A Night with Peirson Ross and the Wild Ones

Peirson Ross plays Cohen's "Suzanne" When Peirson Ross' manager contacted me about last night's show at the Rivoli a few months ago, I confess I had to look him up online. Turns out I could be forgiven for not having Peirson on my radar as he's spent much of his time in the last couple of years out of his hometown of Toronto and out of Canada – living in New York and relentlessly touring Europe. But I sensed an affinity from what I heard and agreed to bring Voyageur to the show for him to use. And I'm glad I did.

Last night's show served as both the Canadian release party for Ross' new album Wild Ones and the kick-off of a tour with a new band to support the album. The one-line bio on his website describes him as "a Canadian alternative folk artist who plays blues written in a meadow" but while there were elements of singer-songwriter throughout the show, it featured lush arrangements, tasteful instrumental flourishes, a judicious use of loops and – at one point – a blistering guest bass performance from Benjamin Bombier. All of this, of course, providing a setting for Peirson's strong and occasionally gymnastic voice.

The Wild Ones album and accompanying artwork (Peirson's own excellent Inuit-meets-Henri-Matisse graphic collages) are constructed thematically around the idea of "wild life" – metaphorically and literally – with each of the 16 tracks on the album dedicated to an endangered species in Canada. I was thrilled that Peirson used Voyageur first for "High Line", a song dedicated to the Ontario Blanchard's Cricket Frog, followed by a surprisingly upbeat (but quite brilliantly so) version of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" (performance pictured above). An added surprise was the appearance of Gratia Leitch on trumpet and keys. When she walked in at soundcheck we kind of looked at each other, like, "don't I know you?". But we soon figured it out: she was one of our favorite bartenders at our local, The Dizzy, who drifted away to spend more time teaching and playing music, so it was great to see her practicing her craft on stage!

Special thanks to Peirson and the band, Wolfgang Panzer (not his real name!), Soo-Jin An, Mark and Andre at the Rivoli, Sarah Gillett and Ruth Kapelus for not stealing my seat.

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Have You Read My Book Lately? I Have!

Six String Nation: The Book. Our event with the Toronto Blue Jays this past Sunday was pretty low maintenance, organizationally. I was bringing Voyageur for the ceremony and a book to give to the team. Photographer Doug Nicholson was coming to the Rogers Centre separately and we weren't doing the portraits. So we needed none of our usual public appearance accouterments: lighting, backdrop, laptops, DI box and cables, signage, vehicles, volunteers, etc. Definitely traveling light. All I had to do was get on the 504 streetcar on Roncy and get off at Blue Jays Way. I was traveling so light and it was such a beautiful day that I didn't even bring a bag for the book – I just had it in my hand. It's been a while since I've read it so I was flipping through on the ride downtown...

...Wow. I am embarrassed to say that it actually made me cry a couple of times and I just had to keep my head down as the streetcar filled up with other fans on their way to the game. I know that people may think of it as a coffee table book as it really is built around the wonderful photos of Doug Nicholson and Sandor Fizli but the writing is so strong. I mean, frankly, I had forgotten how good my own writing can be and I really rose to the challenge of my first published book with this but there is writing in there from many others as well and it was those that brought me to tears on the TTC. I had wanted the book, like Voyageur itself, to reflect many voices and many points of view. So apart from my own chapters that tell the story of the creation of the project, its travels and its meanings, the book is peppered with short pieces solicited from many friends of the project. To read again the wonderful writing and extraordinary perception of friends like Justin Rutledge and Kyrie Kristmanson; to feel the appreciation in the words of ongoing supporters like Gabriel Dube, Amanda Van Den Brock and Madagascar Slim; and to immerse myself again into the wonderfully prescient poem I commissioned from the late and greatly missed Robert Dickson was to experience the joy at the heart of this project all over again.

The book never got a serious review in any major newspaper and I was never invited on Q or Strombo or Canada AM when the book came out. Except for one brief appearance on a Globe and Mail non-fiction list, it never made any of the bestseller lists. And yet, with almost all of the 7500 copies of our (so far) one and only print run sold, it does technically qualify as a "Canadian Bestseller" – having sold more than 5000 copies. Commercially, that means very little in today's market as publishers are squeezed out from above and below, and yet it's an achievement that everyone involved in the creation of this book should be proud of. I am especially grateful to designer Naomi MacDougall for capturing the spirit of the project so perfectly in the book's layout, to publisher Scott McIntyre for jumping in so enthusiastically and to current D&M president Howard White for continuing to say nice things about my book's place in his catalogue.

