Last Articles - 2000 January-June update on June 22, 2010


01/09/00 - Songwriters get chance to hear from the pros

01/14/00 - Musicians band together for tribute to Canadian farmers

01/16/00 - John Morris Rankin dies in a car crash

01/16/00 - John Morris Rankin dies after truck plunges into Margaree River into Gulf of St. Lawrence

01/16/00 - John Morris Rankin has died

01/17/00 - "Quiet Rankin" Remembered

01/17/00 - Musicians sow message that farms facing crisis

01/17/00 - 'He lived for his family and his music'

01/17/00 - Rankin dies in accident

01/17/00 - Rankin 'legend' dies as truck skids off cliff

01/18/00 - Road salt likely factor in Rankin fatality, RCMP probing crash; funeral in Mabou Thursday

01/18/00 - John Morris Rankin

01/18/00 - The Rankins Legacy, Rankin Family introduced Cape Breton's ancient party music to rest of the world

01/19/00 - Plow driver 'devastated' over Rankin accident

01/20/00 - Funeral for John Morris Rankin

01/20/00 - 'People are still shocked', Rankin family, friends and fans gather to mourn John Morris

01/20/00 - Plow driver struggles with tragedy

01/20/00 - Sampson a finalist in Lennon contest

01/20/00 - Songwriters' Circle lineup announced

01/20/00 - John Morris: a humble voice in the music world

01/20/00 - Remembering John Morris, Rankin was happy being considered one of the guys

01/20/00 - Voice of the People - Great Musician

01/21/00 - Mourners remember Rankin's humility, talent

01/21/00 - 'We have lost a great friend', More than 1,000 attend Rankin funeral

01/21/00 - A musical farewell for Rankin

01/31/00 - Cape Breton Farewell, A grief-stricken community says its final goodbyes to a homegrown star

Jan-Feb, 2000 - Canada loses musical star

02/02/00 - Snow Segment dropped from ECMA awards show, Rankin Tribute Planned Instead

02/04/00 - Canned Snow tribute creating sour note

02/05/00 - Emotions run high at Stompin' Tom Awards

02/05/00 - John Morris Rankin Memorial Fund Established

02/06/00 - Good vibes charm Natalie

02/07/00 - Cape Bretoners rule roost, Locals collect 10 of 23 ECMA's

02/18/00 - Antigonish invites you to come home

02/19/00 - Kitchen Party kicks off today, Radio series takes to world stage

02/19/00 - Baddeck's Centre Bras d'Or 'virtually shutting down'

02/26/00 - Rankin investigation solely in RCMP hands

03/03/00 - School stage to be named in memory of John Morris Rankin

03/12/00 - Rookie Tal Bachman wins pair of Junos

03/12/00 - Tal Bachman takes two on sparsely attended Juno Awards opening night

03/13/00 - Nova Scotia artists score big at Junos, Rankin Family, MacMaster win major awards

03/16/00 - RCMP set to complete Rankin probe in month

03/16/00 - MacMaster, Rankin 'Party' tickets on sale

03/29/00 - Sons of Maxwell, Wood to play Springhill Irish festival

March-April, 2000 - John Morris Rankin passes away

04/06/00 - Doherty records Rankin tribute

04/06/00 - Tin Pan South 2000

04/13/00 - Rankin, Burgess to appear with Symphony

04/13/00 - Symphony Nova Scotia gets more worldly in 2000-01 season

04/29/00 - Kitchen Party hot worldwide, Radio, Internet a perfect marriage for roots-centred music lovers

05/11/00 - Rankin lands gig with Simon, indie film

05/19/00 - RCMP still probing Rankin death

05/23/00 - Reunited Reels - Four Cape Breton fiddlers will play a new piece at this week's Scotia Music Festival

05/25/00 - Springhill MusicFest nabs some of Canada's best

05/25/00 - Scotland, PA up and filming

06/03/00 - Gracie's career takes family on tour across Big Country

06/08/00 - Howie's Brewin' comedy, music

06/17/00 - A different shade of bluegrass, Atlantic Blue may be the most quintessentially Maritime album ever made


Songwriters get chance to hear from the pros

January 9, 2000 - Halifax Herald

SOCAN and the Songwriters Association of Nova Scotia present A Date With a Tape on Sunday, Feb. 6, during ECMAs at the Delta Hotel in Sydney.

Music industry professionals like Dan Hill, Ron Hynes, Jimmy Rankin, Steve Jordan from Warner Music Canada and Robert Ott from BMG Music Publishing Canada will offer direct and immediate feedback on songwriters' original material.

Participants are asked to bring a CD or tape of one of their songs and three copies of the lyrics. Names and phone numbers must be marked on the CD or tape. Material will be accepted between 10-10:30 a.m. and will be reviewed in random order from 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, there is no guarantee that all songs will be heard during the workshop.


Musicians band together for tribute to Canadian family farms
Hawkins, Stott, Lightfoot, Big Sugar among performers

January 14, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Andrew Flynn / The Canadian Press

Toronto - Gordon Lightfoot, Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman, Ronnie Hawkins: these are names from Canada's rock 'n' roll hall of fame, names that might not immediately be connected with life on the farm.

But the musical greats, along with some younger colleagues, are taking centre stage Sunday for a nationally televised benefit show that hopes to send up something of a distress flare for Canada's struggling family farmers.

It will be more than just another concert for Amanda Stott, a 17-year-old singer and rookie recording artist who gets to open the show with the national anthem. Stott, who grew up on her parent's cattle and organic grain farm outside of Brandon, Man., has seen firsthand what falling commodity prices and shrinking subsidies have done to independent Canadian farmers. Tens of thousands are facing hard times and, in many cases, bankruptcy as poor growing conditions and international trade pressures threaten their livelihood.

To Stott, the plight of farmers is a personal rather than financial issue: a centuries-old way of life is beginning to vanish as small farms shut down or are gobbled up by large agricultural syndicates.  "I think a lot of people don't really realize the impact that a family farm has on the country," says Stott. "It's the pride of being able to carry something on that your forefathers have carried on before you. I think it's a really good thing to do."

The concert at Toronto's Air Canada Centre will air (1:30 p.m.) as the centrepiece of a live day-long event on CBC Newsworld to draw national attention to the decline of the Canadian farm. Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the National Rural Caucus, but the event is being staged more to raise awareness than funds, organizers said.

For Saskatoon-born Shaun Verreault, guitarist and singer for Wide Mouth Mason, it is an emotional issue.  "It would just be very sad to see a way of life disappear," Verreault says in a telephone interview.  "It spreads out and affects not just the people who are working on farms: if they have a bad year then the province has a bad year. I think it would be a shame if it also was to turn into a big business like everything else has."

The concert was originally conceived by Toronto Liberal MP Dennis Mills following a suggestion by Hawkins. The CBC agreed to broadcast it, then decided to expand Newsworld's coverage of the issue, said CBC spokeswoman Mio Adilman. "We are certainly pegging coverage to this event and of course we have been covering the issue for many years," Adilman said.

Beginning with a live report at 11 a.m. from Melita, Man., a hard-hit farming community of 1,200, Newsworld will also feature a town hall from Regina where Prairie residents will talk with provincial agricultural ministers from Manitoba and Saskatchewan before joining the big event in Toronto. "And rarely do you see four-hour concerts on television with this kind of lineup," says Adilman.

Lightfoot, Cummings, Hawkins and Bachman will be joined by rock bands Big Sugar and Wide Mouth Mason, singers Kevin Parent, Fred Eaglesmith and Jimmy Rankin, children's entertainers Fred Penner and Sharon, Lois, and Bram, tenor Michael Burgess, country/rock band Prairie Oyster and country legend Sylvia Tyson as well as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

"This is going to be a pretty entertaining day to watch," adds Verreault. "It's not going to be all doom and gloom."

Stott, who will launch her first major-label record in April, says it means a lot to her that such major artists would donate their time for the cause.   "I see my father, especially this year, the stress of not getting the crop in and harvesting late and I see how much he puts into it," she says. Stott isn't interested in seeing the event generate pity. She says she'll be satisfied if viewers gain just a little more understanding of Canada's independent farmers.  "It's not just putting food on the table for you, even though that is their primary goal," she says. "It's the whole pride and heritage of the operation. I think that's what people need to understand, is that it's not just a business, it's a whole way of life."


John Morris Rankin dies in a car crash

Fare Thee Well Love

January 16, 2000 - CBC Radio News

Report from CBC-TV (Real Video)

Report from CBC-Radio (Real Audio)

MARGAREE HARBOUR, Cape Breton - An accident in Cape Breton has claimed the life of a member of the Rankin musical family. John Morris Rankin was driving to a hockey game with three teenagers when his truck plunged into the water at Margaree Harbour Sunday morning.

There are reports that the 40-year-old man swerved to miss a pile of salt on the highway.

The teens were rescued from the icy waters. One is reported to have hypothermia and is in serious condition in hospital; doctors say the other two are fine.

Police say they tried for hours to rescue John Morris Rankin, but couldn't reach him in time to save his life.

John Rankin played piano and fiddle with the Rankin family. The group began performing in Mabou, Nova Scotia, in 1989 and rocketed to fame not long after, with the release of their second album titled Fare Thee Well Love.

As one of Atlantic Canada's most successful groups, the family rose from singing county fairs and church halls to selling more than two million of their Celtic-inflected records around the world. They swept the Juno awards in 1994.

They stopped performing together last year so members of the family could pursue independent careers.

Jimmy Rankin, one of John Morris' siblings, left the Family Farm Tribute concert in Toronto after being notified of a death in the family.


John Morris Rankin dies after truck plunges into Margaree River into Gulf of St. Lawrence

 

January 16, 2000 - Canadian Press

MARGAREE HARBOUR, N.S. (CP) -- John Morris Rankin, a member of the former Celtic group the Rankins, died Sunday after his truck plunged into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
 
John Morris RankinThree teenage passengers, including Rankin's son Michael, were able to escape from the vehicle and climb to safety following the 7:30 a.m. accident. They were taken to Cape Breton's Inverness Consolidated Hospital.
 
Family friend Emily Butler said it appeared that Rankin told the teens to jump out of the truck as it skidded towards the water.
 
"John Morris told them to jump and they got out," she said. "John Morris went with the truck."
 
Rankin, 40, died in the crash, the RCMP said in a release.
 
It hadn't yet been determined how the vehicle ended up in the water.
 
Morris Green of Nova Scotia Emergency Health Services said one of the teenagers was being treated for hypothermia and the other two appeared to be OK.
 
Family friend and musician Denis Ryan said news of the accident spread quickly through the Nova Scotia music community.
 
"It's awful, awful, awful," said Ryan, who played music with Rankin in the mid '80s.
 
"I've known him for 25 years, for Christ's sake.... Why is it always the good people that die?"
 
Ryan described Rankin as a dedicated family man and master carpenter who was like a younger brother to him.
 
"He was just a beautiful person to be around -- never offensive and could be awful funny at times. And he did have a great Celtic humour and wit about him. (He) could laugh and smile and have fun with very simple things in life."
 
Butler, who knew the Rankins for more than 20 years and considered them her extended family, said Rankin's siblings were devastated by the news.
 
She said the loss is a great blow for many in Cape Breton who followed John Rankin's rise to fame.
 
"He was a very wonderful and talented young man and we're all heartsick," Butler said from Sydney, N.S.
 
Rankin's brother Jimmy Rankin left a Farm Aid concert in Toronto after being notified of the death.
 
Family friend Russell De Carle, lead singer for Prairie Oyster, said he was stunned when he heard the news at the benefit.
 
"Oh God, it's just horrendous to say the least," De Carle said from Toronto following his set at the concert.
 
"He was a brilliant musician. It's a huge loss. It's unbelievable. I had an incredible amount of admiration for his playing. He was a brilliant musician, keyboardist and fiddle player."
 
John Morris Rankin played fiddle and piano with the popular musical family from Cape Breton. The group broke up last summer so its members could pursue independent careers and interests.
 
Over a decade-long, storybook career, the Mabou, N.S., family band rose from county fairs and church halls to become the most successful music acts on the East Coast through the 1990s.
 
The five siblings sold more than two million records, won five Juno Awards, including group of the year in 1994, and took its Celtic-inflected music to the world.
 
"We've had a great run," John Morris said last year after the breakup.
 
"It's been 10 years and they've gone by fast. Originally we planned to do this for five years, and 10 have passed.
 
"It's all been a positive experience for us."
 
