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True North: The Canadian Songbook
Classical crossover artist Eleanor McCain orchestrates a massive coast-to-coast project celebrating Canadian pop and folk songs for the nation’s 150th anniversary
Did you know Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday on July 1, 2017? Many in the U.S. may not know about this important date, but Canadian classical crossover artist Eleanor McCain aims to change that. Backed by 10 symphony orchestras from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Victoria, British Columbia, she spotlights Canada’s rich musical artistry for the nation’s 150th anniversary in her groundbreaking new project, True North: The Canadian Songbook.
True North: The Canadian Songbook will be released May 12 as a double CD-set and coffee table book with stunning photographs highlighting Canada’s natural beauty. It’s described as “a musical love letter showcasing some of the best of our country’s songwriters, singers, orchestras, choirs and arrangers, lovingly assembled in one amazing package.”
Billed as the largest project of its kind ever undertaken in Canada, True North: The Canadian Songbook features 32 iconic Canadian pop and folk songs reimagined for full orchestra by arrangers from across the country and performed by 10 orchestras from coast to coast. Weaving together this vast tapestry is the evocative, melodious voice of McCain, a three-time East Coast Music Awards nominee.
Canada's Iconic Songs and Majestic Landscapes: A 360-degree ViewTrue North: The Canadian Songbook pairs a double CD that reimagines Canada’s most beloved songs with a gorgeous bilingual coffee table book packed with stunning photos from its most majestic landscapes. McCain's sixth studio album showcases her renditions of classic hits including Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah,” Joni Mitchell's “A Case Of You,” Neil Young's “Helpless,” Jann Arden's “Good Mother,” Sarah McLachlan's “Angel,” Gordon Lightfoot's “If You Could Read My Mind,” and Bryan Adams' “Run To You.”
In a unique feast for the eyes as well as the ears, McCain produced and curated the book with renowned photographer V. Tony Hauser. It features full-color landscape photography by 23 Canadian photographers, complementary song lyrics, songwriter commentary, portraits featuring Canadian designers by Hauser, and behind-the-scenes shots by photographer Greg Locke.
Cross-Border Musical RootsA native of the tiny village of Florenceville, New Brunswick, less than 20 miles from the U.S. border with Maine, McCain has been singing since she was 2 or 3 years old. She credits her passion with a childhood visit to New York City to see the musical Annie.
“We stayed at my mother’s sister’s house in Greenwich Village, and after I saw the show, I was playing with my cousin and sister in the backyard and singing the songs from the musical for the rest of the day,” she recalls. “Since I wasn’t exposed to a wide variety of concerts given the limitations of my small village, I’m not sure whether it was hearing the music and seeing the performance, or seeing young girls on stage I could relate to, but I was hooked!”
Inspired by her mother’s piano-playing, McCain took voice lessons and enrolled in Mount Allison University for music, where she studied classical singing techniques. She went on to produce five previous albums, combining classical with pop, Celtic, folk and jazz, before undertaking True North: The Canadian Songbook.
A Scope as Large as CanadaFrom the seed of an idea more than three years ago, True North: The Canadian Songbook grew into an epic, multi-year passion project – McCain’s tribute to the people, musicians, photographers, and landscape of Canada.
She conceived the project in January, 2014, originally with a list of 12 songs in mind, but quickly realized it would need to encompass a much broader scope. “I thought, ‘How can you do a 12-song CD and do Canada justice?’ You can’t. So then the list increased to 20 songs, and finally settled on 32.”
She was then faced with another dilemma: the impossibility of choosing just one orchestra for a celebration involving a vast nation. “That’s when the dream happened: wouldn’t it be great to do this with orchestras across the country? The idea to make it Pan-Canadian came right away especially given my growing relationships with orchestras in Canada in recent years.”
Songs of Hope, Love, and HomelandDuring a visit to the Grammys in February, 2015, McCain met with Emmy Award-Winning Producer Don Breithaupt in L.A. to discuss the idea of working together on the project. They formed the core band with Breithaupt on piano, Mark Kelso on drums, Pat Kilbride on bass, Justin Abedin on guitar, plus many other instrumental guests.
The project showcases the talents of 14 arrangers and orchestrators from across Canada. These artists McCain says are “often the unsung heroes of Canadian music – who tailor some of Canada’s most treasured songs to her voice and style and reimagine them for orchestra.”
The 32 selections include one original written by Breithaupt and his brother Jeff called, “I Can See Hope From Here.” Inspired by their summers spent on Ontario’s Georgian Bay, it is named for a spot called Hope Island in Lake Huron. Like the whole of True North: The Canadian Songbook, it speaks to Canada’s national identity of diversity, tolerance, and respect.
“I wanted to honor the people, the musicians, and the country that I love, and this is the most touching way I felt I could offer proper tribute,” McCain says.
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Listen to True North: The Canadian Songbook on Spotify here
PRESS RELEASE (April 26, 2017): Classical Crossover Artist Orchestrates Massive Coast-to-Coast Project for Canada’s 150th Anniversary
For more information, visit www.EleanorMcCain.ca.