Coal mine workers strike in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, ca. 1945.
Putting protest to music
A professor helps to revive a Cape Breton Island tradition
a cape breton university professor is
bringing back the protest-song tradition to
Cape Breton Island. Richard MacKinnon,
who holds the Canada Research Chair in In-
tangible Cultural Heritage and is director of
the Centre for Cape Breton Studies at CBU,
uncovered about 120 of these songs while
doing research for an article in the journal
. The songs were written largely
during the 1920s, a time of particular hard-
ship and labour strife on the island.
A while after the article was published,
Dr. MacKinnon took another look at all the
material “and I thought, gosh, I should do
something more with that.” That’s when he
got the idea: Cape Breton has lots of talent-
ed musicians, so why not have them record
some of these old protest songs and compile
them on a CD?
He approached local musician Victor
Tomiczek, who was excited by the idea. They
selected about 20 songs, circulated them to
fellow musicians “and we were amazed at what
they came back with.” Some of the songs were
meant to be sung to the tune of a particular
hymn or melody, but for most of them there
was no music, only lyrics.
Dr. MacKinnon says he envisioned fairly
simple arrangements – a musician and an
acoustic guitar. “But the musicians started
coming in with more complicated arrange-
ments. So, on the CD we have everything from
an a cappella version from a coal miner who
sings with Men of the Deeps to others with a
full band.” The songs were recorded at a studio
Gondola to SFU a possibility
look up, way up: a study has concluded that
an overhead gondola would be a cost-effective
replacement to the existing bus service up Bur-
naby Mountain to Simon Fraser University.
The study, conducted for the city’s Trans-
Link service, found that running a 2.6-km
aerial tramline from the nearest Sky Train sta-
tion up to the university campus would reduce
greenhouse gas emissions and improve travel
time and reliability for passengers (the buses
are sometimes disrupted by rain and snow).
The gondola service would cost slightly more
to build and maintain than the existing bus
service, but the report says the overall benefits
outweigh the extra cost.
The transit company said it already has a
full list of service-improvement priorities for
2012 but agreed the project has “considerable
merit and … will be a candidate for inclusion
in one of TransLink’s future strategic transpor-
There are currently about 25,000 transit
trips daily to and from SFU and the growing
UniverCity community. Ridership is expected
to double by as early as 2021, exceeding the
capacity of the bus service.
– léo charbonneau
G. Elijah Dann, commenting online to the opinion article by
Douglas Mann, “Yes, Canadian universities do discriminate
against their own graduates,” at universityaffairs.ca.
The best [career] advice a professor gave
me years ago was to go to the most
prestigious university that will accept you.
PHO TO ( TOP LEF T): BEATON INS TI TU TE, CAPE BRE TON UNIVERSIT Y
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