Canadian Songs

So, for Canada Day, I looked for Canadian songs that evoke a sense of place, of history. Those songs that everybody knows a few lines of, to sing at public events and maybe around campfires.Canadian flag on porch for Canadian songs

The anthems, hymns, folk songs and popular songs that have become ingrained in our national psyche. The nation’s songbook, I suppose.

Canada is a big country, with vastly different geographies and histories. So songs may reflect its whole or, more likely, its parts. But the great songs, the memorable songs, can resonate with the whole even while speaking about a part.

National Anthems

“O Canada” is obvious: “the true North strong and free”. I leave to others the revived dispute about the words “In all thy sons command” but recommend Robert Harris’ wonderful piece on the anthem’s history on The Sunday Edition June 25th.

“The Maple Leaf Forever” is the older anthem, written in 1867 by Alexander Muir. But I don’t think it’s well known. I needed help to find out what it sounded like. On YouTube, you can see Anne Murray singing it at the closing of the Toronto Maple Leaf Gardens in 1999. A lovely and singable tune, but it has not survived as a well-known national song.

I can’t think of any other national hymns or unofficial anthems that exist in Canada and are played, along with the national anthem, at official events. “God Save The Queen” is played at Royal and Vice-Regal events. And, Lord spare us, maybe the Centennial “Ca-na-da” song is still played somewhere. But for regular national events, our roster of music is much thinner than in the USA. There, many national hymns, marches and unofficial anthems are still played regularly and are in the nation’s corporate memory. (See my A Nation’s Songs.)

Provinces

Provincial anthems? There’s the “Ode to Newfoundland”, a national anthem until 1949. My favourite rendition is by Vonnie Barron and Esther Squires, although its release in the 1980s caused controversy due to its unorthodox arrangement. Thankfully, changing it to Ode to Newfoundland and Labrador, to my knowledge, isn’t under discussion. (Click Vonnie and Esther’s names to listen.)

Quebec has loads of national anthems. “O Canada” was originally one of them. “Gens du pays” is an unofficial anthem from 1975 by Gilles Vigneault. Another is “Mon pays” written in 1964 by Gilles Vigneault for an NFB film. A decade later, the tune became a big part of the disco era. “From New York to LA” puts English words, and an American story, to the tune. It was a huge hit for Acadian singer Patsy Gallant, from Campbellton NB. Something quintessentially Canadian here – international fame derived from going to the US. But also quintessentially New Brunswick where, at least in the Acadian parts, people switch without effort or accent between French and English. (Hear both – click video boxes below names.)

Ontario’s unofficial anthem is “A Place to Stand” aka Ontari-ari-ari-o. Again, please Lord, spare us. PEI has an official anthem, “The Island Hymn”. Having such strong musical traditions, I have no idea why PEI would choose this other than it was written by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Alberta and British Columbia apparently had provincial anthems commissioned. The people of both provinces firmly rejected them. I couldn’t even find the BC one online. I did find the commissioned Alberta anthem on YouTube. It’s fine in the tourism ad it features in. But singing it at state events or around a bonfire? Not imaginable.

My Canadian Songs

I made my own list of songs that speak to me about Canada and its parts.

  • “Let Me Fish Off Cape St. Mary’s”. Easy choice for Newfoundland, it paints a picture of a place and way of life. (See my Mr. Otto Kelland about its author.)
  • “Farewell to Nova Scotia”. The unofficial anthem and a favourite of late night singsongs everywhere a Nova Scotian may be. Many beautiful songs about places are about leaving them, as is this one.
  • “Sudbury Saturday Night” by Stompin’ Tom Connor. Perfectly encapsulates small-town Ontario, all of small-town Canada. (See my Stompin’ Tom Revisited.)
  • “Qu’appelle Valley Saskatchewan”. Buffy Ste. Marie’s 1976 evocation of her home and people with a voice that sends shivers through you.
  • “Four Strong Winds” by Ian and Sylvia, Alberta’s unofficial anthem. As I’ve written, I think it’s the perfect Canadian song. It could be the flip side of “Farewell to Nova Scotia”, musically and demographically. It’s about going to rather than leaving. A little scared – it’s cold – but hopeful – there’s work.
Amazon link for Tanya Tagaq Retribution
Amazon link for Tanya Tagaq Retribution

The throat singing of Tanya Tagaq viscerally conjures the land and peoples of the far north. Stan Rogers’ “North West Passage” tells the flip side of her story. It is about newcomers who explore the northern lands and sea. Men determined to overcome the rigours of the land and the climate, but who fail in their attempt.

