Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Celebrating Canada Day with music

Tomorrow, July 1st, is of course, Canada Day, and people from one end of the country to the other will celebrate with friends and family, either staying home to entertain or getting out to attend Canada Day festivities in their community. Here in St. Catharines, the city is hosting a day-long entertainment extravaganza at the downtown Market Square, culminating with the Niagara Symphony directed by Associate Conductor Laura Thomas from 4 to 5 pm.

I got to thinking this week, of some of the great music we associate with Canada Day you occasionally still hear on the radio or if you're lucky enough to have recordings, in the comfort of your own home. I remember in my radio days working on Canada Day, playing Canada Is by Roger Whittaker, who was a frequent visitor to our country and has always loved it. Other songs come to mind, some more associated with Canada Day than others, but appropriate nontheless: music from Anne of Green Gables; This Land is Your Land, and here in our province, the ubiquitous Ontariariario! You have to be a certain age to remember that one, or, try to forget as the case may be.

The newer television campaign for the province, featuring different artists singing There's No Place Like It in several different versions, has certainly been effective, and I count myself amongst those who were more than a little intrigued by the latest one, featuring a percussion group fronted by singer Aline Morales, who is a newer resident to Ontario, moving to Toronto from Brazil a few years ago. Her sweet, clear voice is perfectly matched to the music, and her friendly nature was verified when I tracked her down last month for a radio interview and she proved to be a delight to talk to. She is working on her first CD, incidentally, and I will certainly be writing about it in this space when it comes out.

Today, though, I want to remember most especially a Canadian icon known to kids across the country in the late 60s (like me) and who unfortunately is not receiving much recognition for his contributions to binding the country together with music over the years. Does the name Bobby Gimby mean anything to you? If it does, you remember his cross-country treks during our Centennial year, 1967, leading scores of young children in singing his self-penned tune CA-NA-DA! Ah yes, the memories are flowing back, now, aren't they?

I recently read a wonderful account of Bobby's life and times in music in an online entry from Carleton University's freenet source, which quotes from a copyright article from The Canadian magazine back in 1967, authored by Frank Rasky. Gimby was a "wholesome, unabashedly patriotic bandleader" writes Rasky, who adds Gimby was "the Pied Piper of Confederation". How true that is! He and his unbridled enthusiasm for this country is just what government types were looking for when Confederation celebration plans were coming together in 1967. His song succeeded in bridging the gap between young and old, French and English; it didn't matter. The pictures of Gimby, caped and leading children in the song with his heraldic "King Arthur" trumpet - four feet long, festooned with bangles and beads and even pennies - brought this country together like few others before or since. His enthusiasm could be used today, if you don't mind my saying so.

Bobby Gimby was born near Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1918, and died in June, 1998, in his 80th year. Sadly, his music is nearly forgotten now and to the best of my knowledge has never shown up on CD; I still have a pristine copy of the Quality Records double-gatefold LP that came out in 1967, resplendent with Gimby, holding his famous horn, leading children over a grassy knoll. Now that I am setting up my small studio with facilities to transfer old out-of-print albums onto MP3 files and then transferring to CD, this is one album I hope to transfer very quickly, as I long to hear the album that defined an era in Canadian history, and harkened back to an earlier time.

If there is an old album you miss hearing because it is not available on CD, in the near future I hope to offer the transfer service to the general public as well. If you're interested, email me directly at music@vaxxine.com or through my website, www.finemusic.ca, and we can look into it. Keep in mind, though, I have to verify the LP is indeed currently out of print and not available on CD. Otherwise, I will do my best to get the CD for you as a commercial release.

Happy Canada Day!

June 30th, 2010.

3 comments:

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