Cutting Bracken marches into Orillia

Susan Doolan - Special to the Examiner
Submitted - The band Cutting Bracken brings traditional Irish and Scottish music to the Orillia legion this weekend for a St. Patrick's Day celebration.

Submitted - The band Cutting Bracken brings traditional Irish and Scottish music to the Orillia legion this weekend for a St. Patrick's Day celebration.

A local band has been gaining a following for traditional Scottish and Irish music.

Peter Johnstone-Schulz, Cutting Bracken's founder, likes the rhythm of the music - marches, jigs and reels. It is also a part of his Scottish heritage.

The Hawkestone musician started Cutting Bracken, his first band, after meeting Brian Clappison at the local community hall in the heart of the village.

"We met up at the Hawkestone Hall jamming and playing and out of that one little jam session (came) Cutting Bracken," said Johnstone-Schulz, who named the band after a traditional Scottish tune, the name also speaks to the kind of music they play.

"(Our) thing is Scottish and Irish music - heavier on the Scottish except St. Patrick's Day when it's more Irish."

Three years later, Cutting Bracken has performed as far south as Hamilton, north to Orillia, and Barrie and area.

They've played festivals, fairs, pubs, the Farmers' Market and house parties - a mix of foot-stomping, good-time tunes to background dinner music depending on the venue.

The band was also part of the Innisfil Celtic Festival's float that also included highland and Irish dancers dancing to live music.

It isn't unusual for dancers to become part of the performance. In fact, the band encourages it from their audience and sometimes the band is joined by Johnstone-Schulz' nine-year-old daughter, Rori, who is into highland dance.

The music is traditional, more instrumental than vocal - occasionally the audience sings along - yet Cutting Bracken also likes to put their own stamp on it. They rarely play the same tune the same way twice. Some songs have a tribal feel, especially when the band's main percussion player, Barry Gougeon, plays the djembe.

"We always joke, it's the Irish djembe but really it's from Africa," he said. "We also have the traditional Irish drum, bohdran."

The majority of the Cutting Bracken musicians also play with the Kempenfelt Pipes and Drums, with the exception of Clappison, who plays guitar and mandolin.

They also have full-time jobs. Clappison, from Oro Station, is involved with electronics.

Gougeon, also known as the band's wild man when it comes to percussion instruments, is also a drummer for the Kempenfelt Pipes and Drums. By day, he lives in Moonstone and is a firefighter in Vaughan.

Leslie Marjerrison, on piano and bohdran, is the group's only female member. The elementary school teacher in southern Simcoe County lives in Barrie. With the pipe band, she is a tenor drummer.

Last but by no means least is the youngest member of Cutting Bracken, 12-year-old Kavan Johnstone-Schulz (Peter's son). He is able to play the accordion, bohdran, tin whistle and snare drum, which is also his main instrument with the pipe band.

The young musician has garnered a bit of reputation around the county for being a real showman.

"He steals the show everywhere we go. Excellent musician," Johnstone-Schulz said of his son. "Lots of people like the pipe but Kavan has got his own following. He's a showman, for sure."

Band members like the mix of the two different bands. The pipe band is more regimented, with roots in the military, whereas Cutting Bracken is more organic.

"We still play a lot of the same music but a 6/8 march might turn into a nice jig (with Cutting Bracken)," said Johnstone-Schulz, who plays the Great Highland Bagpipe, Scottish smallpipes and tin whistles and by day is a sales rep at G.P. Masonry in Barrie. "Everyone brings something to the band and everyone takes the lead from time to time.

"We're like a kitchen party only we're playing a pub. Our goal is to make sure everyone is having a good time."

Cutting Bracken does St. Patrick's Day, Saturday evening, at the Orillia legion.

The band will also perform Saturday from 2-5 p.m. at the Local Gastro Pub, located in Barrie at 37 Dunlop St. W.

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