The family's early independent success -- they sold 75,000 records literally out of the back of a car -- led to one of the first major-label music contracts in Atlantic Canada.
 
After being courted by several Canadian labels, they finally signed with EMI Canada and delivered five platinum records (each selling over 100,000 copies) through the '90s. Fare Thee Well Love sold more than 500,000 copies alone.
 
Ryan described John Morris as a "rock" who held the band together: "He brought stability. He brought leadership in a very subtle way. He was very, really a solid guy. I mean really solid. Fame and fortune really didn't shake him."
 
Brookes Diamond, a Halifax promoter who had known Rankin for more than 20 years, said he was "a lovely gentleman and a wonderful man" who loved country dances and was most happy at home in rural Cape Breton.
 
"He had so much to look forward to in his new life," he said.
 
"It's just an awful thing."
 
Besides Michael, 15, Rankin is survived by his wife Sally and daughter Molly, 13.


John Morris Rankin has died

January 16, 2000 - CBC's The National

Guest: LAURIE GRAHAM, Reporter
DENNIS RYAN, Musician andfriend
UNIDENTIFIED

SUSAN BONNER: In other news, the Rankin family lost a loved one today and Canada lost a gifted musician. John Morris Rankin died after his vehicle slid off a Cape Breton road and disappeared in the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Laurie Graham has more on Rankin's passing and the memories he leaves behind.

LAURIE GRAHAM: The accident happened early this morning when John Morris Rankin was taking his son Michael and two other teenagers to a hockey game. He apparently swerved around a pile of salt on the middle of the road. He lost control of his vehicle and went over a cliff. Plunging 25 metres into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The teenagers were able to escape from the vehicle but Rankin died in the crash.

GRAHAM: John Morris Rankin started playing piano when he was just eight-years-old. Then a year later he picked up the fiddle. In 1989 he and four of his siblings teamed up to form the Rankin Family. They sang Celtic music. Songs with traditional Scottish sounds that rocked the world. They sold more than two million records, won five Juno awards and toured the world becoming the east coast's most successful music act of the decade. (Music) John Morris Rankin was described as the shy and quiet one. Always in the background, never in the spotlight. He let his music speak for him.

DENNIS RYAN / MUSICIAN AND FRIEND: He's a great loss to Cape Breton. He's a great loss to the whole music scene in the region because he was an exceptional human being. He was very modest, had incredible talent and we all loved him.

GRAHAM: In Mabou, Cape Breton where Rankin grew up and still lived, people were devastated.

UNIDENTIFIED: I'm still stunned. It's a real tragedy. He was one of the bright lights of our community.

UNIDENTIFIED: It's like a family member. Anything that happens in this community is family. (Music)

GRAHAM: Last year when the Rankins called it quits as a group, John Morris Rankin spoke for the family.

(FILE FOOTAGE, SEPT. 19, 1999) JOHN MORRIS RANKIN / MUSICIAN: We all have our own lives. We're all getting a bit older. We'd just like to try some different things.

GRAHAM: He said then he wanted to spend more time with his family. John Morris Rankin was 40-years-old. Laurie Graham, CBC News, Halifax.


"Quiet Rankin" Remembered

John Morris Rankin dies in car crash

January 17, 2000 - CBC Radio News

Watch The National's Report

Listen to Brooks DeCillia's report for CBC Radio

Watch Laurie Graham's report for CBC TV

MARGAREE HARBOUR, Cape Breton - Canada's music industry is mourning the loss of one of its own today.

John Morris Rankin, the eldest member of the popular group The Rankins (formerly known as The Rankin Family), died yesterday in a tragic car accident in Cape Breton.

Frank McInnis, a spokesperson with the Cape Breton Fiddling Association, took a young John Morris Rankin to the Montreal Olympics in 1976 with a group of experienced fiddlers.

He says even back then Rankin's skill was of a superior quality, adding that Rankin has remained a shining example for musicians everywhere.

"All fiddlers looked to John Morris as a source of inspiration in many ways," recalls McInnis. "Probably because of his exposure as a member of the Rankin family, but because of his reputation as an exceptional individual - violin player and Celtic pianist. He was held in high regard by his peers... an extremely high regard."

Karl Falkenham, a CBC music producer and a friend of Rankin's, agrees. He says because John Morris Rankin was rarely in the spotlight, many people don't realize how skilled he was as a song-writer and multi-instrumentalist:

"He's probably one of the finest exponents of Inverness County fiddling and learned from the greats. In fact, there's a story Dave MacIsaac tells of how John's bedroom was so close to the dance hall that from the time of infancy, he heard every single Saturday night dance with all the greats.

"So it was absorbed and he was a very good guitarist but I think primarily, in my opinion, it was his piano work that impressed me the most. He and others would concur was probably the greatest Celtic piano player in the world."

Rankin was driving to a hockey game with three teenagers when his truck plunged into the water at Margaree Harbour Sunday morning.

Rankin apparently swerved to miss a pile of salt on the highway.

The teens were rescued from the icy waters. One is reported to have hypothermia and is in serious condition in hospital; doctors say the other two are fine.

Police say they tried for hours to rescue John Morris Rankin, but couldn't reach him in time to save his life.

The news of John Morris's death spread quickly in the tiny village of Mabou, and throughout the Canadian music industry.

John Morris played keyboards and fiddle and was seen as the leader of the group. Friends described him as quiet and a dedicated family man.

The group began performing in Mabou, Nova Scotia, in 1989 and rocketed to fame not long after, with the release of their second album titled Fare Thee Well Love.

As one of Atlantic Canada's most successful groups, the family rose from singing at county fairs and church halls to selling more than two million of their Celtic-inflected records around the world. They swept the Juno Awards in 1994.

They stopped performing together last year so members of the family could pursue independent careers.

Jimmy Rankin, one of John Morris' siblings, left the Family Farm Tribute concert in Toronto yesterday after being notified of the accident.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien says Cape Breton has lost one of its finest sons and Canada has lost one of its finest musicians. In a statement issued by his office, Chretien says it's impossible to comprehend how such a rich life filled with magical artistry could be taken so suddenly.

The funeral for John Morris Rankin will be held on Thursday.


Musicians sow message that farms facing crisis
City folks urged to remember 'where their food is coming from'

January 17, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Andrew Flynn / The Canadian Press

Toronto - Some of Canada's top entertainers got together Sunday to send up a distress flare calling attention to the crisis affecting family farms across the country.

Legends such as Gordon Lightfoot, Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman and Ronnie Hawkins took the stage at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto to help raise awareness of the plight of many small farmers whose livelihoods are threatened by poor growing conditions and international trade pressures.

"The big mistake is to think that it's for 10 or 11 thousand people in this hall; it's not," veteran folk singer Sylvia Tyson said backstage during the event.

"They're going to get a great show. But it's being covered on CBC Newsworld, it's going on to radio, it's being covered in the press," Tyson said.

"It's not a money thing, that's not the point of the exercise - it's to raise consciousness, more than anything, of the average city-dweller who needs to know where their food is coming from."  The concert was the centrepiece of a live day-long event on CBC Newsworld to draw national attention to the decline of the Canadian farm.

Masterminded by Toronto Liberal MP Dennis Mills and other federal and provincial politicians, the show aimed to educate urban Canadians about what falling commodity prices and shrinking subsidies have done to independent Canadian farmers.

Tens of thousands are facing hard times, and in many cases bankruptcy, amid poor growing conditions and international trade pressures.  Saskatchewan farmers vented their frustration during an earlier "town hall" meeting in Regina carried live on Newsworld. Some sombrely described working for months in the field just to end up losing money. Others warned that thousands of farms could shut down this year.

"When we leave today, everybody's going to get a postcard where we describe the 10 things you can do to make a difference for rural Canada," Mills said backstage.

"You know, call your local MP or (provincial legislative member) and ask them what they are doing for our agricultural policy or our food sovereignty in this county.

"And the next time you go shopping maybe be a bit more sensitive about buying homegrown Canadian products."

Garry Breitkreuz, the Reform MP for the Saskatchewan Yorkton-Melville riding, said he has heard heart-wrenching stories from farmers in his riding. "The pain that is being experienced by grain growers is unbelievable," said Breitkreuz, who inspired Mills's participation after reading letters in the Commons from farmers in his constituency. He said he was encouraged by Mills's commitment to keeping the event non-partisan.  "This is a non-political event. I think we've come to the point in agriculture in Saskatchewan where everyone must take notice. Farmers are frustrated; they say, 'You know every time Canadians sit down to eat they shouldn't just thank God they should thank a farmer too.'"

Bill Murray, 38, drove 18 hours from Charlottetown to get a glimpse of Hawkins and to show his support for farming friends in his home province.

"I think it's going to raise awareness, yes," Murray said, waving a placard reading "Hi, P.E.I. - I made it!"  Federal Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief, who attended the event, said he hasn't given up trying to work out a solution to the crisis with provincial governments. More meetings between federal and provincial policy-makers will be held by mid-February, Vanclief said, with a full meeting of agriculture ministers slated for early March in Quebec City.

"Farming is a risky, risky business," said Vanclief, who is a farmer himself.  "Not only are you competing with the rest of the world, you're competing with the weather and with each other.  Organizers had sold about 14,000 tickets to the event at between $10 and $20 each.

Lightfoot, Cummings, Hawkins and Bachman were joined by rock bands Big Sugar and Wide Mouth Mason, singers Kevin Parent and Fred Eaglesmith, children's entertainers Fred Penner and Sharon, Lois, and Bram, tenor Michael Burgess, country/rock band Prairie Oyster and country legend Tyson as well as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.    Singer Jimmy Rankin, formerly of the Rankin Family group, left the venue early in the day after hearing his brother John Morris Rankin had been killed in a car accident.

Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to farm communities through the National Rural Caucus, but the event was staged more to raise awareness than funds, organizers said. Mills estimated the event would net about $80,000.


'He lived for his family and his music'
Friends, colleagues remember John Morris Rankin

January 17, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Stephen Cooke / Entertainment Reporter

It was often said of John Morris Rankin that he was as much at home on stage at London's Royal Albert Hall as he was at the West Mabou Community Hall.

It's also been said the only things that mattered to the Mabou-born performer were his music and his loved ones, and he attended to each with equal devotion. Rankin's death at age 40 in an auto accident near Margaree Harbour on Sunday morning sent ripples of shock through the Canadian music community, as those who knew him best remembered his consummate skill on piano and fiddle, and his gentle wit and warm personality.

He leaves behind his wife Sally, children Michael, 15, and Molly, 13, and a rich musical legacy that includes taking Cape Breton Celtic culture to the world.

"That's what he lived for, his family and his music," said guitarist Dave MacIsaac, a longtime friend who first accompanied Rankin during traditional sets at Halifax's Alexander's and the Thirsty Duck.

"He was the humblest guy you could ever meet," recalled MacIsaac, who said he felt like he'd lost a brother.

"He would never push himself into the spotlight. He was good to chat with, he was always the same."

But the spotlight did shine on Rankin, especially once the career of his family band The Rankins got rolling with a major record label contract and worldwide concert tours. The group's fiddler Howie MacDonald - a fixture in the band from its start as The Mabou Jig revue in 1989 until its breakup last year - says Rankin kept his brother Jimmy and sisters Raylene, Cookie and Heather grounded, both musically and emotionally.

"His dressing room humour was second to none, he really had a dry wit to him," MacDonald said. "He always had a comment that would really make you keel over, go weak in the knees, it was so funny. There was just something about the way his mind processed things.

"He had Cape Breton culture really well summed up; the whole music and its history and the way it was played. It captured people emotionally in the way that he played it."

Stephen MacDonald, the executive producer of The Rankins' first two albums, remembered John Morris as the quiet force behind the family band.

"Quietly and staying largely in the background, John Morris provided the most solid of bases for the musical magic of the Rankin Family," MacDonald said Sunday from his home in Lunenburg.

Bassist John Chaisson joined The Rankins in '92, and said that while the sisters' voices and Jimmy's songs were the focal point for listeners, John Morris was the musical centre.

"He was so involved with the Rankins, being the oldest, he often took everything on his shoulders," Chaisson said from his Dartmouth home.

"He never had a title like music director, but I always considered him to be in that role. He heard everything; he had great ears."

Rankin enjoyed the time off after the Rankins disbanded, according to musician/composer and close friend Scott Macmillan, and he was starting to think about where he was going to go next musically.

"I was asking him to appear on one of (CBC Radio's) Kitchen Party shows and he was willing to do that," Macmillan recalled. "But he enjoyed life slowing down a little bit, reflecting a little bit, and looked forward to getting out and playing again."


