Remembering the Gigs that Brought me Here

October 24th, 2012 by admin Categories: Bio, Blog, Gallery, Joanna Finch Jazz 4 Responses

Tonight I got an email from Doug Cox, Artistic Director of the Vancouver Island Musicfest. There was no note, but in the subject line it read: From the Archives. The photo below was attached.

Archives. That conjures an image of old libraries and history and important documents gathering dust. I have a past. Presently, I’m discovering the future lies in what happened in my past. I have songs in the CBC archives all across Canada- radio stations all over the world- and photos of my performances hidden away in files. Most of them are on my computers. This autumn I am finding time to unearth them and bring them into the light.

Evidence of my main stage appearance at Musicfest in July 2006 has made my heart flutter. And being reminded of that happy day, by the artistic director himself,  makes me feel chuffed. The joy and honour of standing on the same stage, where my international musical heros delight the crowds each year, came back to me in a rush. I want to be there again.

I  feel myself moving into sunlight again… after long years of waiting in the shadows.

Shadows are the safe place, where darkness meets the light….

where ideas are nurtured

and dreams have room to breath before taking flight.

In this photo I’m singing Sweet Love with James Lithgow beside me. Sean Mooney was there too, playing piano.

James Lithgow, bassman at Musicfest 2006

James Lithgow, bassman at Musicfest 2006

The most effusive pianist I’ve played with: remarkable Sean Mooney

Playing with Sean Mooney was always fun. His comical expressions and love of the absurd, paired with his superb musicianship and compositional skills was a boon to my creations. Together we birthed several songs including Cumberland Snow, Joy Reflected, Bare Branches, The Black Widow’s Tango and many, many more.
With Danny Zanbilowicz some of my most passionate songs were penned. We had “musical charisma,” and shared a love of clever lyrics and romantic poetry. Danny’s sardonic edge was a perfect match to my racy ‘bad woman’ songs. I could start singing and Danny would just be there- he really got my music. Composing was a breeze with him behind me on the chords.
In this photo we’re playing together for the last time before I left for Antigua, at the ‘super’ concert at the Elks; the one that featured my VocalEase ensemble, kitsch in synch, a short Brazilian Jazz section with guitarist Nebil Emek and finally, a set of my “Pussy Finch and the Stellar Jays” cabaret tunes with Sean, James and Roger Baird.

Danny Zanbilowicz offered generous support as a friend, co-composer and friend in our band, kitsch in synch. Our harmonies melted hearts.

I’ve had the pleasure of performing with Roger Baird, a great drummer and very cool man, on several occasions

Here, Judy Norbury and I are performing “Quiver Me”, Judy’s ‘naughty nautical song’, at the Taiwanese Cultural Festival in Vancouver in 2008, the day before I flew to Antigua for seven months.
Rosamond Norbury photographer

Taiwanese Cultural Festival with Norbury & Finch with double image

We felt like Super Stars on this huge stage with the gigantic image behind us. We were treated so well and the sound was superb. We had a lot of fun. We had been invited to represent Cumberland in this international festival, thanks to Leslie Baird, then a councillor, and now our current Mayor of Cumberland. The photo was taken by Judy’s sister, Rosamond Norbury,  KD Lang’s personal photographer in the 90’s. (Not wanting to name drop…but Rosamond is an exceptional portrait photographer…) Norbury & Finch- some say that sounds like a law firm. We are anything but. After playing together for over twenty years I can honestly say, thanks to Judy Norbury , one of the most inspiring and interesting people in my life, my music career has been diverse, fun and very satisfying.

I’m skipping around chronologically. There have been many gigs that have brought me here, to this place I am in my career, from the first performance as ‘Mary’ in my Kindergarten class’ Christmas play, and the parts I played in high school drama productions. Those photos are in a box.

Joanna at home in the back yard 1967

Hand on the hip- knees locked, that’s me at seven, a cute little Tom- Boy.

Skip to Antigua, 2008, when I was invited by Russell Hodge, the owner of Russell’s  Bar and Seafood Restaurant to perform with Grenadian trumpeter Happy Lewis, because Russell loved my ‘nose cornet’. Happy and I played an exciting trumpet duet to ‘Lullaby of Birdland’, backed by the wonderful jazz band, the Harbour Trio.

Russell and Julia on the verandah of their restaurant

At Russell’s, a gorgeous location near St. John’s at Fort James in Antigua, international and Caribbean jazz musicians converge.

Sadly, Russell passed away in March 2012, but his legacy continues through the many jazz musicians who come to play from near and far.

Playing at Russell's Bar with Caribbean musicians Happy Lewis the Eddie Nias Trio was a feather in my cap.

Playing at Russell’s Bar with Caribbean musicians Happy Lewis the Eddie Nias Trio was a feather in my cap.

Michael Hewlett's band, The Harbour Trio

I love the way these guys can swing!

Ok, now skip backwards till you get all hot and sweaty… remember the Fabulous MS ADVENTURES?

The Ms A’s posing as being “normal” for our In Focus Magazine photo shoot by Boomer Jerritt.

This troupe of five amazing talented and feisty women carried on performing for about 10 years for Nurses conventions, Fringe Festivals, Film Festivals and fund raising events of all sorts. Hazel Lennox, Judy Norbury, Linda Safford,  Marjorie Eugene and myself made up the riblad, risque and thought-provoking shows that made us famous from the Comox Valley to Kelowna, and beyond. And still linger in our fans imaginations….

The Ms Adventures, sans Marjorie Eugene…we keep talking about a revival, but as activists and artists we are all occupied.

Skip to the present. In the last three years my main sideman had been James Lambert, commonly known as Jim.

Jim Lambert is an exceptional blues and jazz guitarist from Cumberland. Moreuphorea is the name we call our duo.

…this is a post to be continued…


January 13 2014


I  found some photos from a couple of gigs I played in Antigua in 2007 tonight.

This one is at Darkwood with Roland Prince and Calypso Val. Roland Prince is an exceptional pianist and jazz man who spent many year in New York before returning to his homeland, Antigua. It was an honour to sit in on a couple of songs.

Roland Prince is the prince of jazz!

Roland Prince is the prince of jazz!

And here I’m playing flute with the band Itchy Feet- the most popular dance band in English Harbour. They asked me to play on the Men at Work song, “I Come From The Land Down Under” What a gas!



‘In The Arms of Morpheus’ release with James Lithgow on bass at Vancouver Island Musicfest 2006
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  1. jade de Trey says:

    Hi!.. I read all of this post that you wrote.. lovely. enjoyed reading it. I have been listening to your CD this fall.. enjoyin git muchly Joanna.. I wonder if it is a shift.. in energy. you coming out.. and brithing a new!.. or perhaps. it is just darn good CD!.. and I am finally listening to it!

    loveeeeeeeeeeeeeee jade

  2. Dee says:

    yeah Jobird this is rich sound love it

  3. Jules says:

    Love it Joanna. Beautiful creations.

    Jules xox