The Calgary Stampede: “A Romping Rangeland Rumpus”

Calgary Stampede 1912Poster from First Calgary Stampede in 1912

Many people associate Calgary, affectionately nicknamed “Cowtown”, with its annual summer Stampede in the same way that a place like New Orleans is tied to Mardi Gras. The character of those places seems inextricably linked to these major civic festivals. Prior to the area’s post-WWII oil boom, Calgary was predominantly an agricultural area and held a traditional yearly agricultural fair called the Calgary Industrial Exhibition.

The Stampede was conceived in 1912 by an American rodeo promoter, Guy Weadick, as a way to add a cowboy-themed element to the fairly staid farm-focused Exhibition.   After some fits and starts the two events combined in 1923, with the Stampede under Weadick’s longtime guidance eventually overshadowing the Exhibition.   Ever since, the cowboy theme has stuck with Calgary even though agriculture, farming and ranching are now only a very small part of its economy.   This year’s Stampede will take place July 7-16 and, as can be seen on the official Stampede site, will be quite a spectacle with something to offer just about everyone.

 

 

 

Image Credits:  Calgary Stampede Archive, University of Calgary

Vintage Picture Map Geography of Canada

nw-territories

I recently came across a copy of an old school book, “Picture Map Geography of Canada and Alaska” by Vernon Quinn, that includes charming woodcut picture maps by Bruno da Osimo, a then noted Italian illustrator, for each of the Canadian provinces (other than Nunavut, which was then part of the Northwest Territories).  Originally published in 1944 and updated in 1954, it has a light but well-written chapter devoted to individual provinces.  Each map features animals, plants, activities and industries peculiar to the province depicted.  In addition to the maps (scanned in above and below), the book is adorned throughout with other delightful illustrations by da Osima (some of which I’ll compile in a future post).

alberta british-columbia manitoba-saskatchewan newfoundland nova-scotia-new-brunswick-pei ontario-2 quebec yukon

 

Similar Posts on O’Canada Blog:

1933 Quebec Tourist Road Map

Old Maps and Their Hidden Stories

Songs & Ballads From Nova Scotia

Vintage / Mod Design: The City Bus

vancouver-bus-4

City Bus on Vancouver Street (about mid-1950s)

Distinctive industrial design reveals itself in many ways and, when done well, can be a genuine pleasure to take in.   While the specialness of such design is often difficult to see in our contemporary surroundings, its otherwise subtle impact jumps out when looking back at vintage images. A case in point: the humble municipal bus, operated in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and other cities across Canada.  Over this period theses buses began to display a very mod sensibility as they evolved from the severe boxiness of earlier 1930s and 1940s versions to later, during the 1950s through the 1970s, being adorned with more rounded contours, sleek curves and very stylized lines and chrome elements.

Canadian Cities in 1950s Watercolors

Edmonton

For Canada Day weekend, this post features images that span the geography of this vast country.  Around 1953, in a grand display of national pride, the Montreal-based alcohol and beverage giant Seagram Company commissioned over a dozen Canadian artists (including several among the famed Group of Seven) to create a series of  watercolors of major Canadian cities. The paintings were subsequently the focus of a world tour organized by Seagram to showcase Canada and its urban landscapes.

While recently rummaging through an antique shop I came across a small booklet, dating to 1953, in which these paintings were reproduced and for which this post shows a sampling of the now somewhat faded images.  While many of the provincial capitals are depicted, I find the inclusion of several less prominent cities (including Fort William, Hamilton, Sarnia, Shawinigan Falls and Trois Rivieres) to be fascinating.

St. John's

Calgary

Shawinigan Falls

Charlottetown

Halifax

Montreal

Regina

Quebec City

Saint John

Hamilton

Vancouver

Toronto

Winnipeg

Windsor

Intricate Pebble Paintings by Kristina Boardman

K. Boardman, Caras Pebbles

Kristina Boardman, “Cara’s Pebbles”

Photo-realistic paintings, such as these by BC-based artist Kristina Boardman, easily fool the casual observer as well as the more-studied eye.  That’s amazing enough!  But in addition, these works of pain-staking exactitude nicely capture the whimsy and pleasure of surveying a shoreline adorned with swaths of smooth-faced multi-colored stones and pebbles that have been thrown together randomly over long periods.