Rankin dies in accident
Fiddler's son, two others survive plunge

January 17, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Bruce Erskine / Staff Reporter

John Morris Rankin, fiddler and piano player with the popular Rankin Family band, was killed when his truck plunged into the Gulf of St. Lawrence Sunday morning.

The accident at Whale Cove on the old coastal road between Dunvegan and Margaree Harbour occurred at 7:30 a.m. on Route 219, RCMP Cpl. Keith Brumwell said.

Police say Mr. Rankin, 40, had three teenage boys, including his son, with him when his northbound truck left the road and went over an embankment into the water 25 metres below.

"It was submerged in the water," Cpl. Brumwell said. "It's a miracle the kids survived." The boys, two aged 14 and one 15, were able to escape from the vehicle and climb back up to the road, police said.  Cpl. Brumwell said Mr. Rankin's 15-year-old son, Michael, was the first to reach the road and flagged down a passing car.

Mr. Rankin, who lived in Judique, was reportedly driving the boys to a hockey tournament in Cheticamp.  By the time paramedics arrived, the three boys had taken shelter at a nearby home, Emergency Health Services spokesman Morris Green said.   The boys were later taken to Inverness Consolidated Hospital where they were treated for hypothermia, Mr. Green said.

He did not know how the boys escaped from the truck, which was pulled from the water by firefighters.  Cpl. Brumwell called the efforts of Margaree Forks volunteer firefighters "heroic."

"They had to put ropes on the vehicle to prevent it from washing out to sea," he said, adding that a family opened their nearby home to rescue workers. Roads were slippery at the time, and Cpl. Brumwell said a police traffic analyst is trying to determine what caused the accident.

According to the Department of Transportation, area roads were snow-covered but passable with caution Sunday morning. Three ambulances from Margaree and Inverness responded to the accident, along with Inverness RCMP.

Mr. Rankin played with sisters Raylene, Cookie and Heather and brother Jimmy in the popular Celtic pop band for 10 years.  The Juno award-winning group, which released several recordings and toured extensively, broke up last fall so members could pursue individual projects.

Musician Denis Ryan said news of the accident spread quickly through the Nova Scotia music community.  "It's awful, awful, awful," said Ryan, who played music with Rankin in the mid '80s.

"I've known him for 25 years, for Christ's sake.... Why is it always the good people that die?" Ryan described Rankin as a dedicated family man and master carpenter who was like a younger brother to him.  "He was just a beautiful person to be around - never offensive and could be awful funny at times. And he did have a great Celtic humour and wit about him. (He) could laugh and smile and have fun with very simple things in life."

Longtime Rankins manager Mickey Quase said he has lost one of his best friends. "It's a terrible tragedy and a personal tragedy," Mr. Quase said. "He's been one of my best buddies for many, many years."

Rankins fiddler Howie MacDonald first played alongside John Morris in the mid-'70s, and the pair often got the crowd hopping with passionate sets of traditional Cape Breton fiddle tunes.  "He was a very solid reference on the music and for the culture in general," Mr. MacDonald said from his Sydney home. "When people think of him, they think of a solid individual, a man of few words with a dry wit and a very likeable guy.

"He will be referred to a lot. His music will stay around for a good while yet, and he's one of the people we will refer to when we're trying to explain how this music should be done or how it should feel."

Aside from his son, Mr. Rankin is survived by his wife, Sally, and daughter, Molly, 13.


Rankin 'legend' dies as truck skids off cliff
Pianist and fiddle player for The Rankin Family killed taking son to hockey game

January 17, 2000 - Toronto Star Atlantic Canada Bureau

By Kelly Toughill

HALIFAX - John Morris Rankin's death was like one of the haunting Celtic tunes he made famous, a tale of love and grief and heroism set in a place of deadly beauty.

The pianist for The Rankin Family was taking his son and two other teens to a hockey game in Cheticamp at dawn yesterday, driving up the twisting, icy highway that hugs Cape Breton's rugged north coast when his Toyota 4-Runner plunged over a 25-metre cliff into stormy seas.

The teens escaped, but volunteer firefighters had to don survival suits to search two-metre waves for the body of the famous musician whom some of them had counted a personal friend.

In a region where every home has at least one fiddle player and children learn to dance when they can walk, Rankin, 40, was looked up to as something quite special.

``He was a legend,'' recording artist Natalie MacMaster said yesterday.   ``Anywhere he would show up, there was always a buzz in the room when he walked through the door because he was the best.''

Rankin was a master pianist and fiddle player who was a key member of the family group that made Cape Breton's unique Celtic sound mainstream fare.

Their five albums sold 2 million copies and earned five Juno awards.   In an era of electronic sound, the Rankins were pioneers, playing age-old Scottish tunes that had been passed down through generations.

It is music that was incubated in the tiny isolated towns of rural Cape Breton, a place where tradition is revered and people cling to their roots.

Despite his success, Rankin continued to cling to those roots, keeping his home and family in Cape Breton, just down the road from the tiny town of Mabou where he grew up with 11 siblings.

He lived in Judique with his wife, Sally, 15-year-old son, Michael and 13-year-old daughter, Molly, who is also a fine fiddle player.

Just last week, the world-renowned musician played at a house party thrown by his childhood friend Kinnon Beaton, a former next door neighbour who never lost touch.

``They used to play ball as kids,'' Betty Lou Beaton recalled of her husband's best friend. ``Or at least they tried, but then John Morris' father would call them both inside and tell them to play him a tune.''

Rankin spent eight hours in the Beatons' basement last Sunday as 68 people danced square sets to the traditional old fiddle tunes.

``What a great memory for us to have,'' said Natalie MacMaster's mother, Minnie, who was at the party. ``He played with his daughter, Molly. He played with Natalie. He played with everybody last week. And it was recorded too. Now we must celebrate his life, not just remember his death.''

Minnie MacMaster grew up with the Rankins in Mabou.  ``In church, we sat just a few pews behind all the Rankin kids. And we went to all the same dances. They are just beautiful, beautiful people, all of them.''

Friends yesterday remembered a soft-spoken, unassuming man who wielded huge influence in the rarefied world of Cape Breton music because of his immense talent.

``He was just a quiet little guy,'' said Betty Lou Beaton.  ``You wouldn't know he could do anything at all, but he was just a genius.''

As a child, Natalie MacMaster listened to homemade tapes of Rankin over and over again and tried to mimic his exact sound. It was that sound that gave him influence, she said.

``He was the quiet, behind-the-scenes guy, humble,'' she said of the musician who played on her first two albums.  ``It was like he had a big voice without saying anything.''

Stan Chapman is a renowned local fiddle teacher who counted Rankin as one of his closest friends.  ``He was one of the most incredible Cape Breton musicians I ever met,'' he said.

Rankin played on 12 different albums, including his family's five. His songs were recorded by three other artists, including Ashley MacIsaac.

Rankin was joined by four of his siblings - Cookie, Heather, Jimmy and Raylene - to make up The Rankin Family, later known simply as The Rankins.  The group disbanded last year.

Natalie MacMaster said yesterday local folks were delighted that because of the band's breakup, John Morris would be travelling less.  ``It was just great having him around again,'' she said. ``Everybody was really looking forward to having him home more.''

Jimmy Rankin learned of his brother's death in Toronto yesterday, where he was scheduled to play in a fundraising concert for farmers. He flew home immediately. Neither he nor Rankin's other family could be reached for comment.

Authorities yesterday called it a ``miracle'' that the teenagers travelling in Rankin's car escaped without any serious injuries. The car smashed down a 25-metre cliff, flipped upside down and was submerged in the stormy sea.

Leo Gallant, chief of the Margaree District Fire Department, said the teens crawled out a window. Rankin's son Michael then climbed up the icy cliff.  ``We still don't know how he did it,'' he said last night.  ``Our men had to use ropes and full gear to get up and down that cliff, but he did it with his bare hands.''

Michael Rankin flagged down a car. The driver threw an extension cord over the cliff, which the other two teens used to pull themselves up to the road, Gallant said.

Gallant said his men had to lash Rankin's car with ropes to keep it from being pulled out to sea. The car, which landed upside down in the surf, was eventually hoisted up the cliff to the road. It was only then that they realized Rankin's body was not inside, he said.

The firefighters decided not to wait for scuba divers to arrive from Halifax to search the stormy seas, he said. Instead, they donned survival suits themselves and started searching the breakers for Rankin's body, which was pulled from the water near the crash site.

``Some of our guys are in pretty rough shape now,'' he said. ``They are exhausted and I think they will need counselling.''


Road salt likely factor in Rankin fatality
RCMP probing crash; funeral in Mabou Thursday

January 18, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Tera Camus / Cape Breton Bureau

Whale Cove - Road salt may have been a factor in the death Sunday of musician John Morris Rankin.

Salt spilled by a provincial Transportation Department truck left a large, unexpected bump on Route 219 moments before the internationally known Celtic musician and member of the Rankins approached in his sports utility vehicle.  Mr. Rankin was on his way to Cheticamp to attend a hockey tournament.

"There was certainly a mound or pile of salt . . . and from talking to our staff, this seemed to be a little bigger ... (than) the ordinary," department spokesman Chris Welner said.

The mound, less than a third of a metre high and as wide as a single lane, created a speed bump in the 80 km/h zone. It's believed Mr. Rankin swerved to avoid the bump, then lost control of the truck, which plunged over a 25-metre cliff into the Atlantic Ocean near Margaree Harbour.

Mr. Rankin's three passengers, including his son, Michael, 15, managed to escape the overturned, submerged vehicle. Michael was the first one to make it up the cliff and he flagged down a passing car. He and two 14-year-old boys were later treated for hypothermia and released from hospital.

Inverness RCMP are looking into whether the excessive salt on the road caused the crash. The roads were also snow-covered and icy at the time of the 7:30 a.m. accident.

"That's still under investigation, and I do not have much comment," Const. Sheldon Miller said.

"It's sad . . . probably one of the hardest (investigations) I've had to do," Const. Miller said. "The boys were lucky" to survive.  Mr. Welner said the department is working with the RCMP to determine whether the salt was a factor.

"Right now, we don't have all the facts but we're helping gather the facts and helping the police with their work," Mr. Welner said.

The department isn't going to introduce any changes to the way it clears the highway of snow and ice, Mr. Welner told CBC Radio's afternoon show in Sydney.

"Every day (the drivers) go out and go out as well-trained officers who do a very difficult job in very difficult conditions," he said.

Mr. Rankin, who lived in Judique, played fiddle and piano for 10 years in the popular Celtic pop band that included sisters Raylene, Cookie and Heather and brother Jimmy. Last fall, the Juno award-winning group broke up to pursue solo careers. At the time, Mr. Rankin said he was interested in spending more time at home with his wife, Sally, his son and daughter Molly, 13.

No autopsy will be performed. Police cannot say whether he died from injuries suffered in the crash or drowned. His funeral is set for Thursday at 2 p.m. at St. Mary's Church in Mabou.

Condolences continue to pour in for Mr. Rankin's surviving family and friends.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien said he was shocked to hear of Mr. Rankin's death.  "Like all Canadians, I was simply stunned to learn of this terrible accident," Mr. Chretien said in a news release. "Cape Breton has lost one of her finest sons, and Canada has lost one of her finest musicians. It is impossible to comprehend how a life so rich in talent . . . a life whose magical artistry had touched so many . . . could be taken so suddenly and under such tragic circumstances."

Premier John Hamm also sent his sympathies to Mr. Rankin's seven sisters and four brothers.  "The collective grief and sorrow of Nova Scotians and Canadians cannot begin to fill the void in John Morris's family. But in time, we hope John Morris's family will find strength in our prayers, our support and our admiration for a most remarkable man. He was a model Nova Scotian . . . an artist . . . an inspiring musician and proud Cape Bretoner."

Mr. Rankin, the fourth child in the family, was predeceased by his mother, Kathleen, and father Alex J. (Buddy) Rankin.

John Morris and siblings Jimmy, Cookie, Raylene and Heather sold more than two million albums and are credited with taking Cape Breton Celtic music to the mainstream, first as the Rankin Family, then simply the Rankins.  But there are seven other siblings, some living as far away as California and the United Arab Emirates. All of them arrived home Monday.

Jim St. Clair, a cousin who has been in touch with many of the Rankins, said the siblings were taking care of each other.

"These are people of faith. They are people of understanding of the difficulties of life," Mr. St. Clair said from his home in Mull River, near Mabou.

