Category Archives: Music

What’s The Buzz?


On Sunday night when our family was watching  the NBC broadcast of Jesus Christ Superstar I told my son and daughter-in-law that as a teenager I knew all the words to every song.  I used to sing the Superstar numbers on my cold walks home from university to make the time go by faster.

A woman tweeted during the Sunday night show,  “I’m so old I can never remember where I put my car keys, but I can remember every word of the songs in Jesus Christ Superstar.”  

On his blog my friend Rudy said when he was 16 he had memorized all the songs in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.  He had a summer factory job and would sing through the musical score as he worked sawing wood. 

On Monday I was having lunch with my brother and mentioned one of the songs from the musical.  My brother immediately quoted all the lyrics to that song perfectly. 

So what made Jesus Christ Superstar so appealing to my generation?  Here’s what I think .

  1. It was about one of the world’s most well-known and influential figures. 
  2. It asked questions that very few people dared ask about the life of Jesus in 1970. 
  3. It presented stock characters like Mary Magdalene and Judas in a new and much more sympathetic light.  
  4. Jesus was portrayed as a very ordinary human man .
  5. The fact that some clergy found Jesus Christ Superstar blasphemous when it first debuted made it all the more appealing to many young people and fostered its popularity. 
  6. The rock opera genre had just been established by the success of Tommy in 1969 and so the idea of a rock opera was still new and appealing when Jesus Christ Superstar opened. 
  7. The music is catchy, easy to learn and repetitive. 

Why do you think Jesus Christ Superstar was so successful and nearly fifty years after it debuted still remains so popular? 

Other posts………

What a Great Concert

Jersey Boys

They’d Never Heard of Woodstock


Filed under Music

Proud of the New Words to Canada’s National Anthem

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir  (Photo by Vincent Ethier/COC)

Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue are household names to Canadians who watched coverage of the Olympic games in South Korea. The figure skating duo jointly carried Canada’s flag as our athletes marched into the Pyeongchang Stadium for the opening ceremonies.

They also won their second gold medal in the ice dance competition eight years after claiming their first gold at the Vancouver Olympics. The pair set a record for the highest score ever for their sport and became the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history. Canadians can be rightly proud of these two outstanding Olympians for their athletic achievements. But I’m proud of them for another reason as well.

 In a Toronto Star interview Tessa and Scott talked about how happy they were to sing the new lyrics to O Canada when the anthem was played after their gold medal win. Scott said, “It was important for us to set a tone by belting out the new lyrics after our victory. We are so proud of Canada for making this change. It’s 2018. It’s about time.” Scott thought the fact a man and a woman jointly carried our flag at the opening ceremonies, illustrated the recent change to one line of Canada’s anthem from “in all thy sons’ command” to “in all of us command”.

 I have long advocated for this change and have now published four newspaper columns on the topic.  I first wrote about it in 2002 when I was inspired by the vision of a Steinbach woman Sybil Shaw Hamm. She was collecting signatures for a petition to send to Ottawa in support of Senator Vivian Poy who had introduced a Senate motion to change the word ‘sons’ in O Canada.

“Thousands of little girls are being told they are not important every time they stand to sing the anthem” said Sybil in a media interview. Ultimately Senator Poy’s motion to change the wording was defeated.

O Canada the former version in English, French and Inuktutuk

I wrote about the topic again in 2016 after the House of Commons passed a bill sponsored by the late member of Parliament Mauril Belanger to change the sexist line of the anthem to its present gender- neutral alternative. This time I was responding to my fellow newspaper columnist Michael Zwaagstra who advocated for a national referendum on the change. I pointed out the words of the anthem had been changed many times in the past without a referendum. In fact, the currently contentious line had only had the word ‘sons’ added in 1914, as a way to counteract the influence of a vocal group of suffragettes lobbying for women’s right to vote.

I wrote about the topic again in 2017 when local senator Don Plett introduced an amendment to the bill as a way to try to stymie its passage in the Senate. He didn’t want to change the words because they were “an important reminder of the past.” I said the word ‘sons’ did reflect a past when women weren’t persons in Canada. They were their husbands’ and fathers’ property. They couldn’t vote and their contributions went largely unrecognized. Thankfully times had changed and so should the words of our anthem.

Of course I am overjoyed that despite Mr. Plett’s efforts the bill did pass the Senate. The changes to the anthem became law on February 7 just in time for the new version to be used at the Winter Olympics.

