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True North Favourite: The Canadian Railroad Trilogy

canadian railroad trilogy

The Canadian Railroad Trilogy by Gordon Lightfoot

In 1967, in my hometown of Whitby, a community-based choir was formed to celebrate Canada's centennial. My parents joined this choir and it became a huge part of our lives over the next 20 years or so – concerts, travelling, selecting and practicing music. Even my siblings and I had roles to play in this choir (I was a page turner for the pianist for several years – such stress!). Songs quickly became favourites, or not. But the one that stands out in my mind, and has been a favourite ever since they sang it, is the Canadian Railroad Trilogy by Gordon Lightfoot. It simply and beautifully tells the story of the opening of Canada's west with the building of the railway. The music is, as the title suggests, really 3 songs in one. Each section evokes a completely different feeling. I still listen to it often as it is on a playlist of mine that I frequently go to. I recently learned that Lightfoot was commissioned by the CBC to write the song to commemorate our country's centennial and was first heard on January 1, 1967. Cool fact! Also, Pierre Berton told Lightfoot that his song told the story of the building of the railway as well as his two books on the same subject. High praise indeed! A picture book version of the song,  illustrated by Ian Wallace, was published in 2010. It is a beautiful book and I treasure my copy. Have a look at the book and listen to the song while reading it (find the song on the album, Gord's Gold, on iTunes, or on YouTube). The story and the music will stay with you, as it has with me. Happy 150, Canada!

- Julie

For more Canada 150 staff picks, visit lpl.ca/tnf

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