Ron Fairbairn


Chicago II

Chicago II ( Steven Wilson Remix )

Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)

Play on Spotify

We wore the grooves out on this record. As far as the remix goes – it sounds great. Not that I could really give an audiophile’s critique. In those days we spun vinyl and now it’s mp3 through Bose earbuds.

But experiencing this album again has brought such wonderful memories back to life.

I love brass. There’s nothing like a tight horn section; Punctuation and articulation – helping to navigate  the ears through the zippy rush hour time changes and guiding us safely out the off ramps.

Chicago II came out in January 1970. I was in Grade 11 at Richmond High. I crammed in most of the tough courses into Grade 11 and so my friends, especially my musical friends, were very important and highly valued.

My friend Ron Smail lived just up the street, a few short minutes from the school. His family was musical. There was a piano in the front room and if someone wasn’t playing it, there was usually records being spun. We spent a lot of time  during “spares “, hanging out and listening to music. It was a magical time, and when I listen to this album again, I’m right back there again. There’s literally the exact same feeling going on inside.

We used to get into discussions about who was better – Chicago or Blood Sweat and Tears. There was no better through – just different.

Although Robert Lamm did the lion’s share of writing on this album, to me , Terry Kath was the driving force behind Chicago; his vocals and cutting edge guitar work gave the band an authentic edge. We never considered the music “progressive rock” – I don’t think the term was even used back then. The first album – self titled “Chicago Transit Authority “ was a blues rock based horn band. With Chicago (later to be called Chicago II in retrospect), there was a definite turn in direction to a more jazz rock style, often tying songs together in orchestral suites with seamless transitions. I was learning to play bass at the time and Peter Cetera was a bass god to me. Although I was never a pick player, I’m sure he was one of my main influences, and I loved his higher register background vocals.

Although there were “hits” that were pulled from this album, it was music made for music’s sake – by superb players that could pull it off while staying on the edge. “Make Me Smile”, “25 or 6 to 4”, and I can still remember watching Ron Smail play along with “Colour My World” – no mistakes. There was musical magic in the air. Other than transistor radios, we didn’t have portable music players and so hanging out and listening to music together was an event. “tell me you will stay, make me smile”

“but most of all we’d like to play a song or two to make you feel like all the good in you is real”

Bob Lefsetz wrote a great synopsis of the Steven Wilson Remix :

Steven Wilson’s Chicago

This class is Great!!!

Vocal Performance with Jennifer Scott

Vocal Performance Class 

I am so happy to be a part of the Moveable Music School. Learning in a “hands-on-group-environment” is the ultimate way of combining learning with fun and camaraderie. Check your local listings and if you do not find a Moveable Music School, then get in touch with Rosemary Campbell and who knows?-maybe YOU could start your own MMS in your city!

I am so glad to be a part of this semester’s “Vocal Performance” class with Jennifer Scott.

Jennifer is such a Pro, and within a minute I felt like I was a passenger on a ship with a captain who had navigated these waters many, many times and who will never get tired of the journey.

This course is about vocal performance, which deals more with the issues of content, microphone technique, confidence and projection, and a chance for singers to chart their own course with some very experienced guidance at the ready.

Having taken a few “singing” lessons before, I was fully expecting to start with some instruction about breathing and the breath. Here’s where we started our warmups and here’s where I was first delightfully surprised.


Opening up “the mask”, engaging the eyes in openness and expression, rounding through the mouth – animated, openness of the throat, engaging the “performance face”, lightness in the forehead, brightness through the cheekbones and depth through dropping the jaw, watching out for nasality but being able to use it, feeling the buzz of the vibration – these were all highly contagious exercises! ( note to self-Want More! )


I learned about an app called “iReel Pro”. The app provides chord charts, with accompanying MIDI files that you can easily change keys to suit your vocal. For example, Jennifer explained how to search playlists in Forums and if you want Jazz 1300 – voila -1300 jazz standards easily downloaded. Note- these are chord charts only – no lyrics or melody, but a great way to share tunes with band mates or try new tunes out. These charts can be sent by email too, which makes it handy.

In a band I play in, we use “For Score” which is another great app for sharing charts and lead sheets with cool editing features, page turning etc. and it’s great for creating playlists and being able to easily edit or rearrange them. You can write your own songs or your own arrangements and if you can turn it into a PDF, then you can share it in For Score via Dropbox, for example.

“NotateMe Now” was mentioned as a cool app for music notation. Though single staff, it’s a great way to get your ideas down in a hurry…and it’s free!“” is a good way to buy sheet music, and you can feel good knowing that the publisher and writer are getting paid.

“Your local Library” is always a good source of written music and being that the Moveable Music School is an accredited school, it’s all legal.


This week we learned a great standard called “The Very Thought Of You” where we learned it as a group. We were then encouraged to research different versions to get some different aspects of how the song can be approached.


This is what I love about the Moveable Music School- the class environment makes it such a fun place to be, and I am always so inspired and impressed by the talent of regular people. It’s so cool to meet people and when they open up and sing it’s like – WOW – where did that come from?  Awesome.


Jenn’s such a Pro. She records the lesson on what looked to be a Zoom H4N or equivalent, and then separates the sections of the lessons and sends them to your inbox via Hightail the following morning. Ged’er done!!…or something like that.


Stand and Deliver a song of your choice. You then get an encouraging assessment of where you could go from there. Count me in!


Singing Lessons


Ron Fairbairn - Recording vocals in the shower

Singing Lessons

Again!  This time, I am really excited. I am starting Vocal / Performance lessons with Jennifer Scott through the Moveable Music School (

Jennifer is an amazing singer (probably one of the top five singers in Canada) and she is also known as a top notch educator. I am pretty sure she will be asking a few questions such as :

Why did you sign up for this course? … and

What do you hope to get out of this course?

Here’s the thing. No one has ever said to me “man- you’re a great singer!” I know it. On the other hand, I’ve had many people tell me that they like the “sound” of my voice – so hey…capitalize right? Like Clint Eastwood said ‘a man’s got to know his limitations’. (more…)