For New Brunswick, I couldn’t think of any song even though I live here. Then I remembered hearing a song on the radio by David Myles. It’s “Don’t Drive Through” (see it here). It extols the beauty of the province, but with a bit of tongue in cheek about those who see NB as only a highway to somewhere else. According to CBC, there has been discussion about adopting “St. Anne’s Reel” as a provincial anthem. No, fiddle reels are great but you have to be able to sing an anthem.

For the remaining provinces, I couldn’t come up with anything. Songs about Canada or that make a little bit of Canadian pride when you hear them? Gordon Lightfoot’s “Railroad Trilogy”. Stompin’ Tom’s “Hockey Song” and, of course, the Hockey Night in Canada theme music. I’m not a hockey fan but, yes, I’ve watched minor league games in small-town arenas and NHL games on television.

Jim’s Canadian Songs

I asked my husband what he thought of as Canadian songs, not just songs by Canadian singers. Neil Young’s “Helpless” because of “There is a town in north Ontario.” For many Americans, he says, it was the first realization that Neil Young was Canadian. And I remember thinking wow, he said Ontario!

joni mitchell blue amazon link
Click for Amazon link for Blue

Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” with its map of Canada and “I could drink a case of you”. In “River”, she wishes she had “a river I could skate away on.” Both songs (on the Blue album) reference Canada, by name or imagery. But they are about absence, of and from Canada. Despite the evident longing, they hold Canada at a distance.

“Acadian Driftwood”, the Band’s song about the Deportation of the Acadians. A powerful history of a people thrown out of their homeland. All but one of the band members were Canadian, and they wrote just as insightfully about American history. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, for example. In both songs, geopolitics intertwine with individuals to tell the story.

From driftwood to rocks – and trees – and water

My mind back in the Maritimes, I thought of Rita McNeil’s “Workin’ Man”. This strong and angry tribute to Nova Scotia coal miners is a great example of the universality of a specific place. Wherever there are miners, you’ll find musicians who have covered her song with as much personal feeling and intensity as do she and the Men of the Deep.

All while thinking about this, a couple words and a tune kept popping into my head. Rocks and trees and trees and rocks — and water. The Arrogant Worms’ “Rocks and Trees” can hardly be counted among the reverent Canadian songs, but it’s spot on.

Corrie Street 25 Jun. 2017

The Golden Child

Wednesday, Ken convenes his children. Only Daniel knows why. Ken is going to tell the others what Daniel did, and that he lied to protect him.adam and peter attack daniel

When he does, they turn on Daniel. Then on Ken. And then on each other. They realize that Adam had seen Ken at the foot of the stairs and had left him there. Adam defends himself in Trumpian fashion: deflect it to someone else. Granddad let him rot in prison but, for the golden child, he will perjure himself.

golden child daniel frightenedCan’t you see Daniel is ill, Ken asks. Peter argues the same point as Adam. Making up an illness for Daniel to get him off the hook. Implied is when would Ken ever do that for him, or Tracy or Adam.

Ken has enough. He tells them that he had been suspicious of all of them, all four of them. What does that tell you, he asks. They’ve all made mistakes, himself included.ken says he had doubts about all four kids

But he’s had enough misery, he’s tired. He forgives them all for what they’ve done, past and present. He asks only that they — a pause, what’s he going to say? — in return, forgive Daniel.

In that pause, I filled in what I expected him to say – ‘please forgive me.’ So I was surprised to hear him ask them to forgive Daniel. My ken asks kids to forgive danielfirst thought was that Ken was absolving himself. That he was saying; I’ve made mistakes but never mind about that. Let’s forget that and move along. And here’s where I can be the hero, the big man, the all-forgiving and all-protective father. Look after your rather pitiable brother.