"They rally around one another in times of trouble as well as times of joy. They are being supported very well by each other."

Mr. St. Clair said the famous family was keeping a low profile and wanted to mourn in private. Wakes are to be held today and Wednesday at the old Rankin homestead in Mabou.

Organizers of the East Coast Music Awards are planning a tribute to Mr. Rankin at awards ceremonies in Sydney next month.

"The Rankins have crossed our stage almost from Day 1," ECMA spokesman Marcel McKeough said. "We're considering ways to show our respect and show our appreciation for his legacy."

With The Canadian Press


John Morris Rankin

January 18, 2000 - Halifax Herald

TRAGEDY has struck the Rankin family of Cape Breton, leaders in the Celtic music revival that has swept the airways over the past decade.

John Morris Rankin, 40, was killed on Sunday morning after his vehicle left the road at Whale Cove, near Margaree Harbour.

Mr. Rankin, the eldest of the five siblings who formed The Rankin Family more than a decade ago, is being described as the quiet leader of the phenomenally successful group, which had shortened its name to The Rankins prior to the decision to disband last year.

Tragedies of this nature strike without warning, and the blunt force of the pain of sudden death is a terrible shock for those who are left behind. In the death of John Morris Rankin the shock extends to the extended family of musicians in this province, as well as to the many fans who are thankful they have had the opportunity to enjoy his musical talents.

The Mabou native is remembered by those who knew him best as an unassuming man who shouldered the burden of success with ease by always remaining true to his roots. His dry wit, always at the ready, was testament to a tremendous sense of humour.

Mr. Rankin's priorities in life were his family and his music. As the eldest among the singing Rankins, he offered the sort of protective and encouraging guidance that comes with the role of being the big brother.  While his three sisters, Heather, Raylene and Cookie, were known for their singing, and brother Jimmy for his songwriting, John Morris has been described as the rock who held the group together.

His talent for both the fiddle and piano, as well as a keen ear for the music, have been lauded in the music community as exceptional.

And as a husband and father, he showed maturity and selflessness in attempting to strike the right balance between a musician's gruelling life on the road and that of a family man. Last year, when The Rankins broke up after a glorious decade of making music, collecting awards and topping the charts, John Morris's desire to spend more time at home with his family in Judique was quoted as one of the reasons.

Indeed, at the time of his death, Mr. Rankin was involved in that most Canadian of parental duties - driving his 15-year-old son, Michael, to a hockey game in the early hours of a winter day. As the four-wheel drive left the road and plunged over an embankment and into the waters of Margaree Harbour, John Morris reportedly ordered the teenagers to jump from the vehicle.

While the three teenagers thankfully made it to safety, sadly he did not.   His body was recovered later in the day by Margaree Forks volunteer firefighters, whose efforts under treacherous conditions were described as "heroic" by an RCMP officer at the scene.

The other hero on the scene, of course, was John Morris himself, who clearly put the safety of the teenagers ahead of his own as he struggled to control the vehicle.  Besides his son, Mr. Rankin is also survived by his wife, Sally, and his 13-year-old daughter, Molly.

Longtime friend and fellow musician Denis Ryan described John Morris as a dedicated husband and father who was like a younger brother to him. "He was just a beautiful person to be around - never offensive and he could be awfully funny at times. And he did have a great Celtic humour and wit about him. He could laugh and smile and have fun with very simple things in life."

John Morris Rankin will be sadly missed as a man and as a musician. His family, friends and fans are all mourning his loss. His legacy is his devotion to his family, his exemplary love for Cape Breton and his tremendous musical talent. Surely, he has gone to a better place, where the music is lively, sweet and pure, and never a sour note is struck.

Fare thee well, love.


The Rankins Legacy
Rankin Family introduced Cape Breton's ancient party music to rest of the world

January 18, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Andrew Flynn - The Canadian Press

They stole a little fire from their Cape Breton kitchen and then the Rankins lit a bonfire that caught and spread and warmed the ears and hearts of Canadians.

Breathing new life into the ancient, near-forgotten airs and reels of the immigrant Scots, the humble family musical group from tiny Mabou, would become a driving force in the nation's entertainment scene.

"The craze for Celtic music that hit Canada in the '90s was definitely started by the Rankin Family," says Larry LeBlanc, music historian and Canadian correspondent for Billboard Magazine.

"Every label decided at that point, 'We have to have someone from down there.'" Their talents first blossomed in Mabou, a small Cape Breton community literally bursting with musical tradition. There, the kitchen parties or ceilidh, would ring with the stamping of feet and the reels and Strathspeys performed by great traditional fiddlers like Donald Angus Beaton and Dan R. MacDonald.

Speaking and singing the Gaelic of their ancestors, the young Rankins were busy absorbing a truly venerable heritage.

Of the performing brothers and sisters - Cookie, Heather, Jimmy, John Morris and Raylene - John Morris, killed Sunday in a car accident, was perhaps the critical link to generations of fiddle-playing forebears.

"The spirit for all of that, the anchor, was John Morris Rankin, the person and the musician that he was," says Sheldon MacInnes, a Celtic music researcher at the University College of Cape Breton and author of A Journey in Celtic Music, Cape Breton Style.

"He was truly a link among the young fiddlers with the old time traditional style of the music."

"He was a touchstone to the older musicians in the area, carrying on a tradition that might have died when television in the '40s and '50s began to threaten it," agrees LeBlanc.

"The same Scottish airs were played in the 1640s and had a lot to do with the immigration to Canada of the clans."

The Rankins would become a bridge from the past to the future.

"The music here is a lot purer than it is even in contemporary day Scotland, that's what's really remarkable about it," says LeBlanc.

"There is a theory within music that the farther you get away from the mother root the purer the music tends to be. Part of that is because the mother body of music churns and changes."

The music of Cape Breton remained almost frozen in time, an enduring snapshot of the old world that evolved just enough to become it's own entity.

"That's why we're transfixed by an Ashley MacIsaac," says LeBlanc. "It really is a remarkable, unique musical style of swoops and bows."

The Rankins soared out of Mabou with their tradition-steeped sound in the early 1990s with two independent cassettes, The Rankin Family (1989) and Fare Thee Well Love (1990), later released by a major label. The first would go on to sell more than 100,000 copies, the second more than 400,000 - an astounding feat for any Canadian band.

Television appearances, cross-country tours and the respect of both the record buying public and international folk and Celtic performers would follow. They would dominate the East Coast Music Awards in their early career and win five Juno Awards. In 1998, Paddy Moloney, founder of the legendary Irish group the Chieftains, would invite the Rankins to record for his spotlight CD on Cape Breton talent, Fire in the Kitchen.

Ironically, the group was often doubtful about whether their music would appeal to audiences outside of their own region.

The Rankins' success was to be a catalyst for other musicians, says MacInnes, and performers like Ashley MacIsaac, Natalie MacMaster, Bruce Guthro and Mary Jane Lamond would follow in their wake as the floodgates of Cape Breton opened to the world.

"They have opened many doors for other musicians here and demonstrated that a very ancient music, a very traditional music, can have appeal universally," says MacInnes.

Their popularity would create other opportunities for Cape Bretoners, not only in music and the performing arts, but also helping to shape public policy in the region.

"(Their success) provided further appreciation and rationale for public institutions to lend some support to the whole Gaelic language scene," he says. "That's where the Rankin family perhaps would have been most instrumental in this community. And maybe beyond, in indicating that there is a Gaelic language here, a strong tradition.

"They have taken that tradition and moulded the music and the songs in a way that would be appealing to the general public so that people like myself, who research and write, could turn to the bureaucrats and say, 'Here you go, look at what happens when we support this stuff, look at the interest worldwide.'" 


Plow driver 'devastated' over Rankin accident

January 19, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Tera Camus / Cape Breton Bureau

The driver of the snowplow that dumped a mound of salt on the road where John Morris Rankin was killed in an accident is distraught over Sunday's tragedy, says a co-worker.

"Devastated is an understatement," local plow driver Don Cameron, who represents provincial highway workers with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said of his colleague.

"It's horrible. I know if I were in the same situation, I wouldn't be able to work. All the (other) guys here are working . . . but this has had a major effect on all of us."

Mr. Rankin, a world-renowned Celtic musician, died when his sport utility vehicle left Highway 219 at about 7:30 a.m. and plunged over a 25-metre cliff and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Inverness RCMP believe Mr. Rankin, 40, may have lost control of the truck when he swerved to avoid a mound of salt on the old coastal road near Whale Cove.

Officers are trying to determine how the pile of salt, less than a third of a metre high, was spilled in Mr. Rankin's lane just moments before the musician and three teenage boys came along.

The four, including Mr. Rankin's 15-year-old son, Michael, were headed to a hockey tournament in Cheticamp. Michael and two 14-year-old boys managed to escape from the truck and climb back up to the road, where they summoned help. The boys were treated for hypothermia.

Chris Welner, spokesman for the provincial Transportation Department, said officials are trying to help staff cope with the tragedy.

"I think it's fair to say (the driver) is quite shaken up," Mr. Welner said.

"It's a very stressful and emotional time for John Morris's family and for all of Nova Scotia, including our operators."

Mr. Welner said the driver was an experienced plow operator and was used to being out when conditions are at their worst, as they were last Sunday, when the highway was covered with snow and ice.

"Every time we put out an advisory to stay off the roads, this is exactly the time our guys are out," he said.

Mr. Cameron said it's not uncommon for excess salt to be spread on the road.

"Sometimes you get frozen or lumpy salt . . . and the excess salt needs to be run off," he said. "Drivers then have to scrape the stuff off the road."

But sometimes, especially when snow and ice cover the road, drivers can't always see excess salt.  RCMP have impounded both the plow and the wreckage of Mr. Rankin's truck to test them for mechanical failure. Hundreds of people are expected to attend Mr. Rankin's funeral, set for 2 p.m. Thursday at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Mabou. Rev. Angus Morris will conduct the service.

Mr. Rankin played fiddle and piano for 10 years in the popular Celtic band the Rankin Family (later the Rankins), which included sisters Raylene, Cookie and Heather and brother Jimmy. Last fall, the group split up to pursue other interests. Mr. Rankin's plan was to spend more time with his wife, Sally, his son and daughter Molly, 13.

He is survived by seven other siblings, some living as far away as California and the United Arab Emirates. All are back home in Mabou.


Funeral for John Morris Rankin

January 20, 2000 - CBC's The National

Guest: LAURIE GRAHAM, Reporter
FATHER ANGUS MORRIS
JIM St. CLAIR, Family friend
DENIS RYAN, Musician and friend

PETER MANSBRIDGE: A church in Nova Scotia was filled today with people and music. As mourners gathered to say good-bye to John Morris Rankin who died on Sunday. About a thousand people attended the funeral of a man who stayed close to his roots, even as he helped bring Cape Breton music to the world. Laurie Graham reports.

LAURIE GRAHAM: They crowded into the small Catholic church. Hundreds of people: family, friends and fiddlers of all ages. They came to say good-bye and to pay tribute to one of their own.

(Voice of) FATHER ANGUS MORRIS: There's a Gaelic saying that says all things will pass away but love and music will last forever. And that's why I believe John Morris will rise again.

GRAHAM: John Morris Rankin was the oldest brother of the Rankin family, a Celtic band that sold millions of records worlwide. One of the East Coast's most successful musical groups. Last Sunday he was killed when when he was driving his son and two other teenagers to a hockey game. He apparently swerved around a pile of salt that was on the highway, lost control of his vehicle and plunged 25 meters into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The accident is still being investigated.

GRAHAM: Rankin's sudden death has shocked this community. He grew up in Mabou. People knew him not only as a musician but as a neighbor. All 11 sisters and brothers attended his funeral in the church where he was baptized.

JIM ST. CLAIR / FAMILY FRIEND: I think it's very hard for them. They loved him. You know, they just loved him. (Music)

GRAHAM: And friends loved him too.

DENIS RYAN / MUSICIAN AND FRIEND: We're all better off to have known John and I hope...He was the same with the public as he was with his next door neighbour. Just a humble, brilliant, decent man.

GRAHAM: As Rankin's casket was carried from the church, people gathered around to show their respect. And 150 fiddlers played a series of reels, some of Rankin's favorite tunes. Their way of saying good-bye to a talented musician and friend. Laurie Graham, CBC News, Mabou, Nova Scotia.


'People are still shocked'
Rankin family, friends and fans gather to mourn John Morris

January 20, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Stephen Cooke / Staff Reporter

Mabou - In this small Inverness County village, it wasn't just the Rankins who lost one of their own when John Morris Rankin died in a car accident Sunday morning. The entire community feels like it's lost a family member.