It's a tough time to be an author or a publisher – especially given Amazon's current position in the dispute with Hachette, which is why if you click the picture of the book above, you will be taken to the Indigo store online – where you can buy the book for much less than I am able to sell it for myself. If you don't already own this book, I guarantee you will not be disappointed if you make it part of your collection.

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Our Canada Baseball Day Photo Album

Jowi with Munenori Kawasaki I've pretty much told the story and covered the highlights of our experience with the Toronto Blue Jays as part of their Canada Baseball Day pre-game event this past Sunday at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. But, of course, a picture is worth a thousand words and we were thrilled that the Blue Jays gave full field access to Six String Nation's official photographer, Doug Nicholson for the ceremony. The best of the photos Doug took on Sunday are now up on our Flickr gallery so click the photo to go have a look.

In that gallery you'll find photos taken in the pen with Jan Nobuto of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre and Babe Ruth's granddaughter Linda Ruth Tosetti; our first foray to the third base box with Blue Jays mascot Ace holding Voyageur; the presentation of the STRINGS 6 Blue Jays jersey and our exchange with Blue Jays second baseman Munenori Kawasaki (pictured above); and then, of course, some absolutely priceless shots of Kawasaki hamming it up for the crowd with Voyageur – a great sportsman and a great sport! If you'll look closely on the JumboTron behind Kawasaki in some of the photos, you'll see the beautiful presentation that was put together by Mike Campbell from the Blue Jays production team using many of our images. I was focussed in the other direction for most of the ceremony but what I did see looked just fantastic so kudos to Mike and to Doug for these great shots.

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Getting it Wrong While Getting it Right

Linda Ruth Tosetti I composed my blog for yesterday's event with the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday night and scheduled it to publish around the time we'd be doing the ceremony on the field at the Rogers Centre. Well, something didn't work correctly with the publishing schedule so, first of all, my apologies to anyone who got the (also scheduled) Tweet announcing the publication and was then frustrated by not getting to the content. It's all been corrected now. But the really funny thing about what was published in the blog is my line at the end of the first section, which reads:
At a special pre-game ceremony on the field at the Rogers Centre in Toronto today, the Toronto Blue Jays help us mark this very special contribution before (hopefully) making short work of the Detroit Tigers in the last of a three-game home stand.
My "hopes" clearly didn't count for much as the game turned into the longest game in Blue Jays history running to 19 innings! Detroit was up 5-0 after 4 innings but Toronto started to rally in the 6th and 7th. We tied it up in the 9th and had the winning run on base but couldn't convert so we went into extra innings.... and extra innings.... and extra innings. In truth, I only lasted 13 myself and watched our man Munenori Kawasaki, who had been such a prince with us in the pre-game ceremony, get on base a few times – as did other Jays – but we just couldn't surmount the Detroit defense. Fortunately, they couldn't surmount Toronto's either and finally, in the bottom of the 19th, Kawasaki singled on a line drive to centre field, Jose Reyes made a sacrifice bunt and got to first - advancing Munenori to 3rd base. The Tigers intentionally walked Melky Cabrera, which loaded up the bases, and then (appropriately) No. 19 Jose Bautista singled to right field and Kawasaki scored for the 6-5 comeback victory. Whew! Looks like Kawasaki's brush with Voyageur in the pre-game stood him in good stead for that long haul!

The other thing I mentioned in yesterday's blog was that, apart from it being the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Vancouver Asahi – whom it was our honour to be there to celebrate – it was also the 100th anniversary of legendary slugger Babe Ruth's first professional home run hit into Lake Ontario from the old Maple Leaf Stadium at Hanlan's Point in 1914. There to acknowledge that historic moment in Canadian baseball history was the Babe's granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti (pictured), who threw out the ceremonial first pitch. We were both hanging out in the little pen near third base waiting for our respective calls to the field and chatting with folks in the stands around us. I had the guitar out and was answering questions for a couple of fans and Linda noticed the eagle feather in my open guitar case. I explained that it was a gift from the Gwich'in elder William Greenland in Yellowknife and Linda remarked (as the recipient of an eagle feather herself) on what a significant gift it is. I agree, Linda. Anyway, we chatted for a bit and I told her a little bit about Voyageur and the work we do and we talked a bit about her work to keep alive the various aspects of her grandfather's legacy. You can see some of that in action on her website.

Thanks again to Linda and everyone on and off the field for making it such a memorable day for us and a memorable day in team history.