My husband came in during this scene so we watched it again. Wow, he said. Ken did the right thing, he said. Ken is telling his kids never mind about me. If you can’t forgive me, all right, but please daniel behind ken peeking out at siblingsforgive your brother. Do not allow anything I do, or you do, to break your bond. That is what a parent wants; their kids to stay united, to stay a family, with or without the parent around.

So two different interpretations of a few words. My husband’s is more charitable toward Ken than is mine. Which is more accurate, I don’t know.

Fruit Crumble

baked fruit crumbleFruit Crumble is one of the easiest desserts to make – and very, very delicious. The one I made today is fresh rhubarb and frozen black cherries. The recipe comes from the Joy of Cooking.

Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C). 8 or 9 inch baking dish. 6 servings.

4 cups of prepared fruit

rhubarb and cherries in baking dishChop rhubarb into 1/2 to 1″ (1-2 cm.) lengths. Sugar it lightly. I used about 1 tsp for 2 cups of chopped rhubarb.

The cherries I used were already pitted. If not, you have to pit them.

(Sprinkle with 2 tbsp lemon juice or kirsch if you like)

Mix crumble topping in a bowl

crumble mixtureCombine ingredients below in a bowl. Work it together like pastry with a pastry blender or fingertips (I used a fork). Work it lightly so the mixture doesn’t get oily.

1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1/4 C butter (soft)
1/2 tsp salt – if butter is unsalted

crumble on fruit ready to bakeSpread crumble mix over fruit in baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes.

Serve hot or cold with ice cream, sweet cream (whipped or not) or sour cream.

You can also use other fruit, alone or in combination – strawberries, apples, peaches. For apples, you might want to add 1 tsp cinnamon to your crumble mixture.

Corrie Street 18 June 2017

Slam Poetry

Daniel looks dead-eyedSlammed by a poetry book. Poetic justice? Poetic irony? Possibilities for wordplay are endless. But the dramatic tension was very real. This week Ken’s attacker was revealed. It was indeed Daniel. The weapon? That huge poetry book that Ken gave him as a congratulations on being everything he ever wanted in a son.

Now Ken is alone in a flat with Daniel, who is unravelling quickly. Might he just finish the job? He even has the poetry book there. Ken doesn’t know it’s not the copy he gave Daniel – that one had blood all over it. But Daniel copied Ken’s inscription into one he bought. Ken’s Daniel holds poetry bookgift is hidden under the floorboards in Daniel and Adam’s flat.

On Wednesday, actors Rob Mallard and Bill Roache were fabulous. The make up people too. Daniel’s face did a Jekyl and Hyde as his stress and desperation increased.

You knew Daniel was guilty as soon as Adam was carted off to jail. Camera cut to Daniel, flinging his arm over Ken’s shoulder, watching the police car leave. You knew too that the whole thing would come out when Ken went to Daniel’s old flat with him. But someone would Daniel chokes Kensave him, someone would figure it out before long.

Ches was voicing suspicions of Daniel. Sinead was wondering what was going on, starting to get a sense something was wrong. They will come to the rescue, I thought.

Just as Daniel is seriously losing it, a knock on the door. It’s mum, back after all these years! And that’s where I suddenly felt deflated.

Denise looks through door at DanielI knew Denise was returning, thanks to an online “as we all know.” But it wasn’t unexpected. There had to be a resolution to what happened to her. I can see the dramatic value of her return right at a critical moment. But that is also maybe the worst time and manner of bringing her back. It’s asking way too much of suspension of disbelief. Too contrived, yet also too easy. How do we get her to see Daniel? I know, let’s just plop her at his place. No!

Have her go first to Ken’s house. There’s a greater likelihood that he Daniel shocked at seeing mumwould still be in the same place than that Daniel would be. Have Daniel and Ken discovered by someone more probable – Sinead, Tracy, Peter. Have Denise turn up with them. Anything except her suddenly appearing at that exact moment as if she’d just returned from the corner store.

Aside from that, this storyline has been great this week. As too have the others – Shona, Bethany and the creepy men getting creepier, and three dads on a day out.