Language is a very powerful thing. I am proud that on the international stage our now inclusive national anthem reflected the fact that our Olympic athletes come from a country where both the contributions of men and women are recognized and respected.

Thing 2–  One of the eight things I do each day here in Portugal is work on a piece of writing I know will be published or I would like to have published.  This newspaper column was one of them.  It was published yesterday in the Carillon.   Other publishing projects I’ve worked on besides writing my regular columns include spending time rewriting some meditations that will be published this summer and doing publicity forms for another Chicken Soup story of mine that will be published in a book in spring.  I am also working on edits to the first draft of a manuscript for a middle grade novel I want to submit to an editor when I get home, and I am writing more submission letters for a picture book I have finished and am hoping to get published. In addition I am working on another picture book manuscript and adding more short stories to a collection I’m writing about growing up in the 50s and 60s.  

Other posts……..

The Famous Five

Are You This Determined to Vote?

From Pale and Weak to Platoon Commander


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Filed under Canada, Music

What is Fado?

Our second night in Lisbon a waitress in a fur coat standing at the door of her establishment lured my husband inside.  We had been walking in a giant circle for quite some time, with Dave trying to pick the perfect restaurant and so he was feeling pressure to make a choice.  I think he might have been a little relieved that the decision was out of his hands when the woman almost pushed us through the front door, and seated us at a table.   A singer and two instrumentalists were performing.  “This is fado,” our waitress whispered.  I wasn’t sure what fado was, but the singer looked like he was almost in pain, his eyes closed.  Although we didn’t understand the Portuguese lyrics it was obvious whatever he was singing about was of a dramatic and sad nature. 

The prices on the menu were a little dramatic too, so we opted for bread and cheese, and a bowl of vegetable soup and another of spaghetti, which we shared.  The food was excellent however and while we ate a young woman came up and did some more fado singing. Her performance was just as dramatic as her male counterpart’s.  

As we left the restaurant the waitress in the fur coat stopped to talk to us.  She told us fado is a kind of music unique to Lisbon and directly translated means ‘fate.’  The songs are always melancholy in nature and singers are accompanied by different kinds of guitars .  The origins of fado are difficult to trace with possible sources being Brazilian slaves, Portuguese sailors or the Moors. 

The waitress said she hoped we’d come back. I’m not sure we will. I was glad to have been introduced to fado but I’m thinking it won’t become a new music interest for me. 

Other posts……..

A Little Pizza With Your Organ Music?

A Fun Evening in Toronto

Six Cool Things About Lisbon

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Filed under Music, Portugal

Feeding My Mother

jann arden feeding my motherMy friend Marilyn gave me Jann Arden’s book Feeding My Mother.  On the one hand it was easy to read because there isn’t a great deal of text and the layout of the book is so colourful and eye-catching and contains so many excellent photos Jann has taken of her mother and the scenery around their Alberta home.

The text is interspersed with recipes.  Jann has a house just a few steps away from her childhood home where her Mom still lives.  Before her father died Jann routinely had her parents over for dinner and she still does that with her Mom.  Jann shares the simple recipes she uses when cooking for her Mom, hence the title of the book Feeding My Mother. The chatty tone, the hearty recipes and visual impact of the book make it easy to read. 

On the other hand the book was also very hard to read because it records Jann’s efforts to care for her mother who is suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s.  Jann is fortunate because she has the financial means to provide in-home caregivers for her mother. But Jann’s pain in losing the mother she once knew and her struggles to maintain a patient attitude with her mother and a positive attitude about her mother’ situation, will resonate with anyone who has dealt with a seriously ill parent.  

The most poignant line in the book for me was when Jann realized her mother was rapidly losing her memory and asked her, “Do you think you will ever forget me Mom?”  Her mother replied,  “Well my brain might, but my heart won’t.”

Feeding My Mother helped me learn some new things about Jann Arden one of Canada’s most beloved musical artists and it helped me learn some new things about how Alzheimer’s impacts families and relationships. 

Other posts……..


Sons and Mothers

My Mother’s Childhood Christmases


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Filed under Books, Family, Music

Ava Maria

A deep cello accompaniment and the soaring voices of young women created an inspirational performance of Ava Maria at the Pembina Trails Voices Christmas concert we attended last night.  Our daughter-in-law is one of the Pembina Trails music directors and we were sitting with her parents.  “What does Ava Maria mean?” my husband asked our son’s father-in-law after the concert was over.  Neither of them really seemed to know so I looked it up this morning. 