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Play Ball: A Special Announcement from Six String Nation and the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre with help from the Toronto Blue Jays

New contribution revealed with Toronto Blue Jays August 10th at Rogers Centre I'm often asked about materials I went after to go into Voyageur that I didn't get. Quite honestly, I know there were several ideas that fizzled or leads that went cold but for the most part the memory of them has been wiped clean by all the amazing contributions that eventually came together in this project; however, I do distinctly remember two separate frustrations:
A. Given the contributions from the worlds of hockey, Olympic skiing and basketball in the project, I didn't want to leave out Canadian football, lacrosse, curling or baseball. As a Torontonian I still had vivid memories of the how the city was electrified by the Blue Jays World Series championships in 1992 and 1993. Aside from that, I frequently used the bike path across Stadium Road that commemorates the place where the legendary Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run in 1914. Between that and Jackie Robinson's time in Montreal, Vancouver's Callaghan Sisters of the WWII-era Glamour League and players like Fergie Jenkins, Canada has a long and proud baseball history – even if it's not our "national pastime". So I reached out to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Mary's Ontario but couldn't get any traction there in spite of some folks in the community there advocating on my behalf. It seemed it just wasn't meant to be.
B. I wanted to somehow reflect the Japanese-Canadian community that had suffered so terribly during the Second World War when families were removed from their homes (primarily in Vancouver) and dispersed to internment camps around BC and some other provinces. My first thought was to try to get some material from the famed cherry tree (aka "Naomi's Tree") at the historic Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver. Again, I reached out through official channels in BC but didn't receive any reply. Presumably it was a small and busy organization that would not have known who I was or what I was trying to accomplish. Fair enough.
Over time I largely forgot about these two regrettable omissions from the project but with the help of Six String Nation fan Ken Bole – a podcaster, Japanophile and volunteer at the Canada Japan Society – we revived the idea of some contribution from the Japanese-Canadian community and after several meetings with the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto we came up with something that would recognize both the community and an important part of Canadian baseball history in one fell swoop. At a special pre-game ceremony on the field at the Rogers Centre in Toronto today, the Toronto Blue Jays help us mark this very special contribution before (hopefully) making short work of the Detroit Tigers in the last of a three-game home stand.

100 years ago this year, in the same year as Babe Ruth's Hanlan's Point homer, a group of Japanese-Canadian baseball players in Vancouver – prevented from playing in "white" leagues – came together as the Asahi (see 1 in the illustration above). Initially derided by non-Japanese audiences, their unique playing style (dubbed "brain ball" for its reliance on strategy over power and speed) soon attracted a broad audience and the team became popular with British Columbians of all backgrounds. Their popularity peaked in the 1930s on the heels of several regional championships but when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7th 1941, all Japanese-Canadians became subject to unofficial and official persecution. Homes and businesses were confiscated and Japanese-Canadians – many of them born and raised in Canada – were either deported to Japan or sent to internment camps across Canada to wait out the Second World War, including all the members of the Asahi. Although there were some attempts to keep the team going in the camp at Lillooet BC, ultimately the team dissolved. The team was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003 and that year was also the subject of the NFB documentary Sleeping Tigers; The Asahi Baseball Story by Jari Osborne.

The JCCC has among its collection of items related to the history of the Japanese-Canadian community an original jersey (ca. mid-late 1930s) of the Asahi (2) and generously agreed to let Six String Nation extract a small swatch of fabric from the garment. In consultation with textile artist Kate Jackson we took a piece about 10cm x 3cm from the anterior side of the right sleeve of the jersey (3). In its place Kate mounted a piece of replacement material with the following text: Material from here was generously donated to the Six String Nation project. It joins contributions from communities across Canada in helping to share our diverse local and national stories with all Canadians and with the rest of the world (4). The contributed material has been securely mounted prominently on the front side of Voyageur’s Levy guitar strap just beneath the Six String Nation logo (5). The jersey itself is now on display in the newly renovated museum space at the JCCC in Toronto.

We are very proud that the Toronto Blue Jays have found a way to include the announcement of this important contribution to the Six String Nation and continue to celebrate Canada's baseball heritage on this Canada Baseball Day.

Special thanks to Marnie Starkman, Munenori Kawasaki, Ace the Mascot and Daniel Joseph at the Toronto Blue Jays organization, to James Heron, Elizabeth Fujita, Peter Wakayama, Theressa Takasaki, and Jan Nobuto at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. Thanks again to Melanie Egan, Kate Jackson, Ken Bole and Doug Nicholson.

