The Life and Music of My Father, Gene MacLellan
Written and performed by Catherine MacLellan
Mondays/Tuesdays/Wednesdays in July/August
PEI Brewing Co.
Island singer-songwriter and recording artist Catherine MacLellan has written a new musical show that she will perform this summer at the PEI Brewing Co. in Charlottetown. The title of the production pretty well explains it all, If It’s Alright With You—The Life and Music of My Father, Gene MacLellan.
If It’s Alright With You is the name of a song by Gene MacLellan and also the title of the 1977 Capitol Records album on which it first appeared.
Catherine says she had been talking for a long time about telling this story and that by now she was comfortable with the idea. “I was ready to do an album of my Dad’s songs, on my own terms.”
A representative from the PEI Brewing Co. had approached Catherine about the possibility of doing a summer show, and Catherine’s response was “let’s explore this.” The result of that exploration is the new production.
When asked how she approached this project, she says that she looked at the songs to find the story, and also researched the story of her father’s life for meanings in the songs.
Catherine, of course, has her own memories of life with her father, but she also turned to Bob Merserau, music columnist and longtime arts reporter for CBC Television in New Brunswick who is writing a biography of Gene MacLellan. Bob was able to supply details about Gene’s story that Catherine might have been too young at the time to know about, or remember.
Making use of Bob Merserau’s access to CBC archives Catherine also discovered some television performances by her father, in the company of people like, Marty Reno, Ian Tyson and Glen Campbell, that she had never seen before.
Catherine says, “I do have first-hand knowledge from when I was a child of who he was to me.” But she admits she made a lot of discoveries in her research, and well as coming to understand some themes of the story. “He was always searching to find peace,” and, “He never felt worthy of his success.”
And that success was huge. Two of his songs, Snowbird and Put Your Hand in the Hand, were major international hits. With those hits a larger-than-life story began. Says Catherine, “One of the funnest things to find out was what was true and not the myth.”
If It’s Alright With You—The Life and Music of My Father, Gene MacLellan will benefit from Catherine’s research and storytelling, but the story will be largely expressed through the songs and the music. “I had a list of about 30 songs that I wanted to do,” she says. That list has now been edited down to fit the story, but will include the obvious hits.”
Catherine has put together a band of Island musicians for the show including John Connolly on guitar, keyboards and vocals, Chris Gauthier (her regular touring partner and producer of her JUNO award-winning album The Raven’s Sun) on guitar, Remi Arsenault on bass and Dale DesRoches on drums.
John Connolly also provided production advice where needed, based on his experience with his own musical, Marathon of Hope.
Catherine’s album of her father’s songs, which was recorded by Chris Gauthier at Dunk River Sound, will be released at the opening of If It’s Alright With You—The Life and Music of My Father, Gene MacLellan on July 3 at the PEI Brewing Co., located at 96 Kensington Road in Charlottetown.
If It’s Alright With You—The Life and Music of My Father, Gene MacLellan will be on stage at the PEI Brewing Co. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays in July and August. Tickets available at www.peibrewingcompany.com.