"We will feel the impact for many years to come," said musician and composer Joey Beaton, a lifelong friend and neighbour whose father Donald Angus was Mr. Rankin's initial inspiration.

Mr. Beaton, who performed the Mabou coal mines style of Celtic music with Mr. Rankin at the Montreal Cultural Olympics in 1976 as well as at prestigious shows at New York's Kitchen in 1978 and Lincoln Center in 1982, said Mr. Rankin soaked up the influences of legendary fiddlers like Willie Kennedy and Buddy MacMaster.

Mr. Rankin died Sunday morning when his sport utility vehicle plunged into the ocean near Margaree Harbour. He was headed to a hockey game in Cheticamp with his son and two other teenagers, who managed to escape before the truck hit the water.  There is speculation Mr. Rankin had swerved trying to avoid a pile of salt on the road, but the investigation continues.

"Every day was a learning day for him," Mr. Beaton said of Mr. Rankin. "And although he excelled at whatever he did, he was never a know-it-all.

"His contribution to the music of Cape Breton - his fiddling, his piano playing, his compositions - will be referred to for hundreds of years."

The whole of Cape Breton agrees. Friends, family and fans lined up for hours Wednesday afternoon and evening outside the Rankin family home in Mabou to pay respects to Mr. Rankin and offer comfort to his wife, Sally, and their teenage children, Michael and Molly, as well as his brothers and sisters.

Funeral will be this afternoon at 2 o'clock in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Mabou.  A collage of photos inside the Rankin home showed Mr. Rankin doing what he loved best - playing music, enjoying the outdoors and sharing time with his family.  It was a time to grieve, but also a time to reminisce.

At MacMillan's General Store, where a large outdoor painting of the Rankins greets visitors, David MacMillan remembered growing up with Mr. Rankin, getting into snowball fights and playing on the same hockey team.

"He'd give (opponents) a few jabs every now and again," Mr. MacMillan recalled. "He was a digger, he liked to stir up the pot a little."

"People are still shocked, they can't believe it happened to him," added Mr. MacMillan's brother, Bobby, who co-manages the store. "He was such a fine person, so good and witty."

Port Hood resident Harold Pond said his last memory of Mr. Rankin was also hockey-related - he spent Saturday chatting with him while their sons played in the Cheticamp tournament.

"He loved being a part of it," Mr. Pond said. "He was as proud as any father would be, especially when his son got a goal that afternoon.

"I'm honoured to have known him. Nobody could say a bad word against him."

The loss was felt most keenly on the street where Mr. Rankin's family once lived, in the heart of Mabou. Archie Rankin watched him grow up from birth, and recalls a young man who put his all into whatever he did but never asked for the limelight.

"He was so humble, you wouldn't think he had the ability," Mr. Rankin said, "but people knew him all over the world. To think he was born just across the road."


Plow driver struggles with tragedy

January 20, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Tera Camus / Cape Breton Bureau

The snowplow driver blamed by some for the death of Celtic musician John Morris Rankin says he can't wait for the day when he can say what really happened that tragic morning.

"It's not been easy. It's been horrible," John Archie Chisholm, a longtime employee of the Transportation Department, said Wednesday. "But it will all come out."

Police believe Sunday's 7:30 a m. accident might have been caused in part by a mound of salt spilled on Highway 219 moments before Mr. Rankin's vehicle came along.

Mr. Chisholm said his lawyer has advised him not to comment on the accident until the RCMP investigation is complete, perhaps by Friday.

"Only myself and God in heaven know what I'm going through," Mr. Chisholm said in a telephone interview.

"It will all come out . . . from the time I got up in the morning to when this happened."

"When (that) time comes . . . my record will pretty well stand behind me."

Mr. Rankin, 40, was heading from Judique to a hockey tournament in Cheticamp with three teenagers, including his 15-year-old son, Michael. Near Margaree Harbour, he apparently swerved to avoid a pile of salt, losing control of his sport utility vehicle, which plunged over a 25-metre cliff into the sea.  The three teens survived but Mr. Rankin couldn't escape the vehicle before it sank.

Inverness RCMP Const. Shelby Miller said details of the accident could be released by the end of the week. Part of the investigation has focused on the plow driven by Mr. Chisholm, as well as Mr. Rankin's vehicle.

The soft-spoken Mr. Chisholm said he's "hanging in there" but he finds it difficult to read or listen to media reports on how the salt got on the road.

There's been speculation the salt was dumped while the driver took a break or stopped to talk to a passer-by. Another theory is that lumpy salt was dumped and the driver didn't shovel away the excess.

Asked about a rumour that was circulating Wednesday, Mr. Chisholm said no one from the Rankin family had called him since the accident.

Mr. Rankin's funeral will be held today at 2 p.m. at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Mabou.

Local firefighters will direct traffic and handle parking for the hundreds of vehicles expected to arrive in the community.  One local woman said the 600-seat church may not hold everyone.


Sampson a finalist in Lennon contest

January 20, 2000 - Halifax Herald

Gordie Sampson was named a finalist in the pop category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for his hit Sorry.

Harry Francis of Nottingham, Pa., was the grand-prize winner with Color My World and Sampson was one of three finalists.

The finalists each received $1,000 U.S. from the New York-based contest.

There are 12 categories in the contest, which also awards prizes to six runners-up. Sampson and Ryan Szarko of Edmonton whose Where I Send You was a finalist in the dance category, were the only two non-American winners.

Sorry, from the CD Stones, has earned Sampson ECMA nominations for song, single and video. Trip has also received nominations for song and single.


Songwriters' Circle lineup announced

January 20, 2000 - Halifax Herald

The East Coast Music Awards Songwriters' Circle has announced this year's lineup.

The Tattler has learned that, the event's founder Sydney Mines singer / songwriter Bruce Guthro will host the circle that will feature Carol Ritchie, Jimmy Rankin, Cory Tetford, John Curtis Sampson, Paul Lamb, Ian Janes, Matt Minglewood and Damhnait Doyle.  Longtime Canadian singer /songwriter Dan Hill will also join in the fun.

The Songwriters' Circle will be held on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 6 at the Delta Sydney Hotel.


John Morris: a humble voice in music world

January 20, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Stephen Cooke - Nightclub Notebook

My education in Cape Breton music began with John Morris Rankin.  The year I graduated from Kings College School of Journalism, I got a job as entertainment reporter at C100-FM, and one of my early assignments was interviewing the members of a musical family from Mabou who were appearing at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium in a show called, appropriately, The Mabou Jig.

Here I was, a Dartmouth kid raised on punk rock, trying to get a crash course in the history of Celtic music from John Morris and his sister Cookie who dropped by the station to chat about the show. I knew nothing of the community hall dances or strong family traditions, or names like Beaton, Chisholm and Fitzgerald, but the Rankins' stories, and their songs, opened up a whole new world to me.

Our paths would continue to cross over the years - I remember the group wondering how they'd go over with the alternative crowd at an early ECMA showcase at the Pub Flamingo, and the audience wouldn't let them leave the stage - but I always marvelled at how soft-spoken John Morris remained exactly the same, from the day I first met him to the last time I saw him, at the ECMAs last year in St. John's, enjoying the company of his fellow musicians.

I mean, fame changes people, you almost can't help it, but not John Morris. When I asked him what he was going to do when he got his first big cash advance from EMI, the major label that signed the Rankins, he said he'd always wanted to get a wood splitter for his farm in Judique. There were clearly no stars in his eyes.

At the Fish Aid concert two summers ago, John Morris and his family sat in the crowd, enjoying the other acts, instead of hiding out in his trailer backstage and amiably chatted with those fans who recognized him. To him, music was just something you did; it didn't make you any different from your neighbours.

As for his playing, it took me a few years of listening to the Rankins on record to really appreciate it, the way he combined the rhythmic urgency of Cape Breton keyboard accompaniment with his own lyrical touches, while his wide-ranging knowledge of pop and country styles gave the band's contemporary numbers that beautiful melodic flow.

If a more talented pianist ever came across the Causeway, I've yet to hear about it.


Rembering John Morris
Rankin was happy being considered one of the guys

January 20, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Frank Campbell

John Morris Rankin must be checking us out from above these days, wondering what all the fuss is about.

His life story and details of his death in a Sunday morning automobile accident have graced the front pages of newspapers and grabbed highlights on national newscasts.

People who never even met John Morris are suffering a great sense of loss. Public figures and politicians, including Prime Minister Jean Chretien, have offered condolences to John Morris's family.

John Morris would not wear comfortably the accolades he's received this week. Down to earth, humble and modest, he was happier to be considered one of the guys than to be thought of as the guy whose exceptional talents brought him and four Mabou siblings to the national and international stage.

In elementary school at Mabou Consolidated, John Morris was one of the guys classmates liked to taunt because he did something different - he played the fiddle and piano.

But the little boy from Back Street deflected the childish taunts, silencing the snickers by taking his music far beyond the borders of the tiny coastal community in Inverness County.

John Morris was one of the guys often razzed in high school because of his diminutive stature. But he soon learned how to use his quick wit and ready sense of humour to disarm even the most persistent of tormentors.

At St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, John Morris was one of the guys who enjoyed a good time, but he tempered it with more than enough study to be successful.

He was one of the guys who had textbooks and library books strewn everywhere on the floor of his dormitory room. When he successfully retrieved the relevant textbook, John Morris's study problems were far from over. Entire pages, save for a few words, had been highlighted by a yellow marker that John Morris supposedly was saving for significant passages.

John Morris was one of the guys at St. F.X. who would joke with friends about buying a school jacket. He somehow scraped together enough money to buy an all-leather jacket, but he took some ribbing about its exorbitant cost from friends who chose the cheaper melton-cloth jackets with leather sleeves.

"In 10 or 20 years, I'll still have the jacket and all you'll have left is the sleeves," John Morris shot back.

The leather jacket turned out to be an appropriate choice for John Morris, its durable, reliable and unchanging nature mirroring the character of its owner.  In the years to come, John Morris might take the leather jacket out of the closet only once or twice a year, but it always looked the same.

Similarly, as those years passed and our situations changed, my visits with John Morris were often limited to one or two a year. Yet the conversation flowed easily and comfortably, as if only days had passed since our last meeting, for John Morris was one of the guys it was always fun to be around.

John Morris's leather jacket was just as practical in the communities of Mabou and Judique, his home for the past number of years, as it was on worldwide Rankin Family tours.

And returning to Cape Breton from the bright musical spotlight, John Morris was still just one of Buddy and Kathleen's boys. Fame had no more chance of changing John Morris's unassuming character than time had of altering his good old leather jacket.

John Morris was one of the guys who struggled after university. Through the hard times of working in Halifax as a part-time musician and part-time carpenter's helper, and the joyous times of marrying Sally and starting to raise a family, he was always ready to roll with life's punches and laugh at his own foibles.

John Morris was one of the guys who put The Rankin Family on the musical map and kept them there. And he was one of the family who had had enough after 10 years of touring the world.

It was time for John Morris to be one of the husbands and one of the fathers who could devote more time to family. While he appreciated what he had achieved and the things he had gained because of his love and mastery of music, he quietly lamented missing much of his son Michael's and his daughter Molly's early childhood.

John Morris's music is a legacy that will live on in recordings. His smile, his humour and his integrity will live on longer and stronger with family and friends.

John Morris is one of the guys who will be remembered as a musical genius, a genius that pales in comparison with his talents as a husband, a father, a brother, and a true friend.

He's one guy who merited respect, first as a man and then as a musician.   And surely that's something to fuss about.

Frank Campbell is news editor of The Chronicle-Herald and The Mail-Star. A Mabou native, he grew up with John Morris.


Voice of the People - Great Musician

January 20, 2000 - Halifax Herald

Dear Editor:

I was saddened to hear of the tragic death of John Morris Rankin on Sunday.

My family and I spent a beautiful two weeks in Nova Scotia last August. We came primarily to see the scenery and listen to the bagpipes and fiddles.  Along the way, we were introduced to The Rankins and their music. My 12-year-old daughter has subsequently appropriated our North Country CD; I may never get it back.

But that is far less the loss than that which Nova Scotia has suffered. My heart goes out to the province, and to the Rankin family. Please know that there are people throughout the world who mourn the death of your native son, a great musician.

David Clendinning, Tallahassee, Fla.