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SongStudio 2014′s Bumper Crop

Song Studio participant Jordan Smith I remember once hearing Robbie Robertson saying of his hometown, Toronto, that music just seems to be in the air and come from the city's pores. I happen to agree with him. But it doesn't happen by accident. Being a songwriter or a musician – especially in Canada – can be a discouraging vocation. There are only so many people who make it and the competition is pretty tough for what may seem like a big audience in the big city but a surprisingly small one when you look at the whole country scattered across all that territory. Imagine having to build your audience by touring across it. You'd better have something very special to offer. Of course, it's exceedingly rare that someone emerges from nowhere fully formed as a songwriter. It's a craft and there's a lot to be learned and a lot that can be taught to help hone native inborn talent. And unless you have people and institutions that support developing artists and help nurture those talents, you're going to nip your music scene in the bud pretty quickly. SongStudio is a collective of amazing Toronto songwriters, musicians and music biz pros who provide that nourishing environment that helps up and coming talent to blossom. And for the past few years I've been very proud that SongStudio founders Bill McKetrick and Blair Packham have asked me to make Voyageur available to participants in the program at the performance showcase at Hugh's Room that is the culmination of a very intense week of songwriting, critiquing, insight, instruction and collaboration. I was honoured to be asked again this year and I have to say that it was a stellar year for songwriting talent among some new faces and some returning students.

One of the things that I think provides the biggest encouragement to the participants – no matter how developed they are as songwriters or how polished any given song might be – is that they are all backed up by the most amazing band of musicians and mentors. I can just imagine what it must be like to have a song that you've put a lot of effort into as a budding songwriter and you've got master writer/arranger/producer Allister Bradley doing piano and keyboard accompaniments, League of Rock mastermind Topher Stott on drums and Steve Goldberger on bass effortlessly handling whatever groove you want them to create, and legendary guitar hero Rik Emmett comping your song and stepping up with a tasty solo with a nod from you. I mean, seriously, who wouldn't feel supported and capable and encouraged with that kind of established talent ready to give their best to what might be your second draught of ten?

And that's just one reason why I'm glad to take part in these showcase events. Bill thought it would be nice – while some of these songwriters are stepping on the public stage for the first time – to give everyone the opportunity to include a cameo turn with Canada's most storied guitar as part of the experience. Not everyone on the bill uses that opportunity: some play piano or keyboards, some play electric, some need the comfort of their own guitars... and all that is just fine. But I was thrilled this year that so many of the participants took advantage of Voyageur's availability – from first-timers to returning participants to guest faculty members taking a turn at the mic: first up was Elena Hudgins Lyle; next up was Matt Hersack (and my apologies to Matt as somehow the iMix wheels at the top of the sound hole got changed after Elena's performance and the guitar sounded a bit quiet and brittle for him – we can try again, Matt!); Jordan Smith (pictured) who really has an extraordinary voice and a really unique songwriting style that was a bit of a highlight for me; Spoons founder and SongStudio instructor Gordon Deppe who gave me a real thrill by using Voyageur for a rendition of his '80s hit "Romantic Traffic"; SongStudio returnee Matt Gerber with a new song, "Caledonia" (which managed to finally displace his uber-catchy "Mr. Furious" that he performed at last year's showcase...until he reprised it for the show finale and stuck it right back in my head. DAMN YOU MATT GERBER!!!!!); Brian Volke with Sherry Jacoby with a new co-write; Steve Postill, who gave Voyageur its most rigorous workout complete with rock-ready vocals and accompaniment from Darren Akai; young Sean Bertram who proved a very capable chip off the songwriting block accompanied on keys by his dad, Allister Bradley on a Brazilian-inflected gem; and the final act on the bill, Manny Manolo, who did an evocative song in remembrance of his father – complete with synchronized dance moves from Rik Emmett!

There were lots of other great performances that didn't use Voyageur and taken all together it was probably the strongest collection of songwriting talent I've seen over the course of my association with SongStudio. Whether you're a budding bedroom songwriter or a more seasoned talent, the reviews for this program attended by folks from around the world are phenomenal and I can't think of a better way to take your songs to the next level. Follow the SongStudio link to find out about next year's session.

Thanks as always to Bill McKetrick, Blair Packham and the folks at Hugh's Room.