Although the realism of these paintings dictate a dominant blue-gray hue, Boardman wonderfully conveys nuance within that muted palette and complements this with perfect pops of other earth tones and pleasing juxtapositions of size and shape.  The compositions of some of these images, such as “Cara’s Pebbles” (above), suggest small jewels just underfoot.

Among other venues, her work is available at the Ian Tan Gallery in Vancouver and can also be viewed on Boardman’s website here.

K. Boardman, Communication

Kristina Boardman, “Communication”

 

K. Boardman, Saltspring Sunday

Kristina Boardman, “Saltspring Sunday”

 

“You Haven’t Changed A Bit”: Astrid Blodgett’s Superlative Meditation on Relationships

 

Cover -- You Haven't Changed v.2

Astrid Blodgett’s recently published first collection of short stories, You Haven’t Changed A Bit  (Univ. of Alberta Press 2013), is stunningly well written.  As I finished the book for the second time, I reflected how these stories brought to mind Rainer Maria Rilke’s observation about how each of us cannot help but be a mysterious solitude in relation to one another and, most especially and paradoxically, to our closest loved ones.

Almost all the thirteen stories in this wonderful volume explore fissures in relationships — whether between spouses, partners, siblings, parent-child or friends — and the unspoken mental landscape that inexorably shapes those relationships.  Notably, most of these tales are told from the perspective of a female character, who mainly endure the emotional pain that accompanies varying degrees of psychic distance from a loved one.

A small sampling:  In “Don’t Do a Headstand” a visit by her husband’s pregnant teen niece highlights the growing and likely irreparable gap between the spouses.  “Zero Recall” explores the toxicity of a husband’s mistrust and the wife’s ensuing bitterness at being treated unfairly, both of which threaten the couple’s bond following an unfortunate mix-up at a blood donation center.  The realization by young adult friends that divergent life paths will impact their ties in “Let’s Go Straight to the Lake” is skillfully elicited by the piece’s authentic, slightly awkward dialogue and scene-setting. Several of Blodgett’s stories are especially poignant, particularly “Ice Break,” about fragile parent-child relationships and the weight of guilt from choices that can’t be undone.  This latter story is one that I’ve written about previously and compelled me to seek out more of Blodgett’s captivating writing.

In an effort to stick with my preference for conciseness, I’ll conclude by simply noting that each of the stories in You Haven’t Changed A Bit is a pitch-perfect gem, characterized by truly graceful and insightful writing by a talented writer who is worth every bit of your attention.

Astrid Blodgett

Astrid Blodgett

More information about Astrid Blodgett and her writings can be found at the author’s website here.

David Pirrie: Mapping Western Terrains and Our Sense of Place

David Pirrie, Mt Phillips, BC Rockies (2016)

David Pirrie, Mt. Phillips, BC Rockies (2016)

There’s a great deal of pleasure to be found studying maps, replete as they are with seemingly arcane symbols, dots, lines and grids awaiting patient deciphering.   Among the fascinations of Vancouver-based artist David Pirrie is the iconography of maps and how they influence our sense of place, which he nicely explores in a wonderful series of paintings recently exhibited at Vancouver’s Ian Tan Gallery.

Pirrie’s paintings of Canada’s western landscape, particularly of mountains in the Alberta  and British Columbia Rockies, are overlayed with mapping details and pastel hues that display a slight pop art sensibility that is both intriguing and pleasing.  His having climbed many of these mountains adds an element of intimacy to his gorgeous representations of these majestic formations.

More of David Pirrie’s work can be seen at his website here.

