Canadian Film &
Original Cast Music
This article originally appeared in Kastlemusick Monthly Bulletin,
“The Monthly Magazine for Collectors of Recordings,” in November, 1979
By MICHAEL QUIGLEY
Though Canada's record of soundtrack albums is small and relatively undistinguished, there are a couple of items of genuine interest:
One of these is Labyrinth by Eldon Rathburn (LAB-650S). Composed for a production of Canada's acclaimed National Film Board, it contains a wide variety of musical styles and natural sounds which were played over 858 (!) speakers in a multi-sensorium display at Montreal's Expo '67. Stunningly recorded, it apparently sounds very effective when played quadraphonically, though not recorded in that mode.
Harry Freedman is one of the few Canadian composers to make a living from non-teaching musical activities, which includes film scores. The only one of these scores represented on disc is The Flame Within, a cantata heard in the late 60's film Act of the Heart, directed by Paul Almond and starring Donald Sutherland and the then-Mrs.Almond, Genevieve Bujold. (Decca 75244/CBC SM-142). Written before the film was shot, the version on the album has been re-arranged from material heard in the movie and is performed by the well-known Festival Singers of Canada, with a wall-crumbling organ accompaniment. (Side 2 of the disc contains a woodwind quintet by Freedman.)
Somewhat off the beaten track is The Beginning and End of the World, a limited pressing of a score by Victor Davies heard as background for a Winnipeg planetarium production. Conducted by Skitch Henderson, it is an unwieldy rock-classical amalgam. Documentary film music is represented on Canadian Talent Library album S 5043 by William McCauley's pleasant Saskatchewan Suite. (McCauley has scored over 100 such films.)
There are also some pop-oriented scores of minor interest like Foxy Lady (GRT-9230-1009), Face-Off, and My Pleasure Is My Business, the last for a Xaviera Hollander sexploitation film (Daffodil DAF 10051). A curiosity piece is the "soundtrack" to the 1976 Olympics, arranged from various pieces by French-Canadian child prodigy Andre Mathieu and released on Polydor 2424.124. While more inspired than Toshiro Mayuzumi's insipid Mickey-mousings for Tokyo Olympiad, it exudes a disturbingly clean-cut aura which seems more appropriate to a film like Triumph of the Will.
Of course, no mention of Canadian soundtracks would be appropriate without a mention of two albums which were, by error, released in Canada without the appropriate corresponding U.S. release: Mario Nascimbene's Doctor Faustus (Columbia OS 3190) and George Delerue's Our Mother's House (MGM SE-4495). The latter was purportedly one of the very rarest soundtracks, bringing prices up to $500 before its reissue both as a mono U.S. bootleg and, in 1978, in its original stereo with color artwork by Polydor of Canada. However, after OMH's return to life, interest in it plummeted and remaindered copies of it could be found in Canadian record stores for peanuts. In 2003, it was reissued by Film Score Monthly, and almost 20 years later (2022), it is still available to purchase.
As far as Canadian original cast productions are concerned, undoubtedly the most recognizable name in this field is Galt MacDermot, whose biggest success was Hair. MacDermot's own label, Kilmarnock, has issued several of his works, of varying musical quality and interest. One of the harder-to-find is a rock mass, Take This Bread (KIL-72011), with lyrics by William Dumaresq, commissioned for the opening of Hamilton Place in Hamilton, Ontario in September of 1973.
Rarer still is My Fur Lady, a musical comedy presented by the Graduates' Society of McGill University (Montreal) in 1957. This work contains some of MacDermot's earliest recorded work and is extremely witty, assuming one understands a lot of the references to Canadian figures of the period. My Fur Lady is available on MRS-LPM-5, a series which contains two other musical reviews: Reign or Shine (MRS-LPM-9) and Wry and Ginger.
Probably the most well-known Canadian original cast per se is Anne of Green Gables, a hit for many seasons in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Based on the book by Lucy Maude Montgomery, and written by Donald Harron and Norman Campbell, it is available in an album by the London (England) original cast on CBC 70053. Excerpts from Anne plus 6 other Canadian musicals—Mr. Scrooge, Turkey, Pied Piper, Willie the Squouse, The Navy Show and Wild Rose—are heard in pop arrangements by the Al Baculis Singers on Dominion LP 1368-S.
Shakespeare figures in two other Canadian original casts. Cruel Tears, a musical about truck drivers loosely based on Othello, emanated from Canada's prairies, specifically Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and is performed by a country/folk group with the unlikely name of Humphrey and the Dumptrucks on Sunflower OOZ.
Rockabye Hamlet by Cliff Jones opened on Broadway in 1976 directed by Gower Champion and despite an enthusiastic audience reception for three weeks of preview performances, died four days after it opened thanks to a review by Clive Barnes of <i>The New York Times</i>. This musical became the basis for a miniature national identity crisis with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation devoting a series of programs to it after its demise. It was recorded in an extremely limited pressing on the Rising label (RILP 103, now deleted).
One Canadian musical which was a big success off-Broadway recently was the Jacques Brel-ish A Bistro Car on the C.N.R., which the above-mentioned Mr. Barnes praised lavishly, ending his review with words to the effect that "I await the original cast album." Unfortunately, no such record has been forthcoming, but the original version of this show, known in Western Canada where it premiered as Jubalay, can be heard on Jubalay Productions JP-9001.
Finally, for those with an interest in music hall, there are at least three albums emanating from the Theatre Royal in Barkerville, British Columbia, a restored mining town: The Best of Barkerville (Capilano Records CARS 1501), Barkerville Ballads (London NA 3504) and Vaudeville is Really Alive and Well in Barkerville (Natural Sounds NS 8002), all devised and directed by Fran Dowie. Members of the Barkerville troupe can also be heard transported to The Golden Garter Saloon at Expo '67 on RCA Camden CAL/CAS-215 7.