Mourners remember Rankin's humility, talent

January 21, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Stephen Cooke / Entertainment Reporter

Mabou - It was fitting that friends and family would gather to remember John Morris Rankin at the community hall where so many first heard him perform.

Within minutes after his funeral, the community hall down the road from St. Mary's Catholic Church, where the touching ceremony was held, began filling up with loved ones and the air was alive with stories.

Looking out the hall's kitchen door, you could see the white two-storey home where the Rankin family grew up. Inside the kitchen, Mr. Rankin's aunt, Mary Loretta Beaton, oversaw an army of volunteers serving hot tea and carrying trays of sandwiches, squares and scones to a long table in the hall.

Too busy to stop and chat, Mrs. Beaton quickly related how she used to take the Rankin children on Victoria Day picnics and how she remembers John Morris playing the piano - the one just behind her on the stage - when his legs were still too short to reach the pedals.

That same image of young John Morris on the community hall piano bench is the earliest memory that comes to mind for Mabou stepdancer Mary Janet MacDonald.   She began teaching the distinctive Cape Breton style of dancing in the early '70s and had some of the Rankin sisters in her very first class.

"He was so full of natural ability, so eager," she recalled. "I can't remember watching a child play the old tunes like that before."

Saturday, the day before Mr. Rankin was killed in a highway accident at age 40, Mrs. MacDonald sat with him at the Cheticamp hockey tournament where their sons were playing. Naturally the talk turned to music, but true to his humble nature, Mr. Rankin preferred to describe how well his 13-year-old daughter Molly's fiddle-playing was coming along.

"We were at a party at fiddler Kinnon Beaton's house a month ago," Mrs. MacDonald said, "and everyone was excited that John Morris came by. We all hoped he'd play, and he did of course, but first he made sure that Molly got to play. You could see he was so proud, he was beaming."

While Toronto record company executives and Mabou residents mingled in the hall, Cape Breton fiddler Jerry Holland ducked outside for a breath of winter air. Mr. Rankin played with him often, on stage and on record, but Mr. Holland remembers him first and foremost as a friend.

"That means a lot today if you can say that about someone," Mr. Holland said emphatically. "John Morris made sure he could come to my wedding in September, and the fact he could make an appearance was wonderful. He would always be there for his friends in support and loyalty."

Mr. Holland remembers going to the Rankin house when John Morris was 11 or 12 and hearing him play.

"His father Buddy loved to see me coming," Mr. Holland said. "He knew I could get (John Morris) away from the piano to play the fiddle for a while, while I picked at the piano. I'd tell John Morris to sit up and play the fiddle like a man, and his dad would sit down the hall so he wouldn't intimidate him. I think they both got a kick out of it."

Cape Breton music archivist Paul MacDonald credits Mr. Rankin with starting him on his career.

"I wasted my childhood on rock 'n' roll and TV, but John Morris - who's the same age as me - clearly didn't," said Mr. MacDonald, who's produced roughly 60 fiddle albums.

"When I got bitten by the Cape Breton music bug, he was the guy I looked to for inspiration, and I looked at how he did it - by engulfing himself in old tapes of the master players.

"But I'll always remember him for his humility, which is so rare in the music business."

Irish singer Denis Ryan performed a haunting Dark Island at the funeral.

"John Morris used to imitate me singing Dark Island," a laughing Mr. Ryan said later at the community hall.

"How ironic I should be singing it at his funeral. I just miss John. Besides his ability, his style and his skill, he was just a beautiful human being, solid as a rock."

As night fell and the crowd thinned, Mr. Rankin's brothers and sisters said farewell to their guests. They came here to remember, and it's certain none will ever forget Mr. Rankin's contributions to music and the community.

WHAT WAS SAID:

"He was always looked on as an equal by the older fiddlers, like Buddy MacMaster and Alex Francis MacKay." - Dan MacDonald, Cape Breton music promoter.

"He was so involved in what he was doing when he played on stage, I think in his mind he could hear the babbling brooks of Mabou Coal Mines." - Joey Beaton, Mabou musician and Rankin family next-door neighbour.

"He composed a tune for my granddaughter in Judique, called Gabrielle's Jig. She was flabbergasted that he would take the time to do that." - Archie Rankin, Mabou friend and neighbour.

"John Morris was one of the best piano players in Cape Breton - Buddy MacMaster said he was THE best. Then he started playing the fiddle, and people said he could never do it, you were only supposed to play one instrument. But he became a big star playing both, but it never went to his head." - Willie Kennedy, Mabou fiddler and family friend.

"John Morris was very much a part of our family. We all feel like we've lost a brother and son. We're all family here - you know who everyone is and where everyone comes from - and when someone dies, it has a domino effect on the community." - Mary Janet MacDonald, Mabou stepdancer.


'We have lost a great friend'
More than 1,000 attend Rankin funeral

January 21, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Tera Camus / Cape Breton Bureau

Mabou - John Morris Rankin would have been humbled by the tribute that family, friends and fellow musicians paid to him Thursday in their final farewell.

"He would have said, 'This is nonsense, I'm not worth all of this,' " family spokesman Jim St. Clair said after the traditional funeral mass.

More than 50 musicians - including Buddy MacMaster, Denis Ryan, Ashley MacIsaac, Scott Macmillan and Gordie Sampson - played traditional strathspeys and reels like the Glen Coe March in front of more than 1,000 mourners who packed St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church.

"Really, he was too humble, too modest, I guess," Mr. St. Clair said. "I think he would have far better enjoyed playing with them."

Mr. Rankin, who soared to fame with some of his siblings in the Celtic group The Rankin Family, later The Rankins, was killed last Sunday in a motor vehicle accident on Highway 219 at Whale Cove, near his home. His sport utility vehicle went out of control, perhaps after hitting a pile of salt on the road, and plunged over a 25-metre cliff into the Atlantic Ocean. Three teenagers, including his 15-year-old son Michael, survived.  Transportation Minister Ron Russell said Thursday his department's investigation into why the pile of salt ended up on the road should be complete next week.

"It's my understanding that there is a mechanism that is supposed to cut off the delivery of salt when the truck is not moving," Mr. Russell said.

Rev. Angus Morris told those who gathered at the 100-year-old church to resist blaming God for taking the 40-year-old musician's life.

"You may ask yourselves, 'Where was God in all of this?' Ever since Sunday morning, God was present, in all the people who came by and spoke to you and consoled you, all the people here today, all the phone calls, God was present," Father Morris said.

"God speaks to us through His people. Was He present last Sunday in Margaree? . . . He had to be, because today we have the three boys with us in church who were in that car."

Family members leaned on one another and cried, as did many others. John Morris's six brothers, including fellow musician Jimmy, served as pallbearers.

His widow Sally and two children held hands as they walked behind the casket.

Mr. Ryan, who sang Dark Island, was moved.

"I've known John Morris for 25 years and that particular song was the first song John Morris learned on the fiddle," Mr. Ryan said.

"He was a friend of everybody's. I think Father Morris said it best today when he said we have lost a great friend to Canada."

Father Morris described Mr. Rankin as a loyal man who believed in God, his family and his heritage.

"John Morris was an artist, his culture was strong. Maintaining what is good and beautiful, John Morris has done that to our culture. He brought it to the top stages in Canada and beyond with dignity and honour."

Father Morris, who also plays the fiddle, shared some lighter moments he'd had with Mr. Rankin. He said John Morris once whistled him a tune, claiming it was from Father Morris's younger days, and wanted to know if he was singing it correctly.

"I said 'John Morris, I never heard it so correct before.' It was a good line, because he said, 'I never heard it,' " Father Morris said, giving the crowd a small laugh.

Mr. Rankin was buried in the church's nearby cemetery, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.

Father Morris recognized the pain Cape Bretoners and the rest of Canada shared at losing such a gifted man.

"We cannot even fathom the great contribution John Morris had yet planned to make to his family, church and traditional music that he supported and played so well."

A special service in Toronto was to be held Thursday night in the chapel at St. Michael's College. Mary Jane Lamond, John Allan Cameron, Con O'Brien of the Irish Descendants and others were expected to attend.

With Barry Dorey and Amy Smith, staff reporters


A musical farewell for Rankin
80 fiddlers play at funeral of N.S. musician, 40

January 21, 2000 - Toronto Star Atlantic Canada Bureau

By Kelly Toughill

MABOU, N.S. - They said goodbye with music in Cape Breton yesterday, playing the songs of John Morris Rankin in the church where he was baptized, then laying the famous pianist to rest in a snowy field.

Yesterday's funeral of the beloved member of The Rankin Family was a tribute both to the world-famous musician and to the unique, tightly knit culture that nurtured his immense talent.

More than 1,000 people jammed the pews and vestibule of St. Mary's church and another chapel nearby for the chance to bid a last farewell to the man who helped export this island's Gaelic sound to the world.

There were famous musicians in furs, and a little girl in a kilt playing quietly on the floor with a Barbie doll.

Friends and family and total strangers were brought together with the familiar sounds of jigs and reels and ancient, aching old Gaelic laments.

``John Morris spoke from the heart in his music. No one was going to take him away from his traditional style; he was loyal to his roots,'' his cousin and parish priest, the Rev. Angus Morris, told the crowd.

``John Morris went into the world and came back John Morris. That's the way he was to his friends."

More than 80 fiddlers, guitar players and singers crammed into a corner of the church where they played ``Molly's Reel,'' which Rankin wrote for his 13-year-old daughter, and ``Jack Daniels,'' which he also penned.

There was Ashley MacIsaac, the controversial punk fiddler from Cape Breton, and Dennis Ryan of the Irish Rovers.

There were even children in the orchestra of musical friends. The head of one curly-haired fiddler barely reached the belt loops of the revered master, Buddy MacMaster, who was playing beside her.

Rankin, 40, died Sunday after his Toyota 4-Runner plunged off a cliff into the sea as he was taking his son, Michael, and two friends to a hockey game. All three teens escaped the crash.

Yesterday, the entire hockey team filed into the church for the funeral, sitting with the family beside the coffin.

Parish priest Morris remembered Rankin as a family man and uncompromising musician who was loyal in every aspect of his life.

``He gave up his musical career to be with his family,'' Morris said, referring to last year's break-up of the family band.

``What a message to send across the country. I hope it's not wasted on our nation.''

Rankin grew up in this tiny town on the cold north side of Cape Breton, where the traditions of Scottish immigrants still shape the lives of their descendants.

Gaelic signs hang in the few shop windows of Mabou and the community hall is ringed with pictures of Scottish warriors. At yesterday's funeral, the white columns of St. Mary's Church were draped with clan tartans.

The traditions also dictated the rituals of death this week.

Rankin's body was laid out in the parlour of the home where he grew up. More than 600 people lined up in sub-zero weather for a chance to file past the coffin and offer condolences to Rankin's 11 brothers and sisters, his wife, Sally, and two children.

His death has hit hard here, where people are fiercely proud of The Rankins' success and perhaps most fond of the only Rankin who never left home.

Yesterday, it was the traditional music that helped raise spirits and ease grief at Saint Mary's.

The balcony of the church shook with toe-tapping as the massive orchestra of fiddlers played a jig before the service began.

``The service was a bringing together of all the hurt that everybody around the countryside and all of John Morris's relatives and friends felt,'' said Jim St. Clair, who is a cousin and former teacher of the famous musician.

``We shared all those hurts and I think the music and the words started healing today. That gathering together of word and song and music and prayer is what brings people of faith an eventual healing.''

Hundreds of people later gathered in the Ciad Měle Fŕilte community hall to share stories of Rankin over plates of homemade cakes and sandwiches.

Close friend and fellow fiddler, Stan Chapman, said he and many others had trouble yesterday playing the music that Rankin wrote.

``That was hard music to play today, very hard,'' he said.

``It's been a tough, tough week.''


Cape Breton Farewell
A grief-stricken community says its final goodbyes to a homegrown star

January 31, 2000 - Macleans

By John Demont

"They lined up four abreast in the numbing cold outside the old family homestead in Mabou -- waiting for hours to say a final goodbye to John Morris Rankin. Inside the Red Shoe Pub, 100 m from the wake, old friends embraced and a doleful woman heading for the bar blurted, "He would have wanted us to have a pint." At the front of the room, a fiddler in dress shirt, tie and suspenders, along with a piano player sporting coveralls, tossed off some of the same reels, jigs and strathspeys the eldest member of The Rankin Family made his own. And on the hill overlooking the village, St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church -- where the world-famous Celtic musician was baptized and last week eulogized -- shone brightly into the night, lit by strobe lights and a simple illuminated cross atop its steeple."

