Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Barack Obama Needs to Listen to Canada's Best Serious Music: the 49 from North of the 49th Contest

The CBC currently is trying to stir up some interest in its music programming by a contest to choose 49 songs from north of the 49th Parallel to send to President Elect Barack Obama for his iPod playlist.

What an idea! Let’s forget about the faulty geographic premise (hey, Montreal is at 45.3 N, and Toronto, 43.4) and talk about the way the contest is shaping up. As of this morning, very little non-mainstream music has been suggested, and of that, there are some noticeable gaps. No Céline Dion, for example, and while I don’t like her, surely her absence to date represents a huge blind spot among the people participating in the contest.

More seriously, it seems to me, the CBC brass may be planning to use this effort as a way of reinforcing their attempts to move the national broadcaster away from its long tradition of supporting and promoting the kind of culture that defines a country. That’s what makes the lack of serious music nominations very troubling. Do send in your suggestions before 8 p.m. Friday, January 9. Here’s the e-mail address:

Here are a couple of mine:

"Romanian Folk Dances" on the CD produced independently by McGill University music professor Matt Haimovitz, Goulash! Played by the group Ucello, this gorgeous music, performed with verve and style by a group Haimovitz has hand-picked, represents the way that Canada has welcomed people from all over the world, creating a marvelous goulash of a country.

Anything from the CD English Fancy (Analekta) by the baroque group Masques, featuring soprano Shannon Mercer and a number of excellent young Canadian musicians. The CD was made a few years ago and represents the strength of Canada's music scene in the early 21st century, which, I fear, is being eroded by budget cuts and misreading of the CBC's audience by the CBC's brass. If I had to pick, I'd say Shannon singing "Come Away" by Thomas Hampion.

The title track from the joint Atma CD by the Consort of les Voix humaines and the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal, Rise, O My Soul. This is glorious, soul-stirring music which combines the best of the old world and the new.

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