Botticelli image of the angel Gabriel greeting Mary 

Ava Maria directly translated from the Latin is ‘Hail Mary.’ They are the first two words the angel Gabriel said to Mary when he told her she was going to give birth to Jesus.  The angel went on to tell her she was special and blessed and that God was with her. 

I really like the version of the angel’s words in The Message translation of the Bible. 

Good morning!
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.

I think those words are ones for us all to take to heart. If we woke up each morning remembering we are not alone in this world and that we are truly beautiful and special we would feel assured, motivated and hopeful.

Other posts…………. 

Jesus is Born at the Sagrada Familia

God as A Stranger

December 23

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Filed under Music, Religion

Klee Wyck- May Your Spirit Run and Glide and Soar

Last Sunday I went to a concert that included a performance by the boys choir my daughter-in-law conducts.  One of the pieces they sang was written by Vancouver composer Brian Tate.  

Emily Carr

It  was about the famous Canadian artist Emily Carr.  I love Emily’s paintings and I have been fortunate enough to visit the Vancouver Art Gallery which has a rich treasure trove of her art. There are also several of Emily’s pieces in the collection at the Winnipeg Art Gallery where I work. 

Emily wasn’t just a painter she was also a writer and one of her books is called Klee Wyck.  Klee Wyck was the name the indigenous people of the west coast gave her when Emily came to their villages to paint.  Klee Wyck translated means  “Laughing One.” 

Blunden Harbour Emily Carr

Emily visited many First Nations communities and her paintings provide a record of the beauty she saw there.  The Vancouver Art Gallery website says Emily’s paintings express her profound identification with the landscape of her province and her belief that nature was a tangible expression of God.

Indian Church by Emily Carr

Here are the beautiful lyrics to Klee Wyck .  

Klee Wyck   by Brian Tate

Klee Wyck

mother of the earth

daughter of the river

sister of the sky

Klee Wyck

mother of the wind

daughter of the forest

sister of the sun

Like the wolf – your spirit runs

Like the whale – your spirit glides

Like the raven – your spirit soars

Green forest

gray waters

blue sky.

The light that strikes the eye

the eye that guides the hand

the hand that moves the brush

the brush that makes the canvas come alive

Like the wolf – your spirit runs

Like the whale – your spirit glides

Like the raven – your spirit soars

Green forest

gray waters

blue sky.

Other posts……….

Recognize This Raven?

 O Canada

Lineage Strong Women

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Filed under Art, Music

The West End Cultural Centre

mike koop free pass front pageThat’s a former student of mine!  Mike Koop was my grade one student many, many years ago.  I remember how full of energy he was and how he often had something very important to tell me.  Mike, who is a professional musician was featured on the front page of Saturday’s Winnipeg Free Press to illustrate a great story about the history of the West End Cultural Centre.  It was so interesting to read about all the people who have given selflessly of their time and energy and money to found and then keep this cultural hub of Winnipeg’s music industry growing. 

wiki commons photoMy husband is one of those people since he volunteers regularly at the West End Cultural Centre helping to take tickets, usher or sell merchandise at events. We attend concerts there often and I love the different ways the venue is used to showcase all kinds of musical experiences.

Just a few weeks ago we were there to see jazz musician Amber Epp (a former student of my husband’s) perform her versions of all the songs on Joni Mitchell’s album Blue

am-i-not-kingLast December our son’s band Royal Canoe provided the music for an intriguing version of Shakespeare’s Richard II called Am I Not King? It was performed at the West End Cultural Centre. The production is nominated for six awards at the upcoming Winnipeg Theatre Awards event taking place at The West End Cultural Centre on November 12.  

Garden City Collegiate Jazz Vocal Group directed by my daughter-in-law

Last June within one week I heard a concert by 70-year-old Canadian musician Valdy at the West End Cultural Centre and attended a wonderful show of jazz music performed by teenagers from the Seven Oaks School Division. 

One of my favorite shows at the West End was The Last Waltz A Celebration of The Band.  I could sing along with almost every number. 

As the headline in the Winnipeg Free Press said….  the music really does live on at the West End Cultural Centre. 

Other posts…….

Young and Old At the West End Cultural Centre

Nathan Rogers A Story That Tugs At Your Heart Strings

The Last Waltz

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Filed under Music, Winnipeg