LAST­ING LEGACY

‘If it’s Al­right with You’ re­turn­ing for sec­ond sea­son, new songs, sto­ries and play­ers

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY MIL­LI­CENT MCKAY mil­li­cent.mckay@jour­nalpioneer.com

‘If it’s Al­right with You’ re­turn­ing for sec­ond sea­son with new songs, sto­ries and play­ers

Cather­ine MacLel­lan has spent years won­der­ing about her fa­ther.

“I knew he was an artist and wrote songs. I knew about the pop­u­lar­ity of ‘Snow­bird’ but I just thought it was cool when it came on the ra­dio.”

She’s the daugh­ter of leg­endary singer Gene MacLel­lan. In 2017, she re­leased the al­bum “If it’s Al­right with You: The Songs of Gene MacLel­lan.” It ac­com­pa­nies a se­ries of shows that will be re­turn­ing this sum­mer to the P.E.I. Brew­ing Com­pany, in Char­lot­te­town, with the same ti­tle.

The al­bum was also nom­i­nated for an ECMA in the folk record­ing cat­e­gory.

“I’ve learned a lot about my fa­ther by do­ing the show. I think the most sur­pris­ing thing was that he was such a big deal. He wrote songs and played mu­sic all his life, but it was a nor­mal life.”

MacLel­lan put the show to­gether with the help of Bob Mersereau, a for­mer CBC pro­ducer, and friend and fel­low mu­si­cian, John Con­nolly. Mersereau helped write scripts for the show, telling MacLel­lan sto­ries about her fa­ther and dis­pelling many of the myths that have cir­cu­lated about Gene.

She and Mersereau met when he ap­proached the fam­ily about writ­ing a book on Gene.

“I feel like I’m get­ting to know my fa­ther af­ter all these years,” said Cather­ine. “He’s been gone 22 years.”

This sum­mer, the show is com­ing back for its sec­ond sea­son and will fea­ture some re­turn­ing sto­ries, plus new ones and new songs.

“When the P.E.I. Brew­ing Com­pany asked us to do a sec­ond sea­son it was easy to say ‘yes’.

“Last year I feel like we were just giv­ing the head­lines. But this year we’re try­ing to in­clude things I think peo­ple would be in­ter­ested in knowing and maybe haven’t heard be­fore.”

MacLel­lan learned about her fa­ther’s early life af­ter meet­ing up with his sis­ter in On­tario, how quickly the suc­cess of his ca­reer un­folded go­ing from “zero to 60 in six months” and about his kind and gen­er­ous na­ture.

“He had a lot of strug­gles and a lot of suc­cesses, but it was this in­cred­i­ble cre­ative jour­ney.”

One thing she didn’t ex­pect was by telling her fa­ther’s sto­ries, she would be­come closer to fam­ily mem­bers.

Cather­ine also says it’s also been a great op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with fans.

“Al­most ev­ery night af­ter a show I’d have peo­ple come up and tell me a story or how they knew about this story be­cause it was this date or time, which would lead me to work it into the next show. Some au­di­ence mem­bers also brought pho­tos of my dad they had.

“Fans have been so gen­er­ous. Some have come two, three, four times. I had no idea it would be as suc­cess­ful.”

It’s also al­lowed Cather­ine to teacher her daugh­ter and nieces and neph­ews about their grand­fa­ther.

“He was this man who’s had this huge pres­ence in their lives but (they] didn’t know him. It’s been spe­cial. They’re the ones who will carry on the legacy.”

The work has also opened up a con­ver­sa­tion about men­tal health, she said.

“It’s hard. Ev­ery night telling the story of his death and strug­gle with men­tal ill­ness, but I think it would be hol­low with­out talk­ing about it. I think it adds up to peo­ple be­ing grate­ful that the con­ver­sa­tion is hap­pen­ing and that it’s be­ing talked about.”

MacLel­lan’s sto­ry­telling con­tin­ues, kick­ing off July 9 and run­ning ev­ery Mon­day, Tues­day and Wed­nes­day until Sept. 19.

“I’ve learned a lot about my fa­ther by do­ing the show. I think the most sur­pris­ing thing was that he was such a big deal. He wrote songs and played mu­sic all his life, but it was a nor­mal life.”

Cather­ine MacLel­lan

MIL­LI­CENT MCKAY/JOUR­NAL PI­O­NEER

Cather­ine MacLel­lan plays one of her dad’s gui­tars. MacLel­lan is the daugh­ter of fa­mous Cana­dian mu­si­cian, Gene MacLel­lan.

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