Singer Eleanor McCain will per­form from her True North project this week­end with the Kitch­ener-Water­loo Sym­phony

The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE - STEVE KANNON


COU­PLE of tracks from True North: The Cana­dian Song­book with the Kitch­en­erWater­loo Sym­phony, singer Eleanor McCain will kick off the orches­tra’s new sea­son with her take on some iconic Cana­dian songs.

True North: The Cana­dian Song­book long per­co­lated in McCain’s mind be­fore be­com­ing some­thing of a mul­ti­me­dia labour of love re­leased in the spring.

Mu­si­cally, it fea­tures the likes of Leonard Cohen’s Hal­lelu­jah, Jann Ar­den’s Good Mother, Gor­don Light­foot’s If You Could Read My Mind, Sarah McLach­lan’s An­gel, Gold in Them Hills by Ron Sex­smith and Rhythm of My Heart writ­ten by Marc Ja­cob (the lat­ter two recorded with KWS). The songs were re-imag­ined by 14 ar­rangers from coast to coast and recorded with 10 of the coun­try’s or­ches­tras, in­clud­ing the Ed­mon­ton Sym­phony Orches­tra, KWS, Orchestre sym­phonique de Québec, Na­tional Arts Cen­tre Orches­tra, New­found­land Sym­phony Orches­tra, Sym­phony New Brunswick, Sym­phony Nova Sco­tia, Van­cou­ver Sym­phony Orches­tra, Vic­to­ria Sym­phony, and Win­nipeg Sym­phony Orches­tra.

The mu­sic is ac­com­pa­nied by a cof­fee-ta­ble book filled with land­scape and fash­ion pho­tog­ra­phy, again with con­tri­bu­tions from pho­tog­ra­phers and fash­ion de­sign­ers na­tion-wide.

It’s Cana­di­ana through and through.

The idea of a Cana­dian song­book started some years ago, with McCain com­ing up with a cou­ple of dozen of her favourites. The fi­nal for­mat sprang from the chang­ing na­ture of the mu­sic busi­ness, now driven by a dig­i­tal pres­ence. Like many younger peo­ple, her daugh­ter down­loads mu­sic rather than buy­ing phys­i­cal for­mats, but she did buy a cou­ple of CDs that came pack­aged with books about bands she en­joys.

That in­spired the mul­ti­me­dia ap­proach. “Iconic mu­sic and a book to cel­e­brate our land­scape,” said McCain, cap­tur­ing “what it felt like for me to be Cana­dian.”

The project started to be­come real in Jan­uary 2015. She brought Don Bre­i­thaupt on­board as pro­ducer and they started build­ing a team, in­clud­ing pho­tog­ra­pher Tony Hauser.

Call­ing the ef­fort “lo­gis­ti­cally com­pli­cated” is a bit of an un­der­state­ment, as the project in­volved not just dealing with sym­phonies across the coun­try, but co­or­di­nat­ing other el­e­ments of the arts com­mu­nity, from pho­tog­ra­phers to fash­ion de­sign­ers.

“This is some­thing I could not have pulled off by my­self.”

The project was funded by McCain her­self, how­ever. She sim­ply had to do it.

“It’s a project that I’m pas­sion­ate about. The mu­sic, I lived with it for a long time – I couldn’t let go of it,” she said of the “pan-Cana­dian con­cept.”

There were plenty of songs to con­sider – the long list was very much that be­fore be­ing whit­tled down. She and Bre­i­thaupt looked for the iconic value, per­sonal favourites and even ge­o­graph­i­cal ref­er­ences – think “There is a town in north On­tario ...” from Neil Young’s Help­less. There’s also a nod to McCain’s East Coast roots – she hails from Florenceville, NB, her mother’s fam­ily from Nova Sco­tia – with the likes of No Change In Me by Mur­ray McLaugh­lin and Ron Hynes.

“They’re all re­ally part of our lives – these are the songs that I chose for the al­bum.”

Hav­ing per­formed a cou­ple of times with the Kitch­ener-Water­loo Sym­phony, she wanted them to be in­volved in the process.

“I had a per­sonal con­nec­tion with them,” she ex­plained. “They’re fab­u­lous to work with.”

She last ap­peared with the KWS in the 2015/16 sea­son for the Pops Se­ries con­cert The Mu­sic of Love.

Led by Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, True North: The Cana­dian Song­book runs September 29 and 30 at 8 p.m. at Kitch­ener’s Cen­tre In The Square. Tick­ets can be pur­chased on­line at kwsym­ or by call­ing 519-745-4711 or 888-745-4717.


In a photo by Tony Hauser in­cluded in True North: The Cana­dian Song­book, Eleanor McCain sports a Cana­dian de­signer dress with some Banff scenery serv­ing as the back­drop.

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