Tiny, picture-perfect Mabou was disconsolate last week. Not just because the world lost an important musician. Rankin's death at age 40 in a freak auto accident was a tragedy on a deeper, more personal level for the people in the close-knit Cape Breton village. They had watched the uplifting family saga unfold: the 12 kids brought up by their mother, Kathleen, after their father, Buddy, died; the first musical steps taken by John Morris and his siblings Jimmy, Cookie, Heather and Raylene at local ceilidhs and kitchen parties; their blossoming into a roots-oriented band that sold two million records and ignited the Celtic music boom in Canada before calling it quits last September.

In John Morris, perhaps more than in the other members of the group, the villagers seemed to glimpse something of themselves. He, after all, was the shy Rankin who shunned the spotlight despite his virtuosity on the fiddle and piano. He was the one who stayed closest to the area's proud 300-year-old musical tradition. He was also the Rankin who came home, moving to nearby Judique when the group announced its amicable split. "He just wanted to slow down after all that time on the road, play a few gigs and spend time with his family," said Joey Beaton, a piano player and composer whose fiddler father, Donald Angus Beaton, was Rankin's early mentor. His retirement, spent with his wife, Sally, his daughter, Molly, 13, herself a promising fiddler, and son Michael, 15, lasted only five months. After a decade of travelling the globe, John Morris died while driving his son and two friends to a hockey game, less than an hour from home on a stretch of straight road he had travelled countless times before (all three boys survived).

By the end of last week, the pile of salt he likely swerved to avoid was gone. But footprints from mourners and the curious covered the snow on top of the 25-m cliff over which his sports utility vehicle plunged before landing in the pounding sea. In Mabou, his body lay in state for two days and nights in an open casket in the flower-filled parlour as visitors streamed by. Then the 11 remaining siblings (their mother died in 1998), some of whom had travelled from as far away as the United Arab Emirates, said their goodbyes and the hearse drove slowly along the main street, where the sign on a general store read, "Closed from 1 to 3 p.m. because of a death in our community."

And the community responded, with a send-off the likes of which Mabou has never seen. At the church, 17 clergy sat in the front, while about 600 mourners crowded the pews or stood, and another 300 listened to a broadcast at the nearby convent chapel. At the end, about 70 Maritime fiddlers said goodbye the only way they knew how, by playing The Glencoe March as the grief-stricken family made their way down the aisle. "How do you make any sense out of something like this?" said Denis Ryan, an Irish singer living in Halifax who sang during the funeral. "Maybe there's no way to." Many others gathered for the final farewell likely felt the same.


Canada loses musical star

Jan-Feb, 2000 - Words & Music

The whole country was shocked by the untimely death of John Morris Rankin. A member of the celebrated Rankin Family, the accomplished pianist, fiddler, and composer was a pioneer in bringing Celtic music from the Maritimes to the rest of Canada and to a worldwide audience.


Snow Segment dropped from ECMA awards show
Rankin Tribute Planned Instead

February 2, 2000 - Halifax Herald

The songs of Nova Scotia's Singing Ranger, the late Hank Snow, will not be heard in tribute as planned during Sunday's East Coast Music Awards Gala in Sydney.

Instead, the East Coast Music Association will feature a tribute to the late John Morris Rankin, who died tragically in an automobile accident two weeks ago.

In a press release issued Tuesday, the East Coast Music Association announced it has been flooded with requests from the public and the music industry to honour the life and musical contribution of the beloved Cape Breton pianist and fiddler.

Unfortunately for Snow fans, time is at a premium on the broadcast portion of the show, and as a result the planned tribute to the country legend, who died just before Christmas, has been dropped from the program.

The memorial was to feature performances by John Curtis Sampson, Cory Tetford, Denise Murray and John Gracie.

"The East Coast Music Association would like to sincerely thank those artists for their gracious understanding in a very difficult time," the news release states.

ECMA chair Marcel McKeough said it was a tough decision, but the association said it was imperitive that Rankin's contribution be recognized on the show.

"Members of the board, like all Atlantic Canadians, indeed all Canadians, are deeply saddened by this loss," he said in the relase. "We wanted to tell the world that we are proud to have known John Morris as a musical colleague and friend."

Details of who will take part in the Rankin tribute have not yet been released.

The ECMA Gala will be broadcast live to the nation on CBC Television and simulcast on CBC Radio Two at 9 p.m.


Canned snow tribute creating sour note

February 4, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Greg Guy and Stephen Cooke / Entertainment Reporters

Sydney - The decision to drop a Hank Snow tribute from the nationally televised East Coast Music Awards on Sunday night has brought controversy to the 12th ECMA conference in Sydney.

The seven-minute segment to honour Snow was announced in January at a news conference but the awards show's producers and the East Coast Music Association have opted instead to pay tribute to John Morris Rankin, who died Jan. 16 in a highway accident.

The producers plan only to lead into a commercial break with a brief clip of Snow.

Dave MacIsaac, one of John Morris's longtime friends, says the show should include both tributes.

"They have both contributed to the world of music," MacIsaac said while checking in at the Delta Sydney Hotel. "They both deserve this honour."

Cape Breton singer-songwriter John Gracie - who was slated to perform during the Snow tribute, along with John Curtis Sampson, Denise Murray and Cory Tetford - agrees with MacIsaac.

"In a two-hour-long television show, one would think there would be time," Gracie said. "A few minutes to (pay) tribute and honour the legacy of both John Morris Rankin and Hank Snow - musicians who both revolutionized their genres of music in their respective eras."

Canada's country gentleman, Tommy Hunter, has added his voice to the debate, bringing national attention to the show.

"I'm appalled they would cancel a tribute to Hank Snow," Hunter told the National Post on Wednesday. "I don't want to downplay the Rankins but . . . there's no question they have made a very serious mistake to choose one or the other."

Presentations to host ECMA 2002, slated for New Brunswick, were made Thursday by Saint John, Fredericton and the 1997 host city of Moncton.  The ECMA board will announce its decision in March. Next year, for ECMA 2001, it's back to Charlottetown, Feb. 8-11. The ECMA buzz is everywhere in the Sydney area and promoters, managers, musicians and even graphic artists are hyping their careers with posters plastered throughout sold-out hotels, stores, bars, restaurants and even elevators.

Double ECMA nominee John Curtis Sampson of Port Morien and his Gemstone Entertainment management have come up with an original idea.  Sampson has a song called When I'm Drinkin' on his CD You Got Me, and he and his management have distributed coasters with Sampson's photo announcing his country artist and new artist nominations and his 10:45 p.m. showcase tonight.


Emotions run high at Stompin' Tom Awards

February 5, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Stephen Cooke and Greg Guy / Entertainment Reporters

Sydney - The annual Stompin' Tom Awards, honouring unsung heroes in East Coast music, tugged the heartstrings as well as guitar strings at the ECMA industry awards brunch Friday.

Hosted by Grammy Award-winning Newfoundland musicologist Neil Rosenberg in Centre 200, the awards brought back a flood of memories as they paid tribute to artists from every region, in genres from Celtic to country to big-band swing.

Cape Breton band leader Gib Whitney was remembered in song by his daughter Nancy and sister Lorna MacVicar as they crooned his signature tune The Night Watch.

Newfoundland folk duo Christina Smith and Jean Hewson accepted a Stompin' Tom Award on behalf of the late troubadour Omar Blondahl, who was one of the first singers to take Newfoundland folk songs "out of the kitchen and into the media."

Eddy Poirier of New Brunswick picked up his award, saying, "I never did it for the money, as long as I got some money for gas at the end of the night."

P.E.I. singer Maxine MacLeod paid tribute to her father, fiddler Gordon Gallant, by singing The Legacy (written with co-performer Terry Kelly) and tearfully inviting her dad to the podium.

Mainland Nova Scotia was represented by country and gospel singer-songwriter Carol Frederick-Frank, whose daughter Trina, also a singer, choked back tears as she introduced her mother.

Frederick-Frank, who recorded and performed in the '60s and '70s and is now Trina's manager, exclaimed: "This is wonderful, I never even got a bowling trophy!"

Surprise guest Rita MacNeil got a standing ovation as she strolled to the stage to introduce the Industry Builder Award recipients - Rave Entertainment's Max MacDonald and Joella Foulds.

"It's an honour to introduce two people I have worked with professionally in the past," MacNeil said. "They have brought integrity to the industry that is so needed these days, don't you think?"

Other industry award recipients included Tidemark Music, the Halifax music distribution firm, as company of the year; Sheri Jones, just named president of Tidemark, as industry professional of the year; Steve Dupuis of Big Bang Marketing in Moncton as graphic designer of the year - on his birthday; ATV entertainment reporter Todd Battis as media person of the year; CBC as radio station of the year; Jamie Foulds, son of Joella, as technician of the year; and Lakewind Sound Studio in Point Aconi as production company of the year.

Geoff D'Eon, CBC producer of Sunday night's nationally televised ECMA Awards show, has shed some light on the John Morris Rankin tribute.

Howie MacDonald and Dave MacIsaac will give a fiddling tribute to their friend, killed in a highway accident Jan. 16.

"It will be a simple, beautiful, musical tribute," D'Eon said.

Meanwhile, Hank Snow, who died Dec. 20, will be remembered in a video tribute that D'Eon says will be "very tasteful," with a Snow song guiding the images.

"We, too, would have liked to do a full-blown tribute, but there simply isn't time to do everything."

The Hank Snow Tribute was to include performers John Gracie, Cory Tetford, John Curtis Sampson and Denise Murray.

Gracie, up for two awards, decided that with no opportunity to perform on the show, he would decline to appear at all. His wife Andree said he left Sydney on Friday morning.

Fiddler Lee Creemo, who died in October, will be posthumously given the Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award.

Sydney hotels, oversold leading into the four-day ECMA event, now have some rooms available.  There are also about 200 tickets left for the awards show.


John Morris Rankin Memorial Fund Established

February 5, 2000 - Halifax Herald

In an emotional ceremony (at the ECMA's), The Rankins' manager Mickey Quase stepped to the podium to announce creation of the John Morris Rankin Memorial Fund.

Rankin, 40, died in a highway accident three weeks ago.

"This fund is being established as a result of the overwhelming response received from the general public and the music industry to establish a lasting tribute to the musical legacy of John Morris Rankin," said a news release.

The fund is intended to preserve and enhance the Cape Breton musical tradition, which Rankin always tried to do in his encouragement of younger players.

The fund's board of directors includes his widow Sally and their two teenage children as well as entertainment lawyer Chip Sutherland and singer-businessman Denis Ryan.

Donations can be made out to Patterson Palmer Hunt Murphy in trust re: John Morris Rankin Memorial Fund and sent to Suite 1600 - 5151 George Street, PO Box 247, Halifax, NS B3J 2N9, CANADA.


Good vibes charm Natalie

February 6, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Stephen Cooke / Entertainment Reporter

Sydney - There was hardly room to breathe at Sydney's Mayflower Mall on Saturday afternoon. Over 1,000 people gathered for an irresistible bargain - a free show by fiddler Natalie MacMaster in her only public performance at the East Coast Music Awards weekend before tonight's awards show.

For those who couldn't get the hottest ticket in town and would have to content themselves with watching the live broadcast from Centre 200 on CBC at 9 p.m., this was more than a consolation prize.

Diehard fans got to see the energetic Troy fiddler Up Close and Personal (as the concert was titled), as part of a showcase that also included the high-octane blues of Moncton showband Glamour Puss and Shyne Factory's nervy brand of Halifax power pop.

MacMaster, clearly in her element, exclaimed how glad she was to be home in Cape Breton, especially for the ECMAs, which bring "such a good vibe" to the area. With the help of pianist Mac Morin, she delivered a trademark set of jigs and reels with a tone as clear as crystal.

"Are there any stepdancers here?" she called out, and was soon joined by four young lasses who couldn't believe they would be sharing the stage with their idol until MacMaster urged them on with her bow, and the crowd went wild. The willowy blond left the stage and posed for a few photos with fans before rushing off to another round of awards-show rehearsals and script meetings. (She is co-host as well as a performer.)

It was a brief set, but it showed the kind of excitement the ECMAs can bring to a city. In downtown Sydney, the store windows are filled with instruments and old album covers featuring Cape Breton music legends such as Winston (Scotty) Fitzgerald, Dan R. MacDonald and the winner of this year's Dr. Helen Creighton lifetime achievement award, the late Eskasoni fiddling champion Lee Cremo.