David Pirrie, Mt Assiniboine, Late Summer (2016)

David Pirrie, Mt. Assiniboine, Late Summer(2016)

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David Pirrie, Columbia Icefield (2016)

David Pirrie, Columbia Icefield , 1/50,000 (2016)

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David Pirrie, Mt Edith Cavell (2016)

David Pirrie, Mt. Edith Cavell (2016)

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David Pirrie, Kates Needle, BC Coast (2013)

David Pirrie, Kates Needle, BC Coast (2013)

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David Pirrie, Mt Robson Ice Fall (2016)

 David Pirrie, Mt. Robson Ice Fall (2016)

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Lisa Brawn’s Vibrant Woodcuts

Bluebird

 Lisa Brawn, “Bluebird”

Lisa Brawn is a Calgary-based artist who painstakingly creates exquisitely vibrant woodcuts.  Her subject matter ranges from wild animals to celebrities to pop culture icons.  Shown here are some of her amazing images of wild birds, each with an abstract background carving that nicely complements the main subject.  Brawn’s annual “Wild Bird Woodcuts” wall calendar is gorgeous and is a hot collector’s item, having quickly sold out its 2014 and 2015 print runs.  More of her fabulous art can be seen at her website here.

Blue-Jay

Lisa Brawn, “Blue Jay”

Vermillion-Flycatcher

Lisa Brawn, “Vermillion Flycatcher”

Puffin

Lisa Brawn, “Puffin”

Gray-Jay

Lisa Brawn, “Gray Jay”

Geese

Lisa Brawn, “Geese”

Image Credits: Lisa Brawn

Related Posts on O’Canada Blog:

Laurence Hyde’s Southern Cross

Backwoods Lumbering During the 1880s

They’re Giving Away Land!

Farm----2-New-Homeland

Back in the day, Canada needed more people to build up its country and, in particular, in its vast western inland plains. With lots of land and not so many people, the federal and provincial governments and land companies starting in the late 1800s on into the early twentieth century launched  recruitment campaigns  around the world, especially in Europe, with the lure of free land grants and the potential for prosperity.  The distance was far and farm life was (is!) tough, but the appeal drew many new immigrants to Canada’s west.   I love the variety and details in some of these posters! (Click on images to enlarge)

The Great Canadian Outdoors: Vintage Rockies Postcards

eLake-Louise,-Alberta

 Lake Louise & Victoria Glacier — About 1949

It’s safe to say that when many Americans think of Canada they visualize vast expanses of nature and, in particular, the Canadian Rockies.  These vintage postcards — most of which are colored photos — feature scenes of the Rockies in Alberta, spanning the early 1900s up to the early 1960s.

eAthabasca-Glacier,-Alberta

Athabasca Glacier — About 1960 (Love that funky snow bus!)

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eBow-Valley,-Alberta-2

Bow Valley, Banff — About 1950s

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eBow-Valley-Postcard

Bow Valley, Showing Golf Course — About 1950s

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eCascade-Mountain,-Alberta

Cascade Mountain, Banff — Early 1900s  (This was quite a ride then in a horse drawn carriage.)

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eCascade-Mountain,-Alberta-

Cascade Mountain, Banff — 1920s

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eWind-Mountain,-Alberta

 Wind Mountain, Alberta — About 1910s

Bridges As Depicted on Vintage Postcards

High-Level-Bridge,-Edmonton

 Steam train crossing as onlookers leisurely enjoy the vista.  Postmarked 1921. 

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Even with sophisticated modern equipment, bridges are marvels of engineering skill.  Bridges from earlier periods, such as the array of Canadian ones featured on these vintage postcards, built without the benefit of such conveniences and often at the cost of many lives and injuries, are that much more impressive!

Heading into Canada from Detroit.  About 1940s, when cars featured many curves.

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Victoria-Jubilee-Bridge

Love the simplicity of this image and the partial reflection. Postmarked 1906.

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Similar posts:

•  Beautiful Old Railway Bridge, Near Clementsport, N.S.

•  Canada-U.S. Friendship Postcard and Stamps

•  Vintage Quebec:  Ox Carts, Dog Carts and Sleighs

Old Maps and Their Hidden Stories

Nova Canadae 1693

Nova Canadae (1693)

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Good historical maps combine science and art to guide its users through its subject geography, with the best such maps igniting the imagination about the many backstories underpinning its cartographical offerings. Some of the oldest maps of North America include parts of Canada, which then featured place names such Terra Nova (now Newfoundland), Nouvelle France (most of what is now Eastern Canada), and Acadie (now Nova Scotia).  The following collection showcases some interesting old maps of Canada I’ve come across.

