October 2011: Header image: Errant Late-Night Gardeners
Header image: Errant Late-Night Gardeners

Featured Artist: Paul Ignatowski

Last updated: October 1, 2011

Paul Ignatowski ...

Paul Ignatowski

Our webmaster, Liz Brugman, sent us an eye-catching graphic a month ago, along with the information that the Errant Late-Night Gardeners would be one of the acts in the Soo Theatre’s annual fundraiser, the Rotary Show of Shows, on October 2. It’s hard to pass up a combination of an intriguing title and a great graphic, especially when added to the fact that two of the gardeners were Ignatowskis. We’d been seeing Paul Ignatowski’s name as a player in a number of local bands and decided it was time to learn more about him and about the environment that produced two notable musicians.

We’ve repeated a number of time how the greatest joy to be found in the arts is in the doing, and have rejoiced in the terrific job that the Soo Theatre Project is doing to introduce a new generation to that concept. If you talk to someone who’s a very active participant, you’ll find that they don’t think anything of it—they just find it the natural thing to do, a part of their life and the way they view the world. Many artists are multi-media and, if thwarted in one direction, they simply find another outlet. Marion Boyer is a case in point. A very well known photographer and writer, she turned to printmaking and stained glass after retirement and even went so far as to embellish her work with sandblasting. Two broken wrists ended her stained glass work, whereupon she took up watercolors. The artist is the key—not the medium.

A large factor in the enjoyment of the arts seems to be early education—not necessarily formal education, but the atmosphere in which one is immersed while young. If doing is natural and accepted in the sphere in which one grows up, if the emphasis is on participation and not perfection, the artistic world isn’t an alien world in which one must somehow earn membership later.

When we asked Paul Ignatowski about his family and whether there was a musical tradition, the answer was that neither parent played an instrument, but he then went on to say that both loved music and that there were records and singing and dancing when he was growing up; that his sisters leaned toward the visual arts and that his grandfather played the fiddle. Obviously the atmosphere was right.

Paul is one of five children. His older brother, Jerry, played the guitar. His younger brother, John, now living in Escanaba, is well known in the Sault as the former Music Director at St. Mary’s and an accomplished pianist. His two sisters are both artistic and one of them is a painter whose son Frank, now in his last year of the animation program at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, is responsible for the eye-catching Errant Late-Night Gardeners graphic. Then there’s Paul’s day job, one he’s held for fifteen years at Sault Printing. When we asked him to describe it, he replied, “As a graphics guy at Sault Printing I fulfill our customers' printing design requirements by arranging text, headlines, artwork, illustrations, images, etc. on a page in a pleasing, informative manner. This is done on graphic-oriented computers called work stations. I also have to make sure that such design arrangements are compatible with our printing systems & presses. In the process I've learned to maintain our Apple computers and keep the hardware and software up-to-date and cost effective.” Certainly there are elements of the visual arts involved.

So how did his musical life begin? Well, first of all, his parents had a lot of records and their children loved to sing and dance to them. Secondly, his older brother Jerry was “an extremely talented guitar player. Really very, very good—could hang with the best”. And, speaking of his younger brother, John, he said, “I’m five years older than John. There’s sure been some influence and some weird crossover too. I remember when John must have been around nine or so, he was showing some serious ability on this little, tiny Schroeder toy piano. I was learning guitar and we were working on “Stairway to Heaven” together.”

Paul says he borrowed a saxophone “for about half a semester” in the fifth grade and learned to play treble clef before the instrument was reclaimed. In the seventh grade he had “a couple of weeks” of guitar lessons. When his older brother Jerry noticed his efforts, he taught him “some chords and chops” and introduced him to the bass guitar. From then on Paul was pretty much on his own. He could follow chord charts, but played mostly by ear.

When John became the Music Director at St. Mary’s, he asked Paul and Jerry to join the choir. This was a totally new experience and introduced Paul to classical music: “I’d be working weekend nights playing bass in various rock and variety bands and on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings he had us singing Brahms, Tallis and Mozart. It was a very educational experience.” The choir singing also taught him some sight reading and music theory. While working on his computer tech degree at Lake State, Paul took class piano for a term as an elective. He comments that, “It all kind of came together for me when my wife surprised me with the gift of an upright bass a few years ago” and packaged it with lessons from Nancy Powers, who was teaching strings at the Soo Theatre. Paul joined the “Not Quite Ready for Prime Time Players.”

Paul now has a very busy schedule. He plays regularly with the Sault Symphony, the Holy Name of Mary Pro-Cathedral Music Ministry Ensemble and the Errant Late-Night Gardeners (we’ll have more on that group) and intermittently with Lise White and Friends, the Sault Swing Band, the Chippewa Theater Guild (most recently as part of a trio to accompany Nunsense), and the Soo Theatre pit orchestra. There’s his day job as Graphics Manager for Sault Printing. When not playing music or working, he likes tennis and outdoor activities in general and he restores old motorcycles.

