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Dawn Schumilas and Don Happner
P.O. Box #359 White Fox, SK, S0J 3B0


“Tiny bubbles in the wine make me feel happy, make me feel fine …..”.  That song doesn’t really sum up the year but it does reflect the moment.   The big bottle of champagne is chilling and our spirits are elated.  We are celebrating the release of the CD!  For The Birds” is pressed, boxed, shrink wrapped and ready for sale.  The Fox Report is out early just in case any of you would like to include the CD in your holiday gift giving.  It’s a 47-minute folk-jazz album of eleven original songs (yes, for all you Spinal Tap fans, this album goes to 11).  It’s $17 plus $3 for postage, handling and taxes.  Sorry, I can’t compete with the big boys on unit price.  I turned down online downloading companies as they take 40% (major rip-off).  I will be setting up online mail order and some consignment deals but right now the fastest and cheapest way for you to get this CD is by sending me a cheque.  I am thinking of doing a run of cassettes but not likely before the New Year. 

Only family and friends get this newsletter, so let me tell you honestly and without industry hype.  We like the album.  It came out far better than either of us expected.   I’m really glad we took the extra time to “get it right”.  Something weird happened in the mastering process.  We quit being critical listeners and became listeners for enjoyment.  We don’t hear “us” anymore.  Both Don and I actually like to listen to the album because we like the songs, the arrangements and the performance.  I never thought that was possible. 

The newsletter usually relays, as humourously as possible, what happened during the year.  With the CD project in full swing, all I can tell you is what didn’t happen.  We didn’t visit most of you, we didn’t work on the house, we didn’t have a good garden (cold and rainy summer), we didn’t get our winter wood or winter meat (at least not yet), we didn’t go berry-picking and we had no wild animal adventures.  We did have digital phantoms that would occasionally insert annoying sounds during the mixdown.  I also have little leprechauns or ghosts who continue to hide things on me.  Several times now I’ve gone to get something I thought I “needed” but couldn’t find it.  So, I had to do the job another way and each time it turned out better than I had planned.  After I finished, the original thing I was looking for turned up exactly where I had looked for it three times.   I don’t fight them anymore.  They seem to be on my side.  I really hate the one that occasionally turns off the propane fridge.  Ok! Ok! Maybe it was due for a defrosting and cleaning but I don’t need some good-housekeeping ghost on my back about it!

The highlight of the summer was a trip to Nelson BC.  After a nightmare drive, we ended up at a friend’s door at 1:30am, waking him up for a key and directions to the house we were offered to stay in.  We drove up and down a mountain for an hour before returning to our friend, waking him up again, to lead us to the house, which turned out to be only a few miles away.  The next day we realized that the road sign we needed to see had been moved.  We figured those leprechauns came with us!  This house is fabulous!  It’s called Huckleberry Haven and it is a perfect private spot for vacationing in the Kootenays.  We know the owner and she let us stay there as her first guests - tourist guinea pigs!  We tried everything … deep relaxing baths with jets, wonderful deck with panoramic mountain view, hiking trails … rolled around in huckleberries and then parked ourselves in a loaded cherry tree for the afternoon.  We renewed old friendships over fine wine and wonderful cuisine.  It was a great vacation.

As I reflect on the year, I’m pleased to report that Don and I have never been happier.  I was telling that to my girlfriend the other day and she said, “Of course, you’re finally doing what you want to do together and you’re happy with the outcome”.  The romantic side of me wants to believe that but I can’t totally dismiss the “headphone effect” on the relationship.  Each  of us spent several hours/day critically listening under hot headphones for most of the year.  Some people say the secret to a successful marriage is separate bedrooms and bathrooms but there’s something to be said for headphones and they’re a lot cheaper than renovating.

This year was a technology nightmare … all the recording gear, a new computer system, Cubase (digital sound editing software), a digital camera, photo editing and graphics software (I did the CD jacket layout myself in Photoshop) and learning a lot about the internet.  When I left the office environment 9 years ago, it was pre-windows and my computer literate friends can tell you a few stories about dragging me through the mud into the 21st century.  Even techno-peasant Don can run a laptop now.   We have come to believe that all computer and software instruction manuals are translated into English in China or Japan.  Our recording board is a Yamaha and they definitely favour the Diddle Twiddle School of Engineering.  They don’t explain much, forcing the user to diddle around twiddling knobs for hours or days until an acceptable sound comes out.  It reminds me of a newspaper article I read about an instruction manual for a car rental agency in Japan.  Regarding the use of the horn it said, “If someone obstacles in your path, tootle the horn melodiously at first.  If they continue to obstacle in your path, then tootle the horn with more vigour.”  Need I say more? 

A really cool thing happened a few weeks ago … the ghosts and leprechauns at work.  I decided to enter a Star Search Contest.  Unlike these idol competitions, this one was a for real musicians, playing real instruments on stage, with emphasis on original music.  The grand prize of studio time didn’t interest me because I know that studio and we have at least as good a setup in the comfort of our own home. There were 3 judges: 2 from the country music scene and one from a record label that would never be interested in us.  I decided to enter only for the promo opportunity  … there was going to be a lot of press, radio airtime, a large audience and I could plug the CD.  When we arrived, we learned that there had been a last minute change in the judging panel and the head of a major distributor of independent releases was replacing the record company on the judging panel … the one distributor I had already started lobbying and my first choice in the industry.   My jaw hit the floor.   We were finalists but not in the money because 2 out of 3 judges felt the only commercially viable music in Saskatchewan was country music (the only negative comment we received).  The 3rd judge (the distributor) loved our sound and privately encouraged us to keep in contact with her because the world is much bigger than rural Saskatchewan. 

Also on a whim, I entered a poetry contest.   As a finalist, they wanted to publish my poem along with a little bio.  I sent them the promo package, which included the song lyrics for the new CD.  About a month later I receive a letter from the International Library of Poetry telling me that I have been nominated for 2004 Poet of the Year, based on these lyrics.  They say only 200 people a year get nominated.  Who are these people and is this for real?  I’ll have to do a bit of research.

So now I’ve got stacks of CDs around my room.  The money went from the bank account into these little plastic boxes of sound because I had the idea that they would bring in more than interest income.  Of course, only promotion will do that.  You know, when I ask Don to do something, he usually stops what he is doing and carries out my request.  I say, “When you have time …” but he still does it right away.  He says I have a “Right Now!” look and after nearly 20 years together, he has come to recognize it.  I have always said that he was exaggerating but I may be changing my mind   ….  as I look around my room and see hundreds of pictures of that woman … the one on the back of the CD cover … looking at me … starring me down … saying , “Get promoting … RIGHT NOW”!  I asked Don for advice on how to live with her and he told me the only thing I can do is to do what she asks … RIGHT NOW.  She’s giving me that look again, so I guess I have to stop chatting and get back to work.


  Dawn and Don