Members of The Other Guys perform one of 22 tunes in Chemainus Theatre's musical history lesson Good Timber: Songs & Stories of the Western Logger.

Members of The Other Guys perform one of 22 tunes in Chemainus Theatre's musical history lesson Good Timber: Songs & Stories of the Western Logger.

Review: Good Timber a rollicking musical-history lesson well worth taking

Chemainus Theatre's two-week run offers a raft of educational songs and stories of the Western logger

The Klondike was one thing.

Falling coastal forests was another.

Good Timber, Chemainus Theatre Festival’s musical-history lesson gave viewers a terrific glimpse into that colourfully crude, sadly bygone era during Thursday’s debut.

We left understanding how the dangerous, dirty job chewed and spat out men too weak, or too stupid, to tame our tall timber.

Sub-dubbed Songs & Stories Of The Western Logger, six multi-instrumental musicians with The Other Guys Theatre Company strummed and sung their way into our hearts, spinning poetic yarns from the late logging icon and inventor Robert E. Swanson.

Violinist Sarah Donald’s frollicking fiddling nicely complemented lyrics by Swanson and others, set to music by fellow stage players Collen Eccleston, John Gogo, director Ross Desprez, Kelt Eccleston, Mark Hellman, musical director Tobin Stokes — and a few other guys.

Toss in a kaleidoscope of heritage still photos and film footage, and the magical result was a field trip back to B.C.’s bunkhouses, backwoods, and brothels that spawned true Canadian legends, including some in Cowichan.

And the production had local angles of woodwork around Chemainus, Ladysmith, Lake Cowichan, and Hillcrest.

Timber’s program packed a cool glossary of logger lingo including bull cook (floor sweep, bedmaker); board hole (hole cut in stumps for spring boards); skid road (road logs are dragged on); hi-ball (go fast); hay burner (horse); donkey (logging engine with drums); powder-monkey (man using explosives in the woods); jack (money); tongs (used to load logs on rail cars); gut hammer (dinner gong); and punk (signal man on a yarding crew).

Timber’s musical talk also mentioned high demand for chewing tobacco during the tune When Snoose Was King.

The ensemble’s Snoose song was among 22 falled including Legend of the Spruce, Chokerman’s Lament, The Apes of B.C., Climax Courage, Gal From The Soo, and Camps of the Holy Ghost.

From blues and Celtic to folk and old-time, Timber’s tales were backed by guitars, saws, hurdy-gurdy, metal percussion, harmonica and more, in keeping with its rough-hewn theme.

But Good Timber didn’t duck the fallout of all that logging, showing clear cuts arranged by company brains.

Short-sighted destruction spelled the beginning of the end for a frontier lifestyle forged by brave, hardy guys awed by massive cedar, fir and spruce stands that took days to cut by hand — until chainsaws and steam power caught up.

Indeed, The Other Guys staged delightful, audio-visual education for all ages and green-leanings.

The curtain falls on Good Timber June 1.

Heritage-education musical rating: 10 skidders out of 10.

Just Posted

Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Tuesday’s Lotto Max draw went unclaimed. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lotto Max jackpot goes unclaimed again

42 of the 64 Maxmillion prizes of $1 million were won, the majority were sold in Ontario

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Saltair man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

(File photo)
Poverty reduction survey identifies 10 poverty themes

Poverty reduction plan will be finalized in July 2021

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly says he has no intentions of leaving the Green Party. (House of Commons image)
Island Green MPs have “no intention” of leaving the party after ‘heartbreaking’ departure

Manly, May only remaining Green MPs after Jenica Atwin left for the Liberals over internal disputes

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., on April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Labour shortages, closed borders major obstacles to B.C. restaurant, tourism restarts

Industry expert says it won’t start to recover until international travellers can visit

A still image from security camera video recorded June 8 shows an individual lighting trash on fire in the doorway of 19+ Cannabis Store on Victoria Crescent. RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue are investigating numerous fires set in downtown Nanaimo in the past three months. (Photo submitted)
‘It’s out of control’: More than 20 fires set in downtown Nanaimo in past 3 months

Authorities asking business owners to keep dumpsters locked

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Most Read