His motorcycle saga began with a 1968 Honda when he was sixteen. He now owns a 1978 Honda CB750 Four, which he bought as a “rolling basket case” and restored into a café racer; a 1984 Goldwing Aspencade; a 1996 Triumph Thunderbird, and a 1976 Honda GL 1000, which he plans to turn into a bobber. He comments that “I find riding motorcycles to be very therapeutic . . . on a bike you live entirely in the moment—all else disappears in the pervasive necessity of solely attending to the business of riding the street. It’s like an instant vacation from self.” Paul also rides snowmobiles with his wife Robin, and takes his turn grooming trails for the Sault Snowmobile Association, of which he is Secretary.

Paul’s next scheduled appearance, after the Errant Late-Night Gardeners’ gigs October 1 and 2 (see Events Calendar), is with the Sault Symphony in a concert with Quartetto Gelato November 12. He’ll make another appearance with the symphony December 7 through 11, in a production of The King and I. As to the Errant Late-Night Gardeners. . . that group really deserves an article of its own, but we’ll try to be concise.

Errant Late-Night Gardeners posterThe combination of the eye-catching graphic on the right, along with the trio’s intriguing name and the fact that two of the trio were Sault brothers who were already well known in the area, made further investigation mandatory. We immediately e-mailed Paul with a lot of questions and learned that previous to the Gardeners, John and Paul Ignatowski, though both very active musicians, had never been in a band together. From here on, I’m going to quote Paul:

“I enjoy playing all kinds of music, but especially jazz as done by the Errant Late-Night Gardeners, which trio consists of myself, my brother John Ignatowski on piano, and Escanaba native Mark Ammel on vocals and trumpet. When John and Mark started playing together a couple of years ago, they invited me to drive over and join them on bass for a show and we all just clicked and have been working together since as the Errant Late-Night Gardeners. . . Since our music is associated with a certain era, we try to dress the part with 30’s-40’s period clothing, hats and suspenders and such, and we just have a lot of fun. We’ve found that our music has been really well-received by young and old and everyone in between. Most of the Gardeners’ gigs necessarily occur in and around Escanaba, where both John and Mark live, but recently Colleen Arbic of Soo Theatre invited us to play the Soo Theatre fundraiser, the Rotary Show of Shows, here in Sault Ste. Marie this coming October 2nd. Both myself and especially my brother (a former Soo Theatre Project board member) volunteered early on in the process of re-opening the Soo Theatre and so we were happy to support the Theatre once again. And to round out our weekend, Ray Bauer is having us come down the night before to play a couple of sets at Soo Brewing Co. So we’re really looking at a fun weekend.”

This explains the trio, but the name?? There had to be an explanation of the name! So we asked, and here is the answer, again in Paul’s words:

“Okay, let me try to make a long story short. Once upon a time around 1 a.m., a certain individual, who shall remain nameless, was digging up some herbs along the side of his driveway (he being a professional chef as well as an amateur gardener, knows what to do with herbs). Upon striking a hard object with his spade and then hearing a hiss and smelling gas, he immediately called 911 and alerted the authorities and gave them the address of the house. Having responsibly alerted said authorities, he thought for a moment, had an epiphany, and decided, rather than subject himself to the limelight of a small town newspaper’s Police and Fire column, to take a well-timed stroll around the block as the fire trucks and police cars arrived on the scene. (It's hard to keep this story short, isn't it?) Said Police and Fire column recorded an article in the following day's paper stating that ---and I quote---- ‘an “errant late-night gardener” appeared to be the cause of a gas leak in an Escanaba residential neighborhood.’ The phrase apparently ‘struck a chord’, and whether various aspects of the story are true or not, the trio has in fact been named for an anonymous police and fire reporter's elegant turn of phrase. We always set up 2 stage props when we gig: a shovel and a lantern. We are rather easily amused.”

So, mark your calendars—you haven’t much time. The Errant Late-Night Gardeners—Paul, John and Mark—will be at the Soo Brewing Co. on Saturday, October 1, starting (probably) “around 7 or 8.” There’s no charge, although they will pass the fedora.

On Sunday, October 2, they’ll be in the line-up at the Soo Theatre’s fundraiser, the Rotary Show of Shows, which begins at 2 p.m. You’ll want to get to that to enjoy the great line-up (see date listing), to help the Soo Theatre Project, and because it’s just about the end of the season for the Soo Theatre. The more funds the Theatre Project raises, the sooner they’ll be able to get heat in the building and make it possible to use year-round. John and Mark are driving all the way from Escanaba to help out. They and the other performers in the show are like Paul and most of the other artists in this area: they give back—big time!

Mark Ambel, Paul Ignatowski and John Ignatowski: The Errant Late-Night Gardeners

Mark Ambel, Paul Ignatowski and John Ignatowski:
The Errant Late-Night Gardeners

Sault Area Arts Council Home Page 217 Ferris Street, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783
e-mail: saac@saultarts.org Phone: (906) 635-1312