Goderich Postcards

My grandmother’s parents, Matthias and Emily Lymburner, lived for a few years in Goderich, Ontario. These are postcards sent from their early days there in 1911. (click images for larger view)

General View of Goderich Harbour, looking East

goderich harbour looking east D Stewart postcards coll.goderich harbour card message D Stewart postcards coll.Mr. Charles H. Burwell, Tillsonburg, Ont. Goderich, Jan 9th, 1911.

Dear Boy, Charlie:- This card shows the mills and cooperage – the cooper shop, I have marked with an X on the gable-end. It looks small on account of the flour mill being so large. I am feeling fine, and I think I will like it well, here, haven’t seen much of the town yet, it’s nice, though, what I have seen of it. I will write frequently, and will be glad to hear from you all. Yours, M. E. Lymburner.

Look slightly right of middle. See a small yellow triangle at left of large brown building – that’s the X. Matthias was a cooper so that’s where he would have worked.

Central Park, Goderich, Ont. Canada

Central Park Goderich D Stewart postcards coll.central park card message D Stewart postcards coll.

Mrs C H Burwell

This is for Minnie. It is the city hall, and central park. It is the very centre of the town. I will write again when I get time.

I think this is Mary Emily’s writing. She must have been sent it to her daughter Minnie in Tillsonburg with someone.  The courthouse and park is the hub of an octagon of streets that comprises the town centre. The town layout was planned from the very beginning.  The Town of Goderich website describes it.

On the Maitland River, Goderich, Ont. Canada

on the maitland river D Stewart postcards coll.
Mrs Minnie Burwell, Tillsonburg PO, Ont.

Goderich Feb 24 1911 Dear Minnie – Just a line to tell I was down town yesterday and came near losing our way home. There are so many streets and they look so much alike. Well good bye. From Mother

The 1911 Canadian Census has Matthias and Emily, two sons and two youngest daughters living on Britannia Road. It runs west to east  across the south side of town.  The spokes of the streets mean that if you take the wrong one leaving the square, you can end up a long way from where you intended. The Maitland River skirts the east side of town, with its mouth at the harbour.

Court House – Goderich Canada

court house goderich D Stewart postcards coll.court house card message D Stewart postcards coll.
Mrs Chas Burwell, Tillsonburg Ont.

Dear Sister, Just a card to let you [know] we are alive and will answer your letter soon but have been very busy trying to get straightened up. Then I am so lame that it keeps me a long while. John is working at the furniture factory here. I am nearly settled all but washing my curtains and quilts. Evellyn

Evellyn was Minnie’s older sister. John Hewson was her husband. This sounds as if they too had just moved to Goderich. But I cannot find them in the 1911 census.

About this beautiful Court House, the Goderich website (link above) says, “The octagonal-shaped park at the centre was occupied for nearly 100 years by the original Huron County Courthouse, an Italianate brick building of imposing scale, massing and elegance. It was replaced in 1954 by the present building.”

Concrete Elevator, Goderich, Canada

concrete elevator goderich D Stewart postcards coll.elevator card message D Stewart postcards coll.
Mrs Charles Burwell, Tillsonburg PO, Ontario.

Goderich Aug 3, 1911. Dear Minnie – We arrived home just at twelve. Pa was home for dinner, he is well. It is raining hard here this afternoon. Bye Bye from Ma.

Maybe Emily had just got back from visiting her daughter? I don’t know but the message sounds like a check-in.  This photo is a close-up of the elevator that you can see in the background of the first postcard. From the Goderich Port Authority website: “The first grain elevator at the Port was built in 1866 but was later destroyed by fire. The current elevators, constructed in the 1920s, are still in operation today.”

Point Farm Hotel, Goderich, Ont., Canada

point farm hotel goderich D Stewart postcards coll.point farm hotel card message D Stewart postcards coll.
Mr. C. H. Burwell, Tillsonburg, Ont.

Goderich, Sept. 1 1911. My Dear Charlie; Arrived here O.K. in time for dinner. Found the folks all well. The baby was real good coming up. I hope you found enough to eat. Am having a dandy time. Will I give your best respects to Miss Bell? Bye Bye, Minnie (write soon)

Minnie and Charley had no children at this time. But Minnie’s sister Evellyn had a daughter Mary Julia Hewson in July 1911. Maybe they travelled to Goderich together.  My mother told me who Miss Bell was, but unfortunately I can’t remember.  The Point Farm Hotel, also unfortunately, is gone. The area is now a Provincial Park. The hotel’s history is told by David Yates in the 2016/17 Goderich Visitors’ Guide (pp 57-58).

…at Tillsonburg and thinking much of you

Tillsonburg D Stewart postcards coll.Tillsonburg card message D Stewart postcards coll.
Mrs C H Burwell, Goderich, Ont. [postmarked Sep 2 1911]

My Dear Minnie – I rec’d your card and feel a lot better to know you are all right. I am getting along all right keeping bach with John. Yes, give my best respects to Miss Bell and the rest of the folks. Bye Bye, Charley xxxx X1 for Miss Bell

John, I think, was a friend of Grandpa’s. I gather, from this exchange of postcards, that Grandma left them to fend for themselves when she went away. But it seems that he and John had “found enough to eat.” Ha!

And that’s our tour of Goderich from 1911. See my Goderich, Prettiest Town for my memories of the town and Bluewater Beach from several decades later. I wrote it right after a devastating tornado hit the town in August 2011.

Corrie Street 11 Jun 2017

A Room of His Own

A room of his own, I bet that’s what Daniel wanted on Tuesday. It’s what I wanted for him! Last minute cramming for an exam that sinead brings tea and sandwichesafternoon. At the kitchen table, too close to the tea kettle.

Sinead making tea, then doing tea and sympathy. I know today is important, but you need to eat something. Maybe you should get some rest. You look stressed. Then why don’t you bugger off and let him study? That’s what was going through my mind. In that brief moment, Sinead demonstrated her potential to be a huge liability to Daniel. Nobody should need Ken’s words to see the truth of his prognosis.adam asks who wants tea

Thankfully, we moved on to other scenes, leaving that cramped little kitchen with Sinead hovering. And then they were back. Sinead gone, Daniel still trying to study. With Adam standing in the doorway watching him! Then commenting on his diligence and the importance of this exam. For Daniel’s chance at Oxford, for his adam-in-doorway-watches-danielacademic future, for his own self-worth. Yes, it is important, so get lost!

Now, we know that Adam just doesn’t care. He suspects Daniel as being responsible for pushing Ken down the stairs. But, aside from that, he just doesn’t care. Annoying Daniel is entertainment for him.

adam-bugs-danielI could only wonder why Daniel didn’t take his books and go to his bedroom, the only room of his own he has at the moment. By the end of those two brief scenes, I was as antsy as he was about his exam.

And yes, he blew it off. In the examination hall, staring at the paper in front of him. Other students busily writing their answers. He got up and walked out. Maybe he has many other weighty matters on his mind, like pushing his father down the stairs. I don’t know. Even if not, I could see why he just walked out. Just keep walking, Daniel.

daniel tries to concentrate, needs room of his ownI don’t know why he really is moving back to his old place, without Sinead. But I wouldn’t blame him if he’d made up the whole story about the landlord just to get away from his roomies. A room of his own – he can have that there.

Wilma the Cat

In honour of Wilma, cat colony princess, who died yesterday in St. Thomas ON. Reposted from St. Thomas Dog Blog, March 29, 2012.Wilma and other cats 2016

Wilma was a homeless cat who was instrumental in the creation of the Charity Cat Project. That initiative has provided food, shelter and neutering to innumerable feral and stray St. Thomas cats. Charity Cat and other rescue groups worked with St. Thomas City Council in establishing animal welfare programmes. Among these are low-cost pet neutering and maintenance of feral cat colonies. So, Wilma, thank you.

Wilma's broken front toothWilma had surgery to remove her damaged teeth and a hernia in her abdomen. She’s recovering nicely. She has domesticated herself and it seems she would love to live indoors. But in her present home, there are dogs who really wouldn’t do well with her presence inside. So a foster or, ideally, a permanent home for her would be wonderful. Contact ABCR or me if you have a place in your home or barn for a lovely cat.*

Turns out she was already spayed, so she had been lost or abandoned. I don’t know which, but there are a lot of Wilmas in our city. They need help. There are also a lot of truly feral cats who Wilma 2012 likely will never allow themselves to be tamed. They too need help.

It’s not just helping the cats. It’s helping people. Having feral cats around their houses distresses cat lovers. Cat haters certainly don’t like cats hanging around. And unneutered cats produce kittens, usually twice a year. So that one cat who’s taken up residence in your back yard is going to produce more, and those kittens will also reproduce. You start out with one stray moggie and, before you know it, you’re in Cat City.

TNR for feral cats

Trapping wild cats and having them fixed is a time-consuming and Drowsy Wilma sitting in suncostly business. I know, I’ve done it. And if you do remove those cats, in all likelihood, more will simply come and occupy the territory. That will happen whether you feed them or not. Homeless cats need somewhere to settle and your backyard might seem as good as anywhere to them. So better to keep those you know, and are neutered, than constantly have new ones moving in and establishing their claim.

St. Thomas needs a TNR programme – trap, neuter, return – for wild cats. Other cities have such programmes or services in place and we have just as many feral cats as anywhere else. Wilma’s person Wilma eating on porchcounted the cats in the gully near their house a month ago: 103 that she saw. That’s before this spring’s litters of kittens are born.

St. Thomas also needs a programme to subsidize spay and neuter costs for dogs and cats of people who cannot afford the full price. Again, many other cities have such subsidy programmes or low-cost clinics offered so many times a year.

It seems cheaper to just have the kittens or puppies than to have your pet neutered. It’s not; it just spreads the costs over a longer period of time – once or twice a year for as long as the animal lives. Neutering is cheaper for all of us just in costs to municipalities of caring for, or killing, unwanted pets.

Abcess on Wilma's gumsPeople have contributed to Wilma’s medical costs, but her rescuers are still footing over half the bill themselves. If you can help, please contact ABCR or me. And let’s start helping all the Wilmas by setting up a spay/neuter subsidy fund. We’ve seen over the past year, with STDOA’s Caring Pet Cupboard, that our community will help people feed their pets.  Now let’s move on to the big task: preventing unwanted puppies and kittens.

*Wilma stayed where she was, for which everyone she knew is thankful. She will be greatly missed by her people and her cats. You can see her legacy on the Charity Cat Facebook page. (See 10 comments on original post below.)

Corrie Street 4 Jun 2017

Satellite TV

mary returns to floristEver since she got the satellite tv she spends every evening flicking through the various foreign news channels with her eyes closed trying to guess the nationality of the news readers. I said mother! Mother! At least close the front windows. I mean, it’s not nice for the neighbours, is it, hearing the name of various Eastern European countries booming around the cul-de-sac of a night. I don’t know what them in number 5 think. They’ve only just moved here from Lithuania. It must be very disconcerting. Are these for today?

mary says mother watches tv with her eyes closedMary is back! And I am very happy to see her and Norris. It was such a treat on Thursday to hear them both on a loose rein with their storytelling. Their scenes, after their eventful trip to the Lakes District, were with Tracy and then with Amy as well. Both are good foils for the stories and the bickering of Mary and Norris.

tracy bemused by satellite tv storySome of the dialogue of the first Coronation Street episodes came, as Tony Warren said, straight off the bus. He would eavesdrop on others’ conversations and, if he heard something particularly good, he’d scribble down in a notebook. Later, it would get worked into his scripts.

i said mother motherMary’s story about her mother and the satellite television sounds to me like it came straight off the bus. It is also nice to have confirmation from Mary that her mother is indeed alive. Oh, I wish she would decide to come for a visit.

are these for todayLater in the episode, a mention of Blanche made me smile – and miss her. Norris, discussing his unfortunate encounter with geese, said he felt like Tippi Hedren in The Birds. Amy knew the movie, to Tracy’s surprise. Nana Blanche used to put it on for Amy when she had trouble sleeping. Bwahahaha!