Canada 150: From Sea to Sea to Sea  18979

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Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:00

    Talivaldis Kenins

    Partita for Strings on Lutheran Chorales (1983)

    • Performer: I Musici De Montréal, Yuli Turovsky (Conductor).
    • CBC SMCD5131.
    • Tr1.


  • Margaret Atwood

    Death of a Young Son by Drowning, read by Jane Perry

  • 00:04

    Derek Charke

    Tundra Songs

    • Performer: Kronos Quartet, Tanya Tagaq.
    • CMC CMCCD21015.
    • Tr6.



  • Alootook Ipellie

    How Noisy They Seem, read by William Hope

  • 00:13

    Marjan Mozetich

    Songs of Nymphs – III. Ritual

    • Performer: Erica Goodman (harp).
    • BIS CD649BIS.
    • Tr3.



  • Joan Crate

    Shawnadithit (Last of the Beothuks), read by Jane Perry

  • 00:18

    Malcolm Forsyth

    Songs from the Q’Appelle Valley – The Bride’s Farewell

    • Performer: The Hannaford Street Silver Band, Stephen Chenette (Conductor).
    • CBC SMCD5136.
    • Tr3.



  • Emile Nelligan (Marc di Saverio – translator)

    The Golden Ship, read by William Hope

  • 00:24

    John Greer

    Studies and Rambles of Wasagewanoqua – From Sault Ste. Marie en Bateau!

    • Performer: Caroline Schiller (soprano), Kristina Szutor (piano).
    • Tr15.



  • Alice Munro

    from The View From Castle Rock, read by Jane Perry

  • 00:29

    Geddy Lee, Neil Peart


    • Mercury ?800 048-2.
    • Tr3.



  • Michael Ondaatje

    Wells, read by William Hope

  • 00:32

    Srul Irving Glick

    The Old Toronto Klesmer Suite

    • Performer: Angèle Dubeau (violin), La Pietà.
    • Tr1.



  • Elizabeth Bishop

    from The Moose, read by Jane Perry

  • 00:37

    Benjamin Britten

    Canadian Carnival, Op.19

    • Performer: Radio Symphonie Orchester Berlin, Peter Gülke (Conductor).
    • KOCH 310342.
    • Tr3.



  • Billy Collins

    Canada, read by William Hope

  • 00:53

    Joni Mitchell, Alex North, Hy Zaret

    Chinese Café/Unchained Melody

    • Nonesuch ?79817-2.
    • CD2 Tr6.



  • Thomas King

    Coyote Goes To Toronto, read by Jane Perry

  • 01:00

    Violet Archer


    • Performer: CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra, John Avison (Conductor).
    • CMC CMCCD8502.
    • CD2 Tr3.



  • Wayne Keon

    I’m Not In Charge Of This Ritual, read by William Hope

  • 01:07

    Buffy Sainte-Marie

    Now That The Buffalo’s Gone

    • Performer: Buffy Sainte-Marie, Art Davis (Bass).
    • Vanguard ?VMD 79142.
    • Tr1.



  • Rita Joe

    I Lost My Talk, read by Jane Perry

  • Margaret Noori

    N’gii Zhibiiamaag Niijaanisag Chigamigong, read by William Hope

  • 01:11

    Alexina Louie


    • CBC MVCD1064.
    • Tr11.


Producer’s Note: From Sea to Sea to Sea

 A Mari usque ad Mare – From Sea to Sea – is the official motto of Canada, but in recent years it has been suggested that this should be changed to From Sea to Sea to Sea to reflect the significance of its Arctic as well as Pacific and Atlantic regions.  In any case, these oceans have provided the routes by which the people who have shaped what we now know as Canada have arrived over the centuries and indeed millennia.

The Latvian-born composer Talivaldis Ķeniņš moved to Canada in 1951.  The first movement of his Partita for Strings on Lutheran Chorales is based on Nun danket alle Gott (Now Thank We All Our God), a hymn that we can imagine earlier European immigrants singing after their safe arrival on Canada’s Atlantic coast.

