Two great classics of the Franco-Ontarian group Cano, “Dimanche après-midi” (written by André Paiement) and “Baie Sainte-Marie” (co-written by Marcel Aymar, David Burt, John Doerr, and Wasyl Kohut) will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on Saturday, June 19, 2021, as part of the Gala Trille Or, to be broadcast on UNIS TV at 8:00 p.m. ET. A medley of the two songs will be performed during the gala by the duo Geneviève et Alain, with Cano members Marcel Aymar, John Doerr, and Jason Hutt.
“It’s 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 was in the grooves of this debut album that one could hear the songs “Baie Sainte-Marie” and “Dimanche après-midi,” the latter a sonic postcard sent from Sturgeon Falls, the Northern Ontario town where André Paiement grew up.
André Paiement wrote the lyrics for “Dimanche après-midi,” inspired by his summer job as sacristan at the village’s French Catholic church, the biggest and most imposing one in 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 didn’t 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 original recording, singer and songwriter André Paiement addresses someone he clearly misses, and to whom he speaks to in poetic language. “Si tu étais ici / Je ferais cesser l’orage / La pluie qui claque sur le pavé / J’ai envie d’aller marcher.” (“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, 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.”
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.’”
“Baie Sainte-Marie,” the eighth and final track of a record that set a precedent in the history of Francophone music outside Québec, 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 guitarist and vocalist, wrote the song in memory of his father, but it’s the result of a collective creative process. “It’s 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 seasoning to the track. The piece opens with the cries of seagulls, that one can imagine seeing at the water’s edge, and echoes in the sounds that Kohut re-creates on the violin. However, “Baie Sainte-Marie, probes depths that have nothing to do with the ocean. It’s a song that brings Aymar back to the shores of Meteghan, and the scent of the fish he knew in 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” (“The Acadian wind is my father / In my father / I can see myself / I want to thank him / For what he gave me”). It’s a tribute, a declaration of filial love, to the one he left behind to live his own life.