Musician Prof Sells CDs for Charity

Proceeds go toward medical supplies for Tanzania

The Wild Oats

The Wild Oats band members are, from left, Rick Avery, Ross McKitrick, Nicole Ensing, Jonathan Avery and Tom Van Milligen

Mix up old English hymn tunes and a Celtic folk band, and you get a new CD intended to raise money for medical and school supplies for a developing nation.

The Dog-Eared Hymnal was released late last month by The Wild Oats, a local ensemble fronted by U of G economics professor Ross McKitrick. The group formed three years ago.

The new release is intended to raise funds for clinical medical supplies in Tanzania through World Vision Canada.

In 2012, the band gave more than $4,000 from sales of its debut album, Making Spirits Bright, to the charitable organization. Under a matching program, World Vision contributed more than $60,000 worth of school supplies to the East African country.

McKitrick hopes the new release will raise the same amount for medical supplies to Tanzania. “We didn’t want to record just for ourselves.”

He plays small pipes, pennywhistle and an Irish hand drum on the recording. Other band members are Nicole Ensing (piano), Tom Van Milligen (bass), Rick Avery (guitar), Jonathan Avery (fiddle) and Daniel Warren (trumpet).

The CD contains old-time hymns arranged for Celtic instruments. “These tunes have been sifted over for a couple hundred years,” says McKitrick. “These are great tunes. They survive every version of the hymnal.”

In a sacred-secular crossover, many of the hymns have taken on double lives as folk reels, jigs, waltzes and even what he calls “rollicking pub tunes.”

McKitrick started learning to play the small pipes and pennywhistle about a decade ago. He took lessons at Guelph-based Riverside Celtic College, where he’s now a board member.

“One thing I liked right away about Celtic music was that you learn in groups and it’s very sociable. You’re not just learning to play your own instrument. You’re learning to listen to others.”

He and other Riverside musicians play most Friday nights at the Shepherd’s Pub in Elora.

The CD was recorded at Revelation Sound in Guelph. It’s released under Chanter Records, McKitrick’s own label.

How many U of G economists have a record label? “I don’t expect there are others,” he says.

The group will hold a CD release concert Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. at St. David and St. Patrick Anglican Church in Guelph.