The music is fading at the Osgoode Old Tyme Music and Dancing Club.
For 30 years, the country and western dance club has offered musicians and music lovers an evening of foot-stomping entertainment once a month at the Osgoode Community Centre, but the fun is coming to an end.
Declining membership – largely due to the aging population – has cut revenue at a time when rent and insurance are only going up.
“We don’t have enough members to keep it going, unfortunately,” said treasurer Barb Brogan. “We don’t want to close it down but we don’t have much choice.”
Brogan said the club used to be 200 members strong, but that has declined to only about 65 members. As the older members die or become unable to attend, there are very few younger members signing up to take their place.
Brogan said many members are in their 70s and 80s, and a few are in their 90s. Only two or three couples are in their 50s, she said. That kind of membership is unsustainable.
“We’ve tried (attracting young people) over the years,” she said. “We’ve tried everything. All of the clubs are finding the same thing as we have.”
Seven clubs in the area including North Gower, Greely, Vernon, Barrhaven and Ottawa’s west end have all faced declining memberships, Brogan said. Some have also considered closing their doors.
Past-president Eugene Gorgichuck served seven years at the helm, and said it is “heart-wrenching” to shut the doors after celebrating the club’s 30th anniversary in October.
“It’s definitely a bitter thing for us,” Gorgichuck said. “The club served as an opportunity for so many seniors to get together and do something other than sit at home and watch TV.”
While it’s true that the population of people interested in traditional country music is declining, Gorgichuk said the club had other options to keep going, such as increasing membership fees and trying harder to attract more members.
“Not everyone was in agreement that every effort was made to save the club,” he said.
During Gorgichuk’s time as president between 1993 and 1999, the club had a waiting list of 20 couples. The club began a newsletter full of club events, member news and humour. Gorgichuk began inducting new musicians into the club with a special string tie featuring the club’s fiddle emblem, and the club sponsored the annual (and now defunct) Russell Jamboree.
The club even tried to implement a youth hour where young musicians could come and play at the monthly dances, but it was a tough sell.
“It’s all older people and I guess the younger people just don’t dig that,” Gorgichuk said.
The club also partnered with the Grand Master Fiddling Association, which attracts the best fiddlers in the country, to exchange musicians every August when the association holds its annual competition in Ottawa. The Osgoode club would send a group of musicians to participate in the Grand Masters event, and some of Canada’s best fiddlers would entertain club members at the Osgoode Community Centre.
“There were just such great, great times for so many people,” Gorgichuk said.
The club will host one last dance on Friday, Nov. 23 beginning at 7:30 p.m. While non-members must still pay the $7 admission fee, as a special treat the cake and sandwiches will be offered free of charge. The event will be “a round-up” of members and memories, Brogan said.
Like all the other dances, the live music will begin at 7:30 p.m. and continue until 11:30, when the club will close its doors forever.
The evening will be bartended by Mark and Larry Alexander, who have been fulfilling that same duty since their father Fred Alexander founded the club 30 years ago.
Brogan, who has been treasurer for 26 years, said the club represented a rural way of life from her childhood.
“It’s what we were raised with at house parties; someone bringing a guitar and fiddle and playing music,” said the 75-year-old.