Related Posts on O’Canada:

1933 Quebec Tourist Road Map

Artist to Appreciate: Louis Helbig

Highway 53 Bitumen Slick

Louis Helbig, Highway 53 Bitumen Slick, Alberta (2009)

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The aerial photography of Ottawa’s Louis Helbig provides a reflective pause for the disquieting natural and industrial vistas that are this artist’s principal subject matter.  Many of his images possess an abstract quality and bring to mind the similarly striking industrial landscapes of fellow Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky.

Below are a few of Helbig’s stunning images.  More of his impressive photography can be found at his homepage here.

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Alluvial Fan

Louis Helbig, Alluvial Fan, Alberta (2009)

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Sulfur PileLouis Helbig, Sulfur Pile, Alberta (2011)

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ATV Tracks in Frozen Snow

Louis Helbig, ATV Tracks in Frozen Snow, Quebec (2011)

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Pumping Vessel

Louis Helbig, Pumping Vessel, Alberta (2009)

Image Credits: Louis Helbig

Other Posts About Notable Canadian Photographers:

•  Edward Burtysnky and Industrial Landscapes

•  Todd McLellan: Taking Things Apart

•  Manu Keggenhoff’s Photography of the North

•  A Virtual Trip to the Yukon

•  Jerry Kobalenko’s Beautifully Rendered Arctic Eden

•  Jim Shaugnessy and Canadian Railroad Photography

Artist to Appreciate: Michael E. Glover

Michael Glover, End of the Line, Hines Creek, Alberta (2010) 2

Michael Glover, End of the Line, Hines Creek, Alberta (2010)

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Michael Glover’s realist artwork conveys a deep appreciation for the stark and forlorn rural and industrial landscapes that hint at the hardscrabble existence of the hardy folks who settled such remote areas long ago.  His sense of place is strong — even to the point that the titles of his paintings denote the specific towns depicted — and I like that much of his work focuses on the often overlooked Canadian heartland regions of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta.  However, Glover is the rare Canadian painter whose work embraces images of virtually all the country’s provinces, reflecting his wide travels across Canada’s vast expanse.

Michael Glover, In The Heartland, Aneroid, Saskatchewan (2006)

Michael Glover, In The Heartland, Aneroid, Saskatchewan (2006)

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Michael Glover, On the Crowsnest Line, Pincher Station, Alberta (2012)

Michael Glover, On the Crowsnest Line, Pincher Station, Alberta (2012)

Michael Glover, Forgotten Timber, Wawa, Ontario (2007)

Michael Glover, Forgotten Timber, Wawa, Ontario (2007)

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Michael Glover, Once Proud, Still Strong, Fredericton, N.B. (2004)

Michael Glover, Once Proud, Still Strong, Fredericton, N.B. (2004)

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Michael Glover, Standing Proud in the Eleventh Hour, Mossleigh, Alberta (2006)

Michael Glover, Standing Proud in the Eleventh Hour, Mossleigh, Alberta (2006)

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Michael Glover, The Final Days of Fleming, Fleming, Saskatchewan (2012)

Michael Glover, The Final Days of Fleming, Fleming, Saskatchewan (2012)

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Michael Glover, Alexandria Falls, Enterprise, NWT (2012)

Michael Glover, Alexandria Falls, Enterprise, NWT (2012)

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Michael Glover, Nightstop, Grenfell, Saskatchewan (2012)

Michael Glover, Nightstop, Grenfell, Saskatchewan (2012)

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Glover has a much-deserved exhibition opening in late November 2013 at the Art Gallery of Northumberland (Ontario), appropriately entitled “The Lost and Forgotten: Canada’s Vanishing Landscape.”   More of Glover’s exceptional art may also be viewed at his website here and at the Quinn’s of Tweed (Ontario) gallery.

