Two great classics of the Franco-Ontarian group Cano, “Dimanche après-midi”— written and composed by André Paiement—and “Baie Sainte Marie”— written and composed by Marcel Aymar, David Burt, John Doerr and Wasyl Kohut—will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on Saturday, June 19 as part of the Gala Trille Or to be broadcast on UNIS TV at 8:00 p.m. A medley of the two songs will be performed during the gala by the duo Geneviève et Alain with the participation of Marcel Aymar, John Doerr and Jason Hutt.
“It is with great joy and pride that we induct these two great songs that are bona fide monuments in the Franco-Canadian universe” said Nicholas Fedor, Director of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Cano quickly became an emblem of the Francophone presence in Ontario with the album Tous dans l’même bateau released in 1976. It is in the grooves of this debut album that one could hear the songs “Baie Sainte-Marie” and Dimanche après-midi, the latter a postcard sent from Sturgeon Falls, the Northern Ontario town where André Paiement grew up.
André Paiement wrote the lyrics, inspired by his summer job as sacristan at the village’s French Catholic church, the biggest and most imposing one of the area. It was he who rang the bells and worked, as it were, as a handyman in this holy place. “Like me, my older brother was a beadle,” recalls Paul Paiement. “André would get up in the morning, go to the church, open the doors, and then ring the bell, which could be heard throughout the city. Since there was nothing to do, because all the businesses in town were closed except the mill, he would sit on the walkway between the church and the rectory to smoke a cigarette while waiting for mass to end. There were four masses on Sundays! We did not attend all of them. . . We would wait for people to come out, and then we would pull on the ropes to ring the bells. That’s the story the song tells.”
Over the course of the three minutes and forty-one seconds of the original recording, author and vocalist André Paiement addresses someone he clearly misses and whom he speaks to in a poetic impulse.
“Si tu étais ici/ Je ferais cesser l’orage/ La pluie qui claque sur le pavé/ J’ai envie d’aller marcher.” (freely: “If you were here / I’d make the storm stop / The rain slamming on the pavement / I want to go for a walk”) With the church celebrations over, it’s not hard to imagine him wandering the streets of Sturgeon Falls, umbrella in hand and thinking of the one he loves. “The person he’s longing for in the song is his girlfriend, I’m pretty sure he wrote that for his first love,” says Paul Paiement. “They were together for a long time. She was a local girl. . .] Her name was Viviane, but I must admit that I can’t guarantee that she was the one he had in mind when he wrote that song. I know that many women in Sturgeon Falls claim to be the subject of the song En plein hiver, track 6 on the same album. If you knew how many! These women are in their seventies, now. . .”
The country accents and pop structure of Dimanche après-midi delicately contrasts with the other predominantly prog rock pieces that make up Cano’s repertoire. “I think it was influenced by Buffalo Springfield, one of Neil Young’s first bands. It’s in the same acoustic vein. As a matter of fact, I have a recording of André singing Buffalo Springfield’s I Am a Child.”
This song, the eighth and final track of a record that will set a precedent in the history of Francophone music outside Quebec, transports us to the shores of Nova Scotia. When Baie Sainte-Marie was released in 1976, Cano was on the verge of a major breakthrough across Canada.
Marcel Aymar, Cano’s guitarist and vocalist, wrote Baie Sainte-Marie in memory of his father, but the song is the result of a collective creative process. “Baie Sainte-Marie is really the first song that we composed as a gang, remembers Marcel Aymar. I brought my ideas, the melody and lyrics. And from there we worked on the arrangements. Cano’s songs were rarely limited to three or four minutes!”
David Burt, John Doerr and Wasyl Kohut are the ones who, back at the band’s rehearsal space, added their grain of salt to the track. The piece opens with the cries of seagulls that one imagines seeing at the water’s edge, strident maritime songs that Kohut recreates on the violin. However, Baie Sainte-Marie probes depths that have nothing aquatic. It is a song that brings Aymar back to the shores of Meteghan and the scent of the fish of his childhood, but through the tenderness he has for his father. “Le vent de l’Acadie, c’est mon père/ Dans mon père/ Je peux tellement me voir/ Je veux le remercier/Pour ce qu’il m’a donné” (freely: “The Acadian wind is my father / In my father / I can see myself / I want to thank him / For what he gave me”) It is a tribute, a declaration of filial love to the one he left behind to live his own life.