Margaret Atwood’s poem Death of a Young Son by Drowning evokes a more sombre picture of migration.  A woman safely endures a long voyage only for tragedy to strike when she reaches her destination, so that one her first acts in her newly adopted country is to bury her son.

Just over a thousand years ago, the Inuit arrived in Canada’s Arctic regions having moved eastwards from Siberia via Alaska.  In Inuit mythology, Sedna is the goddess of the sea.  In this excerpt from Derek Charke’s Tundra Songs, Tanya Tagaq tells the tale of Sedna’s creation.  Charke travelled to Iqaluit, capital of Nunavut, in 2007 and recorded sounds of the ice creaking and the region’s wildlife which he then incorporated into the piece.

Alootook Ipellie was an Inuit graphic artist, satirical cartoonist and writer who lived in northern Canada.  He spent his childhood and early teenage years adjusting with his family to the transition from their traditional, nomadic Inuit way of life, to an existence in government-sponsored Inuit settlements.  The poem ‘How noisy they seem’ has a strong sense of nostalgia for a lost world.

Marjan Mozetich is the son of Slovenian parents who migrated to Canada in 1952 when he was 4 years old.  His work for solo harp – Songs of Nymphs – was written in the heat and noise of a city summer which made him yearn for an escape from modernity into a mythical, idyllic past.

Shanawdithit was the last known living member of the Beothuk people of Newfoundland.  Born in 1801, she died of tuberculosis in 1829 after spending some time living in the household of a Scottish emigrant – William Eppes Cormack – following the deaths of the rest of her family.  Cormack founded the Beothuk Institution to study the tribe and recorded what Shanawdithit told him about their way of life.  A combination of skirmishes with British settlers and a lack of resistance to European diseases resulted in the Beothuk being wiped out.  Joan Crate imagines the last months of Shanawdithit’s life.

Malcolm Forsyth emigrated to Canada from South Africa in 1968.  The Bride’s Farewell is the second part of his Songs from the Q’Appelle Valley which originates from his earlier work Three Métis Songs from Saskatchewan.  The piece is played by the Toronto-based Hannaford Street Silver Band whose founding director, Raymond Tizzard, acknowledges the strong influence of the British brass band movement on Canadian bands.

Canada is of course a Francophone as well as an Anglophone country, reflecting its French colonial past.  The Quebecois poet Emile Nelligan was born in 1879 to an Irish father and a French-Canadian mother.  Clearly showing the influence of Baudelaire and the French symbolists, Le Vaisseau d’Or (The Golden Ship) is one of his best known poems.

Manitoba-born composer John Greer’s song cycle Studies and Rambles of Wasagewanoqua uses texts from Anna Brownell Jameson’s Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada.  Irish writer Jameson visited Canada in 1836 to join her husband in Toronto.  Travelling alone from New York, she recorded this journey and others which she subsequently made to areas largely unknown to colonial travellers.  In this excerpt – From Sault Ste. Marie en Bateau! – Jameson recalls how she and her fellow passengers were kept entertained during a boat journey by a talented French-Canadian singer.

A longer, more arduous journey by water is reimagined by Alice Munro in her short story The View From Castle Rock.  Her ancestor James Laidlaw was 60 when he and his family left Scotland for Ontario in the early 19th century.  Here, as the ship nears the coast of Nova Scotia, James’s daughter Mary holds her young son in her arms so that he can get his first view of the country which is to be his home.

For centuries, most immigrants, like the Laidlaws, would get their first sight of Canada from the sea, but now it’s far more likely to be from the air.  The majority of those seeking a new life in Canada will put their feet on Canadian soil for the first time at Toronto Pearson International Airport.  The airport code is YYZ which is also the title of this instrumental piece by Canadian prog rock trio Rush.  The opening motif repeats the airport’s code in Morse: -.–/-.–/–..

