1990 My last year of high school, majoring in vocal music and theatre arts. A year or so earlier I had begun writing poetry and teaching myself how to play the guitar ~ pastimes supplementing my personal studies into various faith traditions and their texts.
April 1990 Appeared as Annas, a High Priest, in a community performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar”. Listen to audio from the performance here!
Summer 1990 Cast as Schroeder in a local production of “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown”. Also assisted backstage with a community performance of “The Cotton Patch Gospel” and worked as a children’s theatre camp director.
Autumn 1990 Appeared in an educational film “To Catch a Thief”, produced by the John Howard Society for distribution to Canadian schools. See video here!
After two years as a volunteer with the educational puppet troupe Kids On The Block, I was hired into a paid position.
Boy-hood friend Bill Kocher and I began writing/recording original demos together ~ with plunking on the ukulele, banjo and mandolin being added to my rehearsal time.
April 1991 Crackenthorpe’s Teapot successfully auditioned to be paid street performers in our hometown of Kitchener, Ontario. We performed thorough the year at numerous local events and recorded a live collection of songs entitled “Three O’Clock Tea”. The recording was released in cassette format only and distributed freely with the words PLEASE DUPLICATE written across the back cover. See Crackenthorpe’s Teapot in 1991 here!
1992 Crackenthorpe’s Teapot dissolved. Bill, Heather and I carried on under the moniker The Climba Trio, working primarily as street performers.
Autumn 1992 Embarked upon my first solo, month-long back-packing trip throughout Scotland and England ~ busking on street corners and writing extensively during my travels.
As my musical experience grew, it ran parallel with my spiritual journey. Rooted in the tradition of “community song”, (where music is created to foster social engagement), I became increasingly uncomfortable with performing commercially. Spiritually, my study took me through the Tao-Te Ching, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, Vedas, Dhammapada, Bible, Qur’an and multiple volumes of apocryphal writings. Finding truth in all traditions, it was also uncomfortable for me to consider ever aligning with just one.
Occasionally I also rehearsed and performed with a band called The Lakes. We were a hodgepodge of floating members all belonging to other groups within diverse genres ~ rock, funk, punk, folk. As vocalist, I learned a lot from the talented musicians who often joined the ensemble. Musicians like Paul MacLeod, Sandy Macintosh, and Rob Szabo. Hear The Lakes in 1993! See The Lakes (paired down) here!
For several months, I rented an old theatre in New Dundee, Ontario as a secluded writing and reading retreat.
March 1993 Had my first experience in a proper recording studio, laying down demos for two original songs “All These Pictures” and “Upon My Shelf”. Hear the demo of “All These Pictures” here!
While still puppeteering with the Kids on the Block, I joined a second theatrical group named Aunt Betty’s Rhubarb Pies, touring schools and festivals throughout Southern Ontario.
Summer 1993 Heather Chappell and I continued to perform as street buskers. We recorded a collection of songs entitled “Off To Reap The Corn” at our community radio station CKWR 98.7 and independently released the album ~ successfully selling out in only weeks!
September 1993 Embarked upon my second back-packing trip to the United Kingdom, where I met philanthropist and musician Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens for the first time. Though I had been inspired by Yusuf’s music for years, I had become even more intrigued by his life journey, social activism and educational initiatives. When we met, he was still on a self-imposed hiatus from performing. Little did either of us know, we’d meet again a few years later, to collaborate and support each other’s ongoing work.
October 1993 Stepped up to working full-time as co-ordinator of the Kids On The Block disability awareness puppet troupe.
November 1993 While remaining a committed universalist, I recognized in myself the personal need for some form of spiritual discipline. Choosing to adopt the teachings and traditions of the Qur’an, I was soon actively involved with my local Muslim community.
1994 Heather Chappell and I graduated from singing on street corners, to performing on stages. We shared our songs at the opening of our hometown’s new City Hall, the Maraposa Folk Festival in Toronto and the Goderich Celtic Roots festival. See video here!
We independently produced a studio recording entitled “Fine Flowers In The Valley” featuring a mix of original and traditional songs. Following summer shows promoting the album’s release, I decided to step away from commercial public performances to study, write and record.
Alongside my occupation as an educational puppeteer, I took on a secondary job as a personal health care assistant to adults with physical disabilities.
1994 December Started recording “Blue Walls and The Big Sky” and independently published a book of poetry entitled “Field Tromping”.
Winter 1995 “Blue Walls and The Big Sky” recording was completed and released independently.
April 1995 Made pilgrimage to the ancient cities of Makkah and Madinah. The trip inspired multiple poems, songs and writings. Shortly thereafter, I edited and distributed my travel journal to close friends and family as a book entitled “The Journey Home”.
Spring 1995 Began work on demo recordings for a unique collection of spiritual hymns (nasheed) inspired by muslim teachings. In the true tradition of nasheed, I chooses to use only my voice and a simple frame drum (daff) on the project.
Summer 1995 Completed and sent my demo of hymns to Chicago USA based multi-media producers Sound Vision, who quickly agreed to distribute the songs as a recording entitled “A Whisper of Peace”.