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Canada Day 2014: History Upon History in Charlottetown

Chris Corrigan plays Voyageur at Canada Day, Charlottetown Canada Day is always kind of special for Six String Nation because, of course, it's the anniversary of the official birth of Voyageur as the centrepiece of the National Capital Commission's Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa – an event where Six String Nation featured for five Canada Days straight. We've had the last two Canada Days off so this was a return to form and we couldn't have asked for a better time and place. 2014 is a big year for PEI as the sesquicentennial of the Charlottetown Conference of 1864 that planted the visionary seeds for the confederation of Canada. So, naturally, Charlottetown was the place to be for Canada Day 2014 and I'm grateful to Penny Walsh-McGuire for inviting us to be part of it.

There are three parts to any Six String Nation festival appearance: portraits, presentation and performance. The portrait booth was ready for us to get set up at the Charlottetown Event Grounds on our arrival on Monday evening and the site signage indicated two presentation slots for me on the MainStage as planned. But for some reason, the performance piece of the puzzle was not in place. Happily, my Tall Poppy pals Rod and Laura Weatherbie were in town for some hometown summer vacation and know the local scene pretty well. After a few texts and phone calls, Rod had put me in touch with former Rita MacNeil guitarist Chris Corrigan, whom I'd actually met on a previous trip. Chris is a busy guy, currently guitarist for the "Canada Rocks" show at the Confederation Centre – not to mention that he had Canada Day dinner guests! – but he said he'd be honoured to play Voyageur for the afternoon presentation. And play he did (pictured): a gorgeous instrumental he composed for a documentary with close connections to both the Myles Neuts and Taylor Mitchell elements mounted on the strap.

The daytime presentation went well, in spite of the stage tech claiming to have no knowledge it was happening and denying us a soundcheck so thanks to Stage Manager Gardiner MacNeil and the video tech guys for pulling everything together. Of course, that still left the matter of the evening performance slot but – perhaps inspired by Chris' wonderful performance – I got word that Barenaked Ladies wanted to use Voyageur for "If I Had a Million Dollars". That would have been a real honour and a bit of a closing of the circle, since I was stage manager for their first performance at Harbourfront Centre back in the day when that cassette single was just beginning to catch fire. Unfortunately, "IIHAMD" was to be their last song. My crew of photographer Doug Nicholson and volunteers Sarah Gillett and Andrea Dixon had had an early start and we'd all been on our feet all day at the portrait station – not to mention a 6am start looming for today's drive home – so I declined their otherwise generous offer. Also, for some inexplicable reason my evening presentation was truncated at the last moment to an emergency 2 minutes (followed by 10 minutes of nothing happening on stage!) so the context for my presence made less sense. From what I heard from festival organizers and staff it had been a pretty chaotic day so I was glad not to add any further drama and we made our way back to the hotel knowing that at least we had a constant line-up at the portrait station that will do Charlottetown proud when we release the photos (stay tuned) and we were responsible for putting the only PEI artist on the MainStage on Canada Day in Charlottetown. Thanks again to the wonderful Chris Corrigan.

Thanks also to the PEI2014 team and the production team, with a special thanks to Kevin Meyer, whom I instantly liked and who appeared the picture of calm while this and several other festival events swirled around him. Happy Canada Day everyone!

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Buried Treasure on the Banks of the Restigouche

Alan Muzzerall, Atholville NB Spent last night in Metis-sur-Mer on the Gaspé at the Auberge de Grand Fleuve. We had a wonderful meal overlooking the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, with the only blemish a sighting that introduced us into the Mystery of the Headless Seals. I won't describe what we saw, just let you follow the link.

Our route from MSM took us on some dirt roads due south before hooking up with route 132 which carried us through some remarkable territory along the Matapedia River. There were many places enticing us to stop but – having partly forgotten the time difference between Quebec and New Brunswick – even at the same longitude – we were in a bit of a hurry to make our appointment in Campbellton with Alan Muzzerall (pictured).

Back when we were researching the project and reaching out to people across the country through CBC local phone-in shows, Alan was one of the people who called in to our 1-800 number to propose using a piece of wood with an amazing bit of history to it. During excavations for a mill-site on the Resigouche River in the early 1970's, research divers found the remains of the Machault, a French frigate being serviced by local Acadians and native Indians that was scuttled in 1760 during the Seven Years War to deny British naval forces access to the river. It was ultimately a losing campaign but the creation of New Brunswick and Quebec was an indirect result. The wood itself was red oak but with more than 200 years of river mud in every pore it looked more like ebony. It ended up being used in the critical role of Voyageur's bridge (with some later drama ensuing).

In our ongoing efforts to bring Voyageur back to all of its places of origin, this was our best chance to visit these origins in Atholville. Atholville is the town where Alan and his wife live and we drove through it on the way – passing the mill whose founding lead to the discovery – but Alan had suggested meeting in the adjacent town at the tourist information centre in the shadow of the bridge that connects New Brunswick and Quebec on the banks of the Restigouche. It gave Alan a chance to invite some friends and family from the community to join us and it was great to meet everyone. I gave a brief tour of the guitar and Alan played a song he'd written about the Machault before showing us some of the traditional dancing marionettes he makes that he brought along. Doug (Nicholson) got some great pictures that I'll post later.

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A Theatrical Beginning to the Trip

Voyageur at the Theatre Capitole We are due in Charlottetown for this year's Canada Day festivities. Given that we have so much gear to carry to do both the presentations and the portraits, flying becomes an expensive option. So we opted to drive and make a bit of a road trip out if it – with Sarah joining me and Andrea accompanying Doug. I insisted on a route that would spare us having to explain Voyageur to Homeland Security in Maine and give us the opportunity to visit some places important to the guitar's heritage along the way. Sarah made sure that the route would have us well-housed and well-fed.

Our first stop was Quebec City. Culinarily, it was a spectacular adventure with a truly remarkable dinner at IX Pour Bistro. This is not - as you might expect - a place with old world charm in the heart of La Vielle Ville. It is a shack in a part of town where few people who aren't specifically going to the restaurant would ever happen to walk by. In fact, our host explained to us that they are better known internationally than they are locally for exactly that reason. Sure enough, the front desk person at our hotel had never heard of it, in spite of being a neighbour. Suffice to say that it is the definition of a hidden gem. Yes there is much to see in the old town in (arguably) North America's oldest city but you would be doing yourself a disservice if you missed visiting IX Pour Bistro in its humble little corner. It was a perfect meal that included a dessert made from shaved foie gras - say no more.

But we had good reason to visit the old town as well, which we did this morning on our way out. Included in the construction of Voyageur is part of a drapery pin from the Theatre Capitole de Quebec – a brilliant Beaux-Arts style building on the Place d'Youville in the heart of the old city. It was designed by the famed CPR architect Walter S. Painter (who also designed part of the Algonquin Resort in St. Andrews New Brunswick, which we visited just over a week ago) and opened in 1903.

It was a quick and unofficial visit but we did get some nice shots of the guitar from both the exterior and the interior (above) and continued our mission to return Voyageur to all of the places from whence it was born. Now we're en route to the beautiful Gaspesie!

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Another Line that Connects Us

Geoff Slater's Algonquin Autograph We met all kinds of great people during our visit to the Algonquin Resort in St. Andrews, New Brunswick – from the folks from the hotel management and staff who were so helpful and welcoming to the corporate partners who came to celebrate the grand re-opening from various parts of Canada and the U.S. to Brent Mason and Eddy Gouchie who played Voyageur to friends-of-friends Kiera and Skeen who came by for the public presentation to Bob Mersereau who did me the honour of introducing me at the gala presentation. I was also very pleased to meet local artist Geoff Slater and his family, who were guests at the cozier of our two presentations so we got a chance to talk. Geoff and his wife Andrea operate the Jarea Art Studio in St. Andrews and Algonquin GM Tim Ostrem was keen that they should come and see the presentation.

Tim had told me a little bit about Geoff's work and Geoff and I spoke after the presentation but, like my own project, it's perhaps harder to describe the work if you can't see it for yourself. Fortunately, Geoff had been commissioned to do a work to celebrate the relaunch of the Algonquin as part of Marriott's Autograph Collection of unique hotel properties and I saw it while using the fitness centre in the pool pavilion adjacent to the main building. What may not be obvious from the photo above is that the whole thing (apart from the signatures that frame the main image) is that it is composed from a single uninterrupted line that never crosses itself. If you expand the picture and zoom in you'll be able to trace the line from the word "Autograph" at the top through every part of the image right through to Slater's signature at the bottom. The brush stroke does widen and narrow and the colors blend and change but you'll find that it is a single line that doesn't ever cross itself.

I found some real resonance with the process, of course, because in so many ways (in spite of the fact that we do criss-cross the country and often find ourselves doubling back on various locations!) Six String Nation is about a single continuous line that threads across the country to paint a unique picture of Canada in the colours of history, music, storytelling, education and experience. And while I don't want Geoff to feel any pressure to do so (if he ever reads this blog) I do believe he could render the image of Voyageur in a way that drew in the lines of all the stories that make it the touchstone of Canadian history that it has become.

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