The opportunities which life in a new country can offer is only one half of the story of migration.  There is also that which is left behind, that which is irrevocably lost.  Michael Ondaatje left Sri Lanka to live in England when he was 11 and then moved to Canada eight years later.  In the poem Wells II he reflects on how he gradually lost the Sinhalese language that he had grown up with and how his relationship with his ayah – the woman who had cared for him as a child – was abruptly sundered.

Srul Irving Glick was one of Canada’s most prolific composers, writing in all media from chamber music to oratorio.  The Old Toronto Klezmer Suite is a quintet for piano and strings, performed here by Quebecoise violinist Angele Dubeau’s string ensemble La Pieta.

The American poet Elizabeth Bishop spent part of her early childhood living with her maternal grandparents in Nova Scotia.  In her poem The Moose, a bus bound for Boston winds its way through the New Brunswick countryside, as afternoon becomes evening, before its sudden encounter with the mighty mammal of the title.

In April 1939 Benjamin Britten sailed to Canada, beginning a sojourn in North America which would last until 1942.  Seven months after his arrival, he wrote Canadian Carnival, a piece which references four French-Canadian folksongs, culminating with a disturbing setting of Alouette which may reflect the uncertainty of the time when it was written.

Former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins provides another outsider’s voice (although his mother was Canadian).  His poem Canada is an affectionate, humorous and nostalgic tribute to the United States’ northern neighbour.

Nostalgia also pervades Joni Mitchell’s song Chinese Café/Unchained Melody as she looks back on her teenage years in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  Originally recorded in 1982, this version from 2002 is rendered even more touching by the greater distance of time, the sympathetic orchestral setting by Vince Mendoza and the fact that Mitchell’s voice has deepened and aged over the intervening 20 years.

Thomas King was born in Sacramento, California and is of Cherokee, German and Greek descent.  He moved to Canada in 1980 and has written extensively about North America’s First Nations, expressing criticism of the policies and programmes of both the US and Canadian governments in regard to aboriginal peoples.  Coyote is a mythological figure common to many cultures of indigenous peoples of North America and is a character who features frequently in King’s writing.  Here the hapless Coyote’s journey from the reservation to Toronto does not turn out well.

Violet Archer created a distinguished body of work during a career that spanned six decades.  The daughter of Italian immigrants, her parents changed their name from Balestreri to Archer after the outbreak of World War II.  Sinfonietta was commissioned by the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra and premiered in Saskatoon in 1969.

Wayne Keon is a member of Nipissing First Nation, an Ojibwe tribe – the second-largest First Nations population in Canada after the Cree.   The narrator of I’m Not In Charge Of This Ritual is alienated and desperate to reconnect with the world through the traditional means of performing the sun dance and making medicine bags, but his despair is only intensified as he feels equally incapable of connecting with this part of his identity.

Buffy Sainte-Marie is a Cree singer-songwriter and activist who first came to widespread attention with her 1964 album It’s My Way!  Now That The Buffalo’s Gone is one of the typically trenchant protest songs from that album, pointing a finger at those in power for their continued mistreatment of the First Nations people.

Rita Joe was a Mik’maw poet and songwriter, often referred to as the Poet Laureate of the Mi’kmaq people.  I Lost My Talk is an angry lament for the way in which she was forced to abandon her own language for English as a child at the Shunbenacadie Indian Residential School.

The poet Margaret Noori is of Anishinaabe descent.  Her poem N’gii Zhibiiamaag Niijaanisag Chigamigong also concerns itself with the erosion of language and cultural identity in the face of a dominant, government-imposed European culture.

Vancouver-born composer Alexina Louie is descended from Chinese immigrants, a cultural connection which finds expression in some of her music.  Changes, performed here by Louise Bessette, is one of four solo piano pieces commissioned by the Alliance for Canadian New Music Projects.
Torquil MacLeod[/rtoc]

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