Stuart McLean Brings Vinyl Cafe To Chatham’s Kiwanis Theatre
Noted Canadian raconteur, humorist, journalist and broadcaster Stuart McLean brings his CBC hit programme Vinyl Café to the Kiwanis Theatre in the Chatham Cultural Centre on William Street this Sunday, 15th April at 3.00pm.
McLean is no stranger to Chatham-Kent. Dresden was one of the towns selected for his 1992 book “Welcome Home: Travels in Smalltown Canada” – a portrait of our country through the lens of seven small towns selected to represent defining moments in our history. His description of Dresden and exploration of its people acknowledge the contribution people of colour have made to our history.
McLean spends more than half of each year on the road. On this trip he is making five back-to-back stops in southwest Ontario but he relishes the luxury of spending 4 or 5 days before a show settling into a town or city and getting to know some of its inhabitants. His experienced eye enables him to capture – then share – the essence of an area.
Over 18 years of travel coast to coast to coast, McLean has seen more of Canada than almost anyone else. It has given him a strong feeling for the values that make up Canadians. “We are concerned about each other – sensitive to ‘the other’”, he says. He continues, “We are better selves when we work together to build a railway or the CBC or the National Film Board or the Old Age Pension. We do things like that better than most people in the world.”
“We are lucky. Our curse – the Canadian weather – has been our strength. It has meant we have had to look after each other.”
McLean points out that our core cultures – First Nations, English and French – consist of three great warring nations who had to find a way to come together. While acknowledging that the treatment of the original inhabitants has been shameful, we all “continue to bump up against each other – but do it with great respect. While Canada’s regions may have diverse economics, weather and culture, at the heart of things we are all the same. We function on the underlying understanding that if we are going to make it, we need each other. We may be modest about who we are or what we have done – and rather than feeling proud, we tend to feel blessed and respectful of what has gone before.”
Knowing McLean’s underlying philosophy about Canada makes one even more appreciative of the insightful humour in his Dave and Morley stories. Regular listeners to Vinyl Café will know how Dave and Morley met, married and produced two children – Stephanie and Sam. The laugh-out-loud classics of Dave cooking the Christmas dinner or Morley housesitting for elegant neighbours are “there but for the grace of god go I” stories. We always laugh with – not at – the couple. Sam joining the field hockey team brings tears – of laughter. We look forward to hearing how Stephanie deals with her statistics final exam!
And even though McLean has worked hard fine-tuning his stories, he sometimes laughs with the audience for they are, as he says, “the final editors”. His stories may seem to be about situations – but they are really about emotions and feelings – about relationships between couples, parents and children, friends and neighbours – about coping with life.
McLean will be introducing two new Dave and Morley stories on this tour. He will also be introducing a young Canadian musical talent. Long ago he decided to shine a light on Canadian singer/songwriters, drawing particular attention to young people. “And it is a two way street – we give them increased cross-Canada exposure, then we bask in their glory.”
Juno award winner Ruth Moody is in this trip’s spotlight. The singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and founding member of the Wallin’ Jennys trio released her first solo album entitled “The Garden” several years ago.
Accompanying Moody on piano will be Vinyl Café Music Director John Sheard with McLean’s touring band regular Dennis Pendrith on stand-up bass. Both musicians have worked with Murray McLauchlan and numerous other Canadian artists including Gordon Lightfoot and Céline Dion. Watch for Sheard’s solo albums Jerusalem and Nocturnus which feature many pieces he has performed at Vinyl Café concerts.
When Stuart McLean leaves Chatham with his crew of almost 15 (who he refers to as his friends) he has one stop before returning to his Toronto home. There he will settle into “his village” near Kensington Market where he gets fresh food for one of his favourite pastimes – cooking. He may finish Chad Harbach debut novel on baseball “The Art of Fielding” or Czech Václav Havel’s “To the Castle and Back” or catch up on The New Yorker Magazines – or he might just continue to “read by osmosis”. He will sit at his laptop in his studio or his dining room or his local coffee shop to write more Dave and Morley stories, plan his next trip and draft another Vinyl Café programme for our continuing entertainment.