Filk Waifs: Phil Mills and Jane Garthson

From Jane’s perspective: Phil and I belatedly discovered filk through gencons and TorCon3,
listening to wonderful performers like Ookla the Mok and Urban Tapestry. We were there
primarily as long-time readers of the genre. As happens in filk, Lee Gold from LA introduced us
to the Haymans and we learned about southern Ontario events. I thought filk was something to
listen to, having zero experience with playing or singing music, but, to my immense surprise,
Phil bought a guitar and took lessons! He wrote a song for the FKO song contest in 2004, and, to
his immense surprise, learned he was supposed to perform it on stage. So much for that, but he
still thought he had found his people, listening especially to Blind Lemming Chiffon, the Interfilk
guest. I wasn’t so sure and spent the weekend watching the World Figure Skating championship
and March Madness.

When we tried to go to our first house filk, at Sally Headford’s, we had the wrong address but
luckily she answered the phone. The circle welcomed us warmly even though Phil mumbled
that first song into the floor. From there, Phil became a prolific songwriter and welcome
performer, encouraged by all. Some foolish early folks encouraged me; filkers will put up with
anything. My patient singing teachers Garvin Farr (now passed) and Vanessa Cardui helped me
go from awful to bearable, I think. But the cats still leave the room when we practice.
Since then, Phil has been a music guest of honour at ConCept (the former Montreal gencon)
and Consonance, won an Aurora Award for his songwriting, and had some Pegasus
nominations. This will be my first guest appearance, but I’ve had a number of concerts, always
with Phil on guitar of course, sometimes with amazing back-up players like Jeff Bohnhoff and
Tom Jeffers, and often with Aislin mice. I was on the FKO ConCom for a number of years, ran
some filk tracks at local gencons, and served on the board of the Canadian Science Fiction and
Fantasy Association.

We host filk circles when pandemics permit and participate in the international online song-
writing contests FAWM and 50/90. The Zoom circles, conventions and festivals started by Lem
helped keep us sane through the pandemic and we really hope they continue. I greatly miss the
various filk and gencons we used to attend in the USA and hope to attend some in 2024 to see more of
our American filk friends.

Phil adds: I, on the other hand, consider the reduction in pro-travel pressure to be the primary
pandemic benefit.