Easterish


by Roxanne Tellier

My mother loved holidays – any and all celebratable occasions. She was the Holiday Fairy, sprinkling her magic dust on us, and making special days even more memorable with her joy and enthusiasm.

A talented poet, she made our childhood Easter mornings into a treasure hunt. My sister and I would wake to riddles, clues that hinted to where our candy and chocolate had been left by the Easter Bunny.

We didn’t have a lot of money, and chocolate was a luxury we rarely enjoyed. Easter and Halloween were occasions of great joy for sugar loving kids like my sister and I. 

One year my godmother sent me an enormous chocolate bunny that was taller than I was! We ate chocolate until we could eat no more, and then mum said it would be kind to share what was left with our neighbours.  I went up and down the street with a bowl filled with broken chocolate pieces, doling out the goodies, and veering between feeling like Lady Bountiful and a kid having qualms about the giving away of her precious chocolate.

Those were the days when everyone dressed up for special occasions, and thankfully, mum was a genius on the sewing machine. Although I could be counted on to appear in public bandbox neat and clean, I have to admit I wasn’t the happiest of campers when mum regularly made Jodi and I wear matchy matchy outfits.  

Having a sister younger by five years meant that I spent a lot of time pretending to believe in things like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy andthe Easter Bunny. (Both the TF and the EB, by the way, have been officially declared ‘essential businesses’ during this Covid 19 plague.)

In Edmonton, I went to Academie Assomption, a Catholic, all girl school run by nuns. From grade three until grade six, when we left for Montreal, I learned how to survive the forty days of Lent. We would have to give up the things that gave us ‘pleasures of the flesh,’ and we had to do it with good grace and a willing heart, or – like a birthday wish spoken aloud – our sacrifice would be null and void. Forty days without candy! Forty days without teasing your siblings! Forty days of obeying your parents without talking back! Oh it was hellish, suffering such deprivation, and the days passed so slowly. But eventually, yes! We were paroled Easter Sunday morning, and got to enjoy a rare sugar overdose.

Along with the forty days of jonesing for sugar, my school classes would practice the hymns that we would be singing in church on the Big Day. “He is Risen!”  we chorused, our sweet voices rising with Him to the heavens.  

In Montreal I continued singing those hymns, first in Latin, later in English and eventually, in folk music form. I was part of that folk mass crew that tried to make going to church ‘groovy’ in the sixties. Actually, it was in the sixties that some of the best ‘Religious Rock’ was written and enjoyed.

Due to some – ahem – infractions I had been caught committing, my teenaged butt had been severely grounded in 1969. I had the choice of staying in my room ‘for the rest of your life!’ or joining our church’s youth group, which met regularly in the church basement.  

It was in that basement that I learned how to play pool, and where I danced with a male for the first time; with Father Sauvé, to Cream’s White Room. It was there that I became a part of the group that performed at the Sunday folk masses, and eventually, through some of the people that I met in those days, formed my first folk rock group, with a convenient venue already in place for our performances.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, there were many songs that crossed from the radio to the pews.  It wasn’t just songs like Ocean’s Put Your Hand in the Hand that kept our folk masses humming; we were about to enter a time when religious rock would go mainstream.

Easter of 1970, the church group had bought into a new fad – fasting for a cause. The kids from my school and church decided we’d do a sponsored fast for 24 hours, and donate any money raised to the church. Soon, all of us were camped out in the church basement with our sleeping bags, stuffed animals, and guitars.

(As we all hunker down in our bunkers, riding out this virus and keeping our social distances, I’m so often grateful that I’m not a 15-year-old kid, high on life, and bursting with hormones. I’m even more grateful that I’m not a parent having to deal with that kid while trying to avoid getting ill. There aren’t all that many benefits of aging – but knowing how to keep oneself busy while in isolation is surely one of them.)

But – back to the fast.  

So, twenty-four hours without food. An unimaginable torture to a bunch of kids ranging in age from 14 to 21. After flirting with each other for the first five or six hours, we started to get antsy. Some of us were crying, lonesome for our families. All of us could hear our bellies crying out for sustenance. And into this sea of overexcited teenagers waded Father Sauvé… with a big brown box filled with 33 1/3 records.

The basement, which was also the church’s rec centre and Saturday night dance hall, was set up for the playing of recorded music. When Father Sauvé dropped the needle on side one of the new rock musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” we all quieted and listened to the overture of what would become the first and most successful, religious rock opera.

I thrill, even as I listen to this overture this morning. At 15, and as a young woman who desperately wanted to be a professional vocalist, I was completely and utterly gobsmacked. 

50 years later, I still know every note and every word to every song of the entire opus.

I’m not the only one who felt that way; I remember reading in 2010 that another Canadian singer had had the same sort of fascination with the musical, but that she had actually done something about her lifelong obsession.

Peaches, the diminutive dynamo of raunchy electronic rock, was singing the entire libretto alone, just as she will in her one-woman show, “Peaches Christ Superstar,” which was to begin its North American tour on Friday in Boston.

As she sang her way from the Last Supper to Jesus’ trial before Pilate, Peaches cycled through nearly every character from the Gospels, embodying them in her voice and face: a dainty, mocking Herod; a guttural Caiaphas, the high priest; and a bruised Judas hurling insults at Jesus so heatedly that it raised the veins in Peaches’ ruddy face.” The New York Times, December 2010

I don’t think about Easter much these days. Time and events have left me irreligious and agnostic. And we’re so oblivious of the days during Covid that we even forgot to buy milk yesterday, when the stores were open between the Good Friday/Easter Sunday sandwich of shutdowns.   

But still – this Easter, and as I have done every Easter for fifty years, I will search out my copy of Norman Jewison’s wonderful version of the musical, and once again relive how the music made me feel, all those years ago.

Hey! Here’s some good news! If you missed the live 2018 version featuring John Legend – or if you just enjoyed it so much, you’d like to see it again … you’re in luck!

“NBC just announced that they will air an encore presentation of the 2018 production of Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert this Sunday — Easter Sunday — April 12, 2020. The performance will air from 7:00-9:30 PM (ET/PT) on the NBC channel, as well as on select streaming services that offer live television, e.g. Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV.”

Enjoy!

And … Happy Easter to YOU!

P.S. – Via my cousin Rita Donovan … food for thought .. the other side of isolation ….

Last One Out, Turn Off the Lights


The Canadian relationship with winter and snow is a lot like marriage; some love it, and look forward to their time together. Others tolerate winter, but spend a lot of time apart during cold spells. Still others grumble, but it’s a loving martyrdom that takes the good (skiing) right along with the bad (shovelling.)

winter bench no snowBut one thing is certain – this winter, so mild and light on snow, is having an effect on the Canadian psyche. It’s as though we’re all a little off-kilter, a little crankier, testier, because we know something’s missing, but we’re not sure what it is.

The media’s always more than happy to give us something to talk about, but this year, even the media is freezing over. After Postmedia gobbled up all but four of the daily papers across Canada, it found it had actually bitten off more than it could chew. Godfrey looking like House of CardsWith advertising and circulation plummeting, there was only time to quickly give CEO Paul Godfrey his salary of $1.6 million (which included a special $400,000 bonus for being so … special?) before it started hacking away at those menial, blood suckers (like journalists) who were destroying the company. Still, Postmedia’s annual net loss for the financial year more than doubled to $263.4 million. Who knew journalists got paid so much!

Journalism is one of our primary democratic institutions, playing a major role in how Canadians learn about each other, and how to do stuff … like vote. During the Harper years, Godfrey worked a sweetheart deal that allowed him to bend regulations and sell 35% of Postmedia to the New York hedge fund , Golden Tree Asset Management.

“For generations, Canadian law has forbidden foreign ownership or control of Canadian cultural assets. But after permitting the sale to non-Canadians of practically the entire Canadian-owned steel and mining industries, then PM Stephen Harper’s government signed off on Postmedia’s creation as well. The Americans put a Canadian face on the deal by selecting Paul Godfrey, 77, as Postmedia’s CEO. Not by coincidence, Harper and Godfrey, a diehard Tory, are kindred spirits.

Though it was a thinly disguised foreign takeover, Ottawa didn’t object that Postmedia’s advent showed no sign of complying with Investment Canada’s one basic demand of foreign takeovers — that they be of “net benefit” to Canada.

Five years later, no one can credibly argue that Postmedia has been of net benefit to Canada. The most Godfrey can do, as he did recently, is insist that Canada is lucky that someone plucked the National Post, the Edmonton Journal and the Regina Leader-Post from the Canwest ruins, since no Canadian bidders stepped forward to do so.

That is a lie. There were at least two credible bids by Canadian interests, as Godfrey well knows. And the Canwest papers would not have perished in any case. They would have been auctioned, individually and as regional groups. That would have served readers better than the monstrosity of Postmedia. It’s Postmedia that is in financial extremis, not Postmedia’s papers…..

Postmedia is said to be lobbying Ottawa for a relaxation of Canadian ownership rules on cultural assets, since some of the deepest-pocketed bidders on a bankrupt Postmedia’s assets are likely to be foreigners.”

(http://www.thestar.com/business/2016/01/30/the-problem-with-postmedia-olive.html)

As it stands, industry insiders say that it looks like Postmedia will be forced to seek creditor protection, which means the company could be broken up and sold off to U.S. hedge fund creditors in a debt- for- equity swap. That would open bidding to the U.S. and other foreign interests.

canada-v-usAnd that move would put all but four of Canada`s daily newspapers, the supposed cultural and democratic voice of Canada, under foreign ownership. Writers, get ready to jettison your keyboard’s ‘u’ key, and learn the words to “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Just to give you some idea of how damaging losing control over our daily papers would be, think back to October 2015, when Godfrey imposed support for Stephen Harper on all of the major papers in the chain. Wasn’t the first time … Postmedia did the same thing during Alberta’s provincial election, forcing its papers there to back Jim Prentice’s Tories.

Sun 2015 Harper supportBut this time they also permitted the Conservative Party to buy yellow ads that covered the entire front pages of most of the company’s major daily newspapers. The ads were designed to appear as official electoral information, and gave ranting warnings about the folly of voting Liberal.

While not technically illegal, the endorsement was a shocking insight into who really controls a newspaper’s editorial voice, as staff across the country hurried to distance their own views from the ‘yellow journalism.’

Godfrey’s support of the Conservatives has been unwavering since before his days at the Toronto Sun, where he allowed only favourable stories or photos about then mayoral candidate, Mel Lastman to be printed. Reporter Don Wanagas was removed as a municipal columnist for the sin of writing unflattering pieces about Lastman.

godfrey lastman rogers.jpgNewly minted Mayor Lastman went on to preside over one of the most corrupt regimes in Toronto’s history. And as David Miller, elected mayor in 2003 on a platform of cleaning up Toronto’s city hall after Lastman, has said “There’s no question he was very influential with Mayor Lastman. I certainly knew as a city councillor that Lastman’s office was in touch with Mr. Godfrey all the time.”

Godfrey’s political machinations aside, his business reputation was cemented on iron-fist management and slash-and-burn job cutting practices. newspapers-dyingPrior to the purchase of Sun Media, Postmedia’s workforce had shrunk to 2,500 employees – from 5,400 five years before. Today, 2,826 people do all the heavy lifting cross Canada, from sales, to writing, to printing.

“NDP industry critic Brian Masse noted that the easing of ownership rules designed to guard cultural industries is a “fair discussion to have” in light of the emergence of digital news alternatives, but warned that foreign control could lead to an infiltration of offshore biases into Canadian editorial content.” 

No shit, Sherlock.

online-journalism-then-versus-nowGodfrey’s control of the press is by no means novel in these times of corporate greed gone mad. In the United States, 94% of the media is controlled by just 5 companies; Disney, ViaCom, CBS, News Corp, Time-Warner and Comcast. And that’s what they call the ‘liberal’ media; 94% of all your information and entertainment, owned and controlled by the 1%.

Can someone tell me when and how the voice of the people will be heard? It certainly has been, and will continue to be, drowned out by the voices of those with the money and power to impose their own visions onto an unsuspecting nation.

Democracy begins with freedom of speech in and of the press. It ends with corporate monopoly, and foreign ownership.

Bits and Pieces ….

lemeowI’ve mentioned this soul-jazz duo from Ottawa before. leMeow, comprised of Gin Bourgeois and James Rooke, and filled out with Jansen Richard on drums, Brent Hultquist on keys and Karolyne LaFortune on fiddle. released this YouTube delight recently. That’s My Man is the debut single from leMeow’s upcoming album, due in June 2016.

leMeow new single ….

sam taylor the sound cdSam Taylor has the musical honesty and enthusiasm of a young Jeff Healey, with a band (The East End Love ) that kicks out a bottom end reminiscent of Cream and the stop-on-a- dime dynamics of early Who. These up and comers are not to be missed.
And so it was that on Friday night, I found myself at the Only Café with Pat Blythe, meeting Sam and enjoying some hot blues on a cold night. Pat’s written at length about the band, which consists of drummer Jace Traz, bass player David MacMichael, and rhythm guitarist Will Meadows.

I found this fan video on YouTube that captures some of their ‘live’ excitement. From last spring, at a gig at Relish, on the Danforth.

Funny … back in the 80’s, Jeff Healey would occasionally play a Sunday night gig at Quinns, the old bar on the Danforth bar, where I then bartended. He’d often ask me up to join him for a tune or two. History repeated itself on Friday, when I got to share the stage with Sam and the band. Thanks, guys!

 

(first published Feb/2016-https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/roxanne-tellier-last-one-out-turn-off-the-lights/)