Radio station CJCB has an elegant tribute to the late John Morris Rankin, with a large photo, fiddle and tartan saying it all.

There's no shortage of fiddlers - Howie MacDonald at Ziggy's Pub in Sydney River and P.E.I.'s Richard Wood at the Steel City Tavern on Saturday afternoon - but there are other voices to be heard.

On Saturday night, the African Nova Scotian Music Association were set to unleash Black Vibes 2000 at the Cedar Club, with a roof-raising collection of R&B, hip-hop and gospel performers. And all weekend long, East Coast Unauthorized 2000 gave alternative musicians their chance to kick out the jams.

"People say the ECMAs are the same thing every year," said Bryce MacNeil, station manager at the University College of Cape Breton campus station CAPR, which sponsors the event.

"We're not here for the industry people. They tend to make things kind of sterile, anyway. It's great if they're interested in our acts, but we just want to kick butt. We have a lot of non-traditional Cape Breton bands and a Cape Breton audience that wants to see them."

MacNeil was also chief co-ordinator of the all-ages shows at St. Theresa's Parish Centre, while the licensed event was scheduled for Chandler's Lounge until the wee hours.

At one of this afternoon's official ECMA events, artists from different backgrounds were gathering to share their common element - the song.

The Songwriter's Circle in the Delta Mariner Ballroom is an ECMA tradition that allows industry veterans and newcomers to share their creative experiences and their newer works. Host Bruce Guthro was to be joined by Dan Hill, Carol Ritchie, Paul Lamb, Matt Minglewood, Cory Tetford, Ian Janes, John Curtis Sampson and Damhnait Doyle. Lennie Gallant has agreed to take the place of Jimmy Rankin, who bowed out after his brother's death. The event brings the conference to a close before the glitter and drama of tonight's nationally televised awards show.


Cape Bretoners rule roost
Locals collect 10 of 23 ECMA's

February 7, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Greg Guy and Stephen Cooke / Entertainment Reporters

Sydney - Cape Bretoners shone on home ice Sunday night, picking up 10 awards at the 12th East Coast Music Awards.

Big Pond singer/songwriter Gordie Sampson won three trophies at the four-hour ECMA show at Centre 200. He was chosen SOCAN songwriter of the year for his hit Sorry. The song was also voted best video and best single, which he shared with Newfoundland singer Kim Stockwood for her song 12 Years Old. Stockwood was also named pop-rock artist of the year.

Newfoundland's Great Big Sea went home with three more ECMA awards. They won their fifth consecutive fan-voted entertainer of the year trophy, as well as best group and album of the year honours for their platinum release, Turn. People were suggesting the honour be renamed "the Great Big Sea Award."

Natalie MacMaster of Troy, Inverness County, and John Curtis Sampson of Port Morien were double winners. MacMaster, who co-hosted the awards show with Newfoundland comedian Shawn Majumder, was voted female artist of the year for the second year in a row and won the roots/traditional solo artist trophy.  "It being roots traditional, my roots and my tradition came from one of the finest places in the world, Troy," MacMaster said in accepting the roots/traditional solo artist award. MacMaster thanked her family for bringing her up in such a musical environment.

John Curtis Sampson won both of the categories in which he was nominated - best country artist and new artist awards.

Cape Breton's John Gracie won the male artist of the year honour. Gracie decided to leave the ECMA awards and conference on Friday, after the Hank Snow Tribute was turned into a video tribute rather than a live performance.He was to be part of the nationally televised tribute.

A touching tribute was made to the late John Morris Rankin, who died in a highway accident on Jan. 16. His friends Dave MacIsaac and Howie MacDonald performed.

Cape Breton musician J.P. Cormier, sporting a new haircut, was chosen instrumental artist of the year. "These things are great, we're all screaming for each other," he said. "When one of us wins, we all win.  "I'm going to send this right down to Judique for Michael, Molly and Sally (Rankin). If anyone deserved to be called instrumentalist of the year, it was John Morris."

P.E.I.'s Barachois were also double winners. The lively family band picked up the best francophone recording award for their album, Encore! and roots/traditional group of the year honours.

Morning Star of Eskasoni were named aboriginal group of the year.   Eskasoni fiddler Lee Cremo, who died in October, was honoured with the Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award.

It was a splashy awards show televised live on CBC, including performances by The Barra MacNeils, Stockwood, Hantsport's Ian Janes, Barachois, Newfoundland's Damhnait Doyle and Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond.

A segment called "DNTF - Definitely Not the Fiddle" rocked Centre 200. It featured Julie Doiron, An Acoustic Sin and Fur Packed Action.

The set, designed by Tom Anthes, reflected the host steel city. At ECMA 1995, Centre 200 was the first place to hold an awards show of this magnitude in an arena. The format was so successful, the Juno Awards and every ECMA since have been held in hockey rinks.

Other winners included: The Nova Scotia Mass Choir gospel group of the year; An Acoustic Sin, best alternative band; the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Choir, the classical award; Newfoundland's Rik Barron, best children's artist; New Brunswick's Glamour Puss, best blues band; P.E.I.'s Jive Kings, jazz group of the year; and Halifax's Jamie Sparks, best urban artist. Comedian Maynard Morrison hosted the pre-broadcast show.


Antigonish invites you to come home

February 18, 2000 - Halifax Herald

Come Home 2000, a four-day jam-packed concert featuring some of the Maritimes' best artists will be held in Antigonish Aug. 10-13.

St. Francis Xavier University, in partnership with the town and county of Antigonish, the Antigonish Chamber of Commerce and the Antigonish Regional Development Authority is sponsoring this special summer homecoming. St. F.X. will still host its annual fall homecoming from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1.

On Thursday, Aug. 10, there will be a lobster dinner at Morrison Hall. On Friday, Aug. 11 it's a ceilidh at Crystal Cliffs, featuring the talents of Nova Scotia entertainers Howie MacDonald, Kendra MacGillivary, Tracey Dares and Dave MacIsaac. Saturday, Aug. 12 features a huge Millennium Concert at the Oland Centre stadium with Rawlin's Cross, Men of the Deeps, the Barra MacNeils and Mary Jane Lamond. Negotiations are also under way with other entertainers.  Special guests will include Denis Ryan as emcee. The concert will be a tribute to John Morris Rankin, class of 1980.

Everyone planning to attend should contact the Come Home 2000 hotline at 1-877-909-StFX before the registration deadline of June 15.


Kitchen Party kicks off today
Radio series takes to world stage

February 19, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Andrea Nemetz / Entertainment Reporter

The fire of Celtic music will heat up the winter months as CBC Radio One broadcasts its first weekly live-to-air music series in nearly 50 years.

The Nova Scotia Kitchen Party, kicks off 11 weeks of live broadcasts of roots traditional music from Pier 21 this afternoon with the Barra MacNeils, Scotland's Archie Fisher and guitar whiz Dave MacIsaac. Cape Breton entertainer Max MacDonald will host and special guest Scott Macmillan will conduct the Minnie Sessions.

"There's so much excitement about this series, from the people who will be performing live in front of half a million people, to the technicians to the tremendous enthusiasm from the people I met at the ECMAs and from public radio in the United States," says Kitchen Party series executive producer Mike Laleune.

"I even got an e-mail from Tokyo from a man who loves the music and can't wait to hear it. I was stunned."

The performances begin Saturday afternoons at 3 p.m. and the rest of the world catches the spirit at 4 p.m. with a one-hour live show broadcast nationally on CBC Radio One, internationally on Radio Canada International, BBC Scotland, short wave in Europe, NPR in the United States and over the Internet in Real Audio.

It's actually the second time the series has been put together.

Discussions began three years ago and last year performances were scheduled at the Lord Nelson Hotel from February to May. The series was cancelled because of a CBC labour dispute.

"It's taken some time to come together, but it's given us a lot of time for gestation," says Laleune.

Upcoming performances are: Feb. 26, Mary Jane Lamond, Gordie Sampson and Felix and Formanger; March 4, The Fables, Bruce Guthro and Jon Goodman; March 11, Slainte Mhath, Mark Haines & Tom Leighton, and Rita MacNeil; March 18, Grand Derangement and Ronald Bourgeois; March 25, Battlefield Band (from Scotland), Evans & Doherty and Jerry Holland.  On March 26 it's Ireland's Tommy Makim, J.P. Cormier and Lennie Gallant in a show that will air at 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 1.  Saturday, April 8 brings in Natalie MacMaster, John Allen Cameron and Buddy MacMaster; April 15 it's Richard Wood and the Ennis Sisters and on April 22, it's the Irish Descendants, Howie MacDonald & Tracey Dares, and Raylene Rankin. Performers for a show on April 29 will be announced later.

Tickets for the Nova Scotia Kitchen Party are $15 and are available through the Metro Centre Box Office, 451-1221 and all regular Sobeys ticket outlets.


Baddeck's Centre Bras d'Or 'virtually shutting down'

February 19, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Andrea Nemetz / Entertainment Reporter

After 15 years providing arts and entertainment in Baddeck, Centre Bras d'Or is on the verge of extinction.

"The organization will continue to exist, but we're virtually shutting down.

We're giving up the facility itself," says Allistair MacLeod, the chairman of the board of directors.

"It's like owning a vehicle, but not driving it."

The centre may leave its premises as early as May, when the landlord has a prospective tenant for the facility. No summer programs have been planned with the exception of a perennially popular children's training program.

"The program involves 24 young people and there's always a waiting list. But it's a modest thing with a low budget," MacLeod says. The centre is currently $15,000 in debt.

"We've been in debt since day one, and the debt has been carried forward year by year," MacLeod continues, adding the debt would be even larger if not for the generosity of some of the centre's creditors. At times the debt was more than $60,000.

"If we were to continue to operate in the same way with substantial performances and educational workshops, the debt would balloon. Reducing the debt to zero is very important to us."

Over the years such well-known musicians as the Barra MacNeils, the Rankin Family and Natalie MacMaster have performed at the centre, which also played host to the very popular, but now defunct, Cape Breton Summertime Revue.

But it became too expensive to stage the big-name shows. So two years ago, the centre decided to focus on educational workshops.

"It didn't work out too well, but we are fully behind the concept and believe given enough time it would become profitable," says MacLeod. "But we don't have the deep pockets which would allow time to make it a permanent fixture."

It has also become increasingly difficult to get federal and private funding.Government funding bodies expect arts organizations to make a profit. Board members say there is no direct profit to be made fostering the arts, however, the economic benefits to the community are substantial.

Last year more than 12,000 visitors stopped in at Centre Bras d'Or, and the centre sold $20,000 worth of art on commission for local artists. In 15 years of operation the centre had a cumulative budget of more than $2.25 million. And the centre received grants for three full-time staff last year, who worked for 10 to 12 months.   But it's not just money problems - Centre Bras d'Or is dealing with volunteer burnout.

"It has become increasingly difficult to get people to sit on the board and help run the show," says MacLeod. "Last year we couldn't find a person to be vice-president. Of the 12 board members two resigned, and others were busy with personal commitments and were not able attend all the meetings."

However, MacLeod notes the group of volunteers known as The Friends of The Centre, who do everything from taking tickets at performances to billeting performers have been "consistently wonderful from day one." The funding crisis has been discussed in meetings for the last six months.  The board of directors held a last-ditch public meeting on Feb. 13 to see if there were any innovative suggestions on how to solve the cash crunch.  There weren't. So the centre will now take stock and determine the best way to operate in the economic climate of the 21st century.


Rankin investigation solely in RCMP hands

February 26, 2000 - Halifax Herald

The investigation into the accident in which Cape Breton musician John Morris Rankin was killed is solely in the hands of the RCMP.

"We are no longer carrying on any investigation," Transportation Minister Ron Russell said.

"All our material has been turned over to the RCMP."

The department examined a snowplow that spilled a mound of salt on Highway 219 near Margaree Harbour. Mr. Rankin, 40, apparently swerved to avoid the salt and lost control of his sport utility vehicle, which plunged over a 25-metre cliff on Jan. 16.

Mr. Russell said he didn't know when the RCMP would release its report. The snowplow driver, John Archie Chisholm, is still on leave from the Transportation Department.


School stage to be named in memory of John Morris Rankin

March 3, 2000 - Cape Preton Post

MABOU  - The Strait regional school board is acknowledging the accomplishments of the late John Morris Rankin by naming the stage at the high school under construction here in his honour.

The performing arts stage at the Dalbrae Academy will be named for Rankin, a native of the community. Rankin and fellow members of his singing family rose to international prominence as the Rankin Family, later The Rankins, during the 1990