Image Credits:  Michael E. Glover

Jerry Kobalenko’s Beautifully Rendered Arctic Eden

Arctic Eden

In light of the major blizzard that struck the northeastern U.S. yesterday and the deep freeze that settled over much of eastern Canada a couple of weeks ago,  I thought I’d continue with the winter theme of some of my recent posts (see Retro Winter Travel and Recreation Ads and “Ice Break” by Astrid Blodgett) by sharing my praise for Jerry Kobalenko’s Arctic Eden:  Journeys Through the Changing High Arctic.  Although it first caught my eye over a year ago and has been sitting on one of my shelves awaiting my attention since then, perhaps because this wintry season’s colder than usual weather had set the right mood,  I finally got around to reading it this past week.

Arctic Eden is part travelogue (or better put, adventurelogue), part historical overview of explorations of the High Arctic region of Canada, but mostly it is a beautiful  showcase of Kobalenko’s exquisite photography of the stark and at times haunting landscapes of the rugged northernmost latitudes of Canada.  Through the book Kobalenko, who is based in Alberta, narrates for his readers several sled-pulling treks through the extremities of Nunavut, including Devon Island, Axel Heiberg Island and Ellesmere Island, and he does it in such a way that one can readily visualize the experience of which he writes.

The text is nicely complemented by asides about early Arctic adventurers and local flora and fauna and the author’s stunning images that demonstrate his keen eye for the beauty of this harsh environment.   While shades of white and blue dominate the landscape, I was struck by the much wider range of vivid colors than I expected in these images of the Arctic.  What comes across most clearly is Kobalenko’s good-natured passion for outdoor adventure and his joyful appreciation for each visit to the High Arctic that he’s been privileged to make (apparently through much resourcefulness on his part).  I should also note that in several places he acknowledges his wife, Alexandra, as his steadfast companion in adventure and in preparing key parts of the book.  Undoubtedly, this thankful sensibility contributed to Arctic Eden’s receipt of the 2012 William Mills Prize for Non-Fiction with a polar theme.

I’ve posted above a handful of Kobalenko’s photos from the book, more of which can be viewed on his website (www.kobalenko.com).  His website, by the way, is quite nicely laid out and has information on ordering this and his other books as well as his photos.

Photo Credits:  Jerry Kobalenko

Retro Winter Recreation and Travel Ads

Temperatures this far south, as well as the extreme cold gripping much of eastern Canada this week, leave no doubt that we’re deep in the heart of winter.  Because of this, my thoughts turn toward skiing, ice skating, hockey and other winter recreations and the many places above the 49th parallel — among them Banff, Quebec, Whistler, the Laurentians and Jasper — that are popular destinations for cold weather and snowy pastimes.  So, I thought I’d share some retro travel ads and posters touting these places and this season’s activities.  Many of these are from the Canadian Pacific Railway, which engaged in  a wide range of travel promotions for locations throughout Canada (and beyond).  The vivid graphics work their magic by conveying visions of boundless wintry pleasures.  Among the more distinctive of these works are those by Peter Ewart and Roger Couillard, two of the more notable artists commissioned for their attractive illustrations.  More Canadian Pacific travel posters may be seen here on an earlier O’Canada Blog post.

Image Credits:  Library and Archives Canada; Canadian Pacific Railway Archives

“Ice Break” by Astrid Blodgett

Journey Prize 24

As I’ve noted before, the annual anthology of short story finalists for the Journey Prize is regularly on my reading list.  The most recent collection, The Journey Prize, Stories, 24 (2012), selected by notable jurors Michael Christie, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and Kathleen Winter, contains a wide range of excellent fiction.  The winning story, “Crisis on Earth-X” by Alex Pugsley, is an engaging coming-of-age tale set against the backdrop of the societal turmoil of the early 1970s and one to which I could readily relate.  However, the story that most touches me among this collection is the tenderly told tragedy penned by Astrid Blodgett in “Ice Break”.  Edmonton-based Blodgett has a new short story collection, You Haven’t Changed A Bit, scheduled for release this March by the University of Alberta Press, which I’ve added to my reading list for this year.

A small excerpt follows:

“We’re a long way out on the lake when the ice breaks.  It’s late, after three, probably.  The sun is low in the sky.  We’ve driven past a dozen men squatting on their three-legged stools over small round holes and staring into the blackness.  We haven’t found our spot yet.  We haven’t even seen Uncle Rick.

“Everywhere I look outside there’s the lake and the sky, both the same grey-white, blurred together so you can’t see, way out there. what is lake and what is sky; and here and there in the middle distance men hunched on stools, dark silhouettes; and up close on the dashboard, dark blue, covered in a thin layer of dust except for the handprints I left when Dad turned too quickly off the gravel road onto the lake, and I grabbed on, handprints like claws.

* * *

“Earlier Dad had asked Mom to come.

“Mom said no.  She always said no.  She was doing some work, some financial stuff she needed to catch up on.  She’d already told him it was late in the season, the ice might not be good; what did Uncle Rick say.  Dad told her they knew what they were doing, they’d been doing it for years, they always assessed the risks before they went out.  So she didn’t talk about the ice anymore.

“Now she said, “I know how much you love it.”

“It was after noon.   We’d slept in, my sisters and I, and we’d been reading the coloured comics and doing Saturday morning chores.  Mom looked over at us — Marla, Dawn, Janie — all in a row on the kitchen bench, eating brunch.  Tallest to shortest.  Oldest to youngest.  Each in our own spot.

“”Sam,” Mom said, “You could take Dawn.”

“Sometimes they did that, one parent, one child.  Every six months, it seemed, we had a family meeting about it, and it worked okay for a week, one or maybe two of us doing something alone with Mom or Dad, and then they forgot about it till the next family meeting.  Or two of us wanted to do whatever it was Mom or Dad wanted to do with just one of us.  So it never really worked.”

Canada’s Regional Sounds on Smithsonian Folkways

French Canadian Folk Songs Track Listing  (Song suggestion:  “A la Claire Fontaine”)

Pretty much for as long as I can remember I’ve always liked folk music.  Among the earliest folk songs I can recall is the French-Canadian song “Alouette,” which every now and then would be played in one of my grade school classes as I was growing up in New York.  I enjoyed the fast, playful pacing of this simple children’s tune and, not knowing any French at the time, was more than amused years later to learn that it dealt with the plucking of a chicken.

Folksongs of Saskatchewan Track Listing:  http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=761

(Song suggestion: “Saskatchewan”)

That song, along with hundreds of other Canadian regional tunes, can be readily found through the website for Smithsonian Folkways.  Over almost  40 years, Folkways Records devoted itself to recording songs and sounds from America, Canada and other parts of the world, producing a prodigious 2,168 albums.  Several years ago, the Smithsonian acquired the archives of Folkways Records and part of the Smithsonian’s mission was to make the collection widely available, which it accomplishes, in part, through the website.

A search of “Canada” on the Smithsonian Folkways site reveals a total of 118 Canada-related records.  Because most of these recordings are from the 1950s and 60s, they are very difficult to find elsewhere, so it is amazing that so many are collected in one location.  (Link to Canadian-Related Records on Smithsonian Folkways:  http://www.folkways.si.edu/searchresults.aspx?sPhrase=canada&sType=’phrase’).

While the Smithsonian Folkways collection is broader than just Canadian music, there is a further strong Canadian connection of this music by virtue of the University of Alberta’s folkwaysAlive! project that is part of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology.  The University of Alberta has also made a significant grant in support of the mission of Smithsonian Folkways.  (Link to University of Alberta’s folkwaysAlive!:  http://www.fwalive.ualberta.ca/home/about-us/)

There are many albums worth noting on the Folkways site.   A few examples, with links to album track listings and a suggested song to which you might listen for a flavor of the album, are noted above and below.

Canada’s Story in Song Track Listing: http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=2116

(Song suggestion:  “Poor Little Girls of Ontario”)

We’ll Rant and We’ll Rave Track Listing:    http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=1523

(Song suggestion:  “Harbour Place”)

Heart of Cape Breton Track Listing:  http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=2973

(Song suggestion:  My Great Friend John Morris Rankin, etc.” — Medley)

Songs and Dances of Quebec Track Listing:  http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=1241

(Song suggestion:  “Danse Carre”)

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