Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/1/2009 (4418 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In December, we unveiled our My City / My Song contest to launch our redesigned Detour section. The concept was simple: we asked readers to send us their songs inspired by Winnipeg, and a panel of judges picked the best for some snappy prizes, including studio time at Unison Studios with Jack Shapira, a spin on CBC Radio’s Information Radio, and a CD prize package from Warner Music Canada.
We expected it to be a cosy little con- We expected it to be a cosy little contest, drawing perhaps 20 entries. And we were very, very wrong. By the time My City / My Song closed on Jan. 23, 102 of you had sent us your songs about Winnipeg. From every part of the province (and quite a number of places outside of it), from every genre of music and level of songwriting experience, your tunes streamed in to our newsroom.
Many wrote about the cold. Others listed their favourite local landmarks: the Red River, Portage & Main, the Forks and the BDI were recurring stars. We heard a song from a high school band, the Rhetoric, who submitted a rock tune that called for a renewal of social justice in Winnipeg. Two fathers wrote a song with their sons.
In the judging room, it took four hours to narrow 102 tunes down to 18 semifinalists. Our judges — Free Press writer Melissa Martin, CBC Radio One host Wab Kinew, singer-songwriter Jaylene Johnson, veteran Winnipeg rocker Charles Garinger and producer Shapira — marvelled over the number of ’Peggers who have mastered fingerpicked guitar and entertained a vigorous debate about whether or not professional musicians’ songs should be ranked alongside those recorded in living rooms.
In the end, we left the scores where they were, mixing professional songwriters and back-porch musicians in our Top 18. After all, this was about finding a great song inspired by Winnipeg, no matter where it came from.
And we found 102.
Have a listen to the top 10 songs in our My City/My Song contest, as selected by our panel of judges.
And here is a look at some of the songs and stories that revved our judges' engines.
JD Edwards had been in Winnipeg mere weeks when he penned our winning tune, Eastern Breeze. Judges' ears perked first to his whisky-soaked voice and dramatic yet simple performance. But when we read his lyrics, another story emerged: one of a stranger in a strange land, trying to explain the city's beauty to natives grown numb to its charms.
"The music here is why I stayed," says Edwards, who moved to Winnipeg from Toronto in July 2005, originally planning only to visit his brother for the summer. "I'd heard there was good music, but I didn't really know until I got here. This is a great place to stay."
Edwards, 31, says Winnipeg is becoming more like home. He's got a band, a new album in the works, and is working on collaborations with the Manitoba Theatre for Young People and other community groups. And the city's working its magic on his style too. "We've gotten a lot more prairie," he says with a laugh. "There's more of a rootsy feel to what I'm doing now."
Brock Tyler was born and raised here, but the love of a good woman lured him out to Edmonton in 2005. A few months later, he came home for the holidays, and saw the city through different eyes.
"It gave me a perspective of my beloved hometown like I'd never experienced before," Tyler wrote the Free Press. "I think that feeling stemmed from the realization that I may never live there again."
Trying to understand this newfound awareness of Winnipeg, Tyler took a long walk around the Exchange, ducked into a coffee shop and scribbled some lyrics onto a napkin. The result was the ballad Waltz for Winnipeg, a study in the rich civic history that Winnipeggers often take for granted. It charmed our judges for its sad, reflective lyrics. "I chose to sing less of the good city I know and love, and more about the truly great city I know it could be."
A lifelong Manitoban, Henry Guilbault moved to Oregon in 1965 to work at a packing plant. By 1967, he was fed up with the rainy coast, and aching to go home. "I got lonely," he says. "I like the four seasons (in Winnipeg), even if it's cold." So he sat down and wrote a tune called Goin' Back to Winnipeg. Forty-two years later, our judges fell in love with the song's heartfelt lyrics and gritty authenticity.
Now 80 and a great-grandfather, he came back to Winnipeg in 1971, raised four children and pronounces it a good place to bring up a family. "It's home."
OK, at 44, Geoff Miki, songwriter for occasional "hockey rock" trio Zamboni Joe, isn't a kid anymore. But he was one in the '60s and '70s, when a local puppet show called Archie and Friends dominated the noon hour on CKY TV. The show was cancelled in the early 1980s, but it lives on in Zamboni Joe's song, Mayor of Funtown. ("Marvin Mouse was the coolest thing on that show / Man, that sock would take no guff from anyone," Miki sings on the tune, which was written in 2001.)
"There may never be a TV show like it again," Miki says. "It was a shock when it came to an end. At first I was hesitant to put the song in, because it isn't your usual sort of Winnipeg song. But we thought it might be something different."
That it was. One of our judges dreamily remembered rushing home to nibble cheese sandwiches and watch Archie; all of them giggled over how the song's chugging rock 'n' roll chords mixed with the impotent childhood rage of the lyrics. "How could they mess with a formula such as this / highest rated show on CKY."
The Tourism Generator
The next time Manitoba wants to run a multimillion-dollar ad campaign, it should just hand the cash over to Annette Brown. Her song, written especially for our contest and named after it, is a lush and melodic tribute to Winnipeg's many joys -- and for the sports fans, a shout-out to the "banjo-bustin Bombers."
Everyone loves a good romance, and several entrants took Winnipeg on a lyrical moonlit dance. Peter Dunlop's tune Peggy stood out to our judges for its visualization of the city as a lovely lady: "Winnipeg my darling / good to be back in your arms / the world out there can not compare / to all your subtle charms."
Long considered one of Winnipeg's top songwriters, Scott Nolan took a job on a Red River tour boat to immerse himself in the history of the city. The job lasted two months, but Nolan penned an upbeat tune called If I Could Only Leave Here in just 10 days. Though it hasn't made it onto an album yet, Nolan is considering it for his next record, due out in late 2009.
Nolan, a famed lyricist who won his category in the International Songwriting Competition last year, took a clear-eyed view of Winnipeg's internal conflicts that charmed our judges. "Everyone knows this is nowhere / it's where the best things are found," he keens on the chorus. But there's one good thing about our city that stands out: "even musicians own homes in Winnipeg."
Out of 102 entries, a short list of 18: here's how our judges ranked the top contenders in our My City / My Song contest. Stay tuned to CBC Radio One's Information Radio on Monday morning for a special feature on our winners.
1. JD Edwards, (above) Eastern Breeze (The Beds Here Are So Cold)
2. Sierra Noble, Coming Home to Say Goodbye
3. Scott Nolan, If I Could Only Leave Here
4. The Liptonians, Rollercoaster
5. Brock Tyler, Waltz for Winnipeg
6. Henry Guilbault, Goin' Back to Winnipeg
7. Don Amero, Hometown
8. Ken Pinchin, Warm Heart of Winter
9. Ben Sures, Winnipeg
10. Arun Chaturvedi, Darrelyne Bickle, Chris Burke-Gaffney, Nowhere Next to Nothing
11. Shezza Ansloos, Chickadee
12. Bill Kirkpatrick, Winnipeg Song
13. Rick Bussoli, Peg City Portrayal
14. Peter Dunlop, Peggy
15. Zamboni Joe, Mayor of Funtown
16. Annette Brown, My City, My Song
17. Jason Gordon, Jimmy Thow, Eric the Great
18. Ray McClelland and Martin Robson, Falling for Winnipeg
Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.