Sunday, July 2, 2006
Something to sing about
This land is our land
Musicians share their feelings about great places from coast to coast to coast
Musicians sing the praises of Canada
By A. P. RODRIGUES -- Special to Sun Media
Canadian singers and bands are known around the world for their brilliant music and great talent but on Canada Day weekend, we find them singing the praises of our country from coast to coast.
NORTHWEST TERRITORIES - Indio Saravanja
Folk singer Indio Saravanja wasn't born in Yellowknife, (he is from Argentina), but it is the closest thing he has to a hometown after leading a semi-nomadic life. These days, when he returns to visit his family, who run an auto garage in Yellowknife's old town, the first thing he does is climb to the top of Pilot's Monument. From that point you can see the city, old gold mines and even Great Slave Lake.
"High there on the hill you can find yourself standing precisely in the centre of the original town and from there you can see what it grew into," says Saravanja. "It's awesome and inspiring."
BRITISH COLUMBIA - Allison Crowe
B.C. singing sensation Allison Crowe is certain that she will never be able to live very far from the ocean. Maybe the reason for that belief is because she is a water sign, or maybe it is the fact she was born and bred in Nanaimo, known as the harbour city.
"I go to the ocean for serenity, entertainment, inspiration, for therapy...to breathe. I attribute most of what I have learned to enjoy in my life to these watery places I frequent in Nanaimo."
ALBERTA - Vissia Sisters
"Bring your family, friends and lawnchairs!"
That's the advice from the multi-talented girl group, the Vissia Sisters, who never miss the annual Blueberry Bluegrass and Country Music Society Festival in their hometown of Stoney Plain. Ahough the three bluegrass artists play there every year, their enthusiasm for the event isn't just self-serving.
"The festival is an amazing conglomeration of bluegrass, country and the culture that the music represents," explain the vivacious sisters Alexandra, Aleisha and Andrea. This year's festival takes place Aug. 4-6.
SASKATCHEWAN - Jay Semko
Spooky and beautiful. That is how Jay Semko, member of The Northern Pikes, describes the Delta Bessborough Hotel located in his hometown Saskatoon.
"The hotel has captivated my imagination since I was a little kid," he says "There is a definite Shining quality to "the Bess."
That's not hard to understand once you learn that the building is one of the last great CN railway hotels. There's also something else going on there, explains Semko.
"I love a good ghost story and there are a couple attached to this place like a mysterious man in a gray fedora who supposedly appears in the banquet room. Any good hotel needs a haunting."
MANITOBA - Mae Moore
Although international recording artist Mae Moore left her home province at the age of 8, the summers she spent at the family log cabin at Rock Lake, in Southern Manitoba, left an incredible impression.
"Pelicans, painted turtles, catfish, leopard frogs, flying squirrels, raccoons and porcupines all helped to shape my love of the environment. My mother was an avid fisher and regularly brought home perch for breakfast."
ONTARIO - Amy Sky
In the town of Baysville in the Muskoka region, there's a little known treasure harbouring a big secret. Miss Nelle's Antiques and Collectibles is the place to go for a peaceful afternoon of pure indulgence.
Amy Sky, award-winning singer and songwriter, knows this.
"Owners Don and Marty Corey offer an eclectic assortment of Canadiana furniture, china, books and other collectibles," says Sky. "They also run a cafe and serve Muskoka Bean coffee lattes that rival Starbucks.
Sky advises sitting at an outside table, getting the kids a cone, a latte for yourself and watching the world go by in downtown Baysville.
YUKON TERRITORY - Kim Barlow
For Kim Barlow, it's very tricky to pinpoint a favourite spot in the territory she calls home, the Yukon. When pressed for an answer, the singer and songwriter did finally give up a special spot close to her heart, a hill called Sleeping Giant, which offers treasures to visitors every season.
"In the spring it is exciting to go there and find some of the first crocuses of the season. In the summer, its lovely to lie in the sun and smell the sage-brush." But winter is the best time to experience the Sleeping Giant, according to Barlow.
"It's a good place to climb and get a dose of vitamin D when the sun makes its brief appearance between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m."
NEW BRUNSWICK - Stompin' Tom Connors
Mention Stompin' Tom Connors and the words proud Canadian can't be far behind. His recently released songbook is not only a collection of the 250 songs he has penned over the past 40 years, but also a photograph of pure Canadiana captured during his travels as a professional hitchhiker around this country.
The people Connors met and the places he visited are forever etched in music and the same rings true for his favourite spot in St. John, the city he was born in. King's Square, the historic heart of the city, is immortalized in his song, St. John Blues.
QUEBEC - Sass Jordan
For Juno-Award winning artist Sass Jordan, her hometown of Montreal is her fave place in Quebec. When not performing around the world or sitting as one of the judges for Canadian Idol, Jordan will spend time in her beloved Montreal visiting restaurants like Restaurant Lemeac on Rue Laurier.
"This is a stellar place for French type cuisine with a wicked wine list and exquisite service," she says. Having a glass of wine on any terrasse in Old Montreal, is also a must.
For a shot of culture she suggests visiting Musee d'art contemporain de Montreal, on Rue Sainte-Catherine, Canada's premier museum dedicated only to contemporary art.
NUNAVUT - Susan Aglukark
"I was born in Manitoba, but consider myself Manitoban by default. It just so happened that the Ft. Churchill hospital was the closest at the time of my delivery," explains singer, songwriter and activist Susan Aglukark.
In her heart, she belongs to the Territory of Nunavut and a tiny community called Kimmirut (formerly known as Lake Harbour), is a good example of why she loves it so much.
"You are forced to shut down from all else and to simply enjoy nature in all its glory. As soon as you get there, (depending on the season) you can pretty much take any turn on the path and then you are off fishing."
NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR - Alan Doyle
When Great Big Sea member Alan Doyle is in St. John's, there's a trail he takes from Cuckholds Cove to Signal Hill that he considers one of the most scenic city walks in Canada. That's not surprising because you are flanked by the majestic Atlantic Ocean on one side and have a grand view of the city on the other.
"The stark beauty of the rocky cliffs as they are beaten by the endless waves reminds me that I'm on a rock in the middle of the ocean, completely disconnected and unique," says Doyle, who grew up in Petty Harbour, a town with less than 1,500 residents about 30 minutes from St. John's, which has fewer than 1,500 residents. "I love it."
NOVA SCOTIA - Anne-Marie Woods
Some places in Canada just lend themselves to providing the inspiration an artist may need to write a poem or even a one-woman show. Just ask Anne-Marie Woods, former member of the internationally known a cappella group, Four the Moment. Her favourite spot in her home province of Nova Scotia is a bench on Citadel Hill, located in Halifax. These days, this multi-talented woman (she's a poet, playwright, actor and producer) always visits with a notepad and pen in hand, ready to create should the mood strike.
"I'll walk up the steps and take in the sights. When I sit there I have an amazing view of downtown Halifax. I feel like I'm somewhere on top of the world, but most of all I feel at peace."
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND - Patricia Murray
Patricia Murray is one of the leading Gaelic singers in the world and the first Canadian to win Scotland's most prestigious Gaelic singing award, but Murray credits finding "her voice" to The College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada, located in her hometown of Summerside.
"The director of the school heard me singing and felt that my voice would lend well to traditional Celtic and Gaelic songs. Up to that point, I had dabbled in jazz and musical theatre and had no exposure to Scottish or Irish music," says Murray. "It still amazes me how this one place has inspired my direction and passion in life."