The eighties and nineties were years in which we both recorded and discovered a pattern of offering concerts and workshops in a variety of situations. In the late 1990’s, during a week at the Sorrento Centre, Richard Betts joined us with his bass, and Scott McDonald ‘moved into the tent’ by adding a drum each day, until at the end of the week he had his whole kit in place. It was clear to us that we needed their skills and vitality… the Cup was being replenished.
Jim Uhrich was in many ways the glue of our group – the one who was most disciplined, who listened to a new song, took it away with him for awhile, and returned with an arrangement that gave it the life it needed. We trusted his musical ability, and came to know how we were doing by the movement of his eyebrows! In the fall of 2008, Jim was not able to join us for an event in Kamloops, BC, and we learned early in 2009 that he was seriously ill. That spring after a lengthy stay in an Ottawa hospital, Jim died. We were among the many who felt his loss deeply. We joined Margaret and his family in Ottawa to give thanks for his life, to gather at the table where heaven and earth meet, and to sing him into the hands of his Creator. We miss him a lot – not a gathering of Common Cup goes by that we don’t remember him, toast him and recall his many gifts and his great friendship.
When we learned Jim couldn’t be with us in the fall of 2008, we discovered that Lloyd MacLean was going to be nearby in Kelowna. Lloyd is a musician who was involved in the development of More Voices, a supplemental hymn book of the United Church. Ian asked if he might come and join us in Kamloops which he willingly did. And the good fortune is that he has stayed the course… such a gift to us. Lloyd proudly hails from Pictou County, Nova Scotia and, along with his amazing piano (and accordion!) skills, has brought us the Maritime gifts of grace and good humour.
We have recorded in different venues – Winnipeg, Burnaby, and at many concerts. Rory Macdonald’ who makes us sound better than we deserve, is like a 7th member of the Cup. He regularly makes good wine out of our sometimes muddy water!
Some of our music appears in the newer Canadian hymn books and worship resources: Voices United (United Church of Canada), Common Praise (Anglican),The Book of Praise (Presbyterian) and More Voices (United Church). Our songs are also published in collections in the USA, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. She Flies On! (a song about the Spirit) has been translated into many languages including French, Spanish, German and Swedish. Much of our music has been arranged for piano by Andrew Donaldson, and sheet music can be found on our website, www.commoncup.com.
Through the many transitions – moves, unemployment, re-employment, retirement (most of us!), losses and gains, moments of grief and joy – the music has continued to give us life and laughter. The journey is always just beginning. In Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, Dr. Suess says, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose…” The brains rattle around a little more, the feet are a little more tired. And we don’t always choose the direction we go. But we have chosen to be on this journey and, by the grace of God, to continue as long as we are able.
And Oh, the Places We’ve Been!
Victoria, Nanaimo, Duncan, Shawinigan Lake, Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey, Chilliwack, Kamloops, Vernon, Kelowna, Sorrento Centre, Naramata Centre
Calgary, Edmonton, Sherwood Park, Red Deer, Coaldale, High River, Banff, Lloydminster, Stettler, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge
Regina, Saskatoon, Calling Lake Conference Centre (when it was Prairie Christian Training Centre)
Brandon, Dauphin, Carman, Portage la Prairie, Melita, Winnipeg
Toronto, Oakville, Mount Pleasant, Mount Forest, King City, Richmond Hill, Hamilton, Peterborough, Ottawa, Meaford, Orangeville
New Glasgow, Berwick Camp
Newfoundland and Labrador
Mount Pearl, Goose Bay, Northwest River
Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
(Still looking for invitations to Quebec, PEI, New Brunswick)
Philadelphia (General Convention, Episcopal Church – retirement of Presiding Bishop Ed Browning); Nashville, (RCCO 1990); Kanuga Conference Center, North Carolina”
Six Concert Tour February 22-March 3, 2018 – Kojonup, Albany, Bunbury, Mandurah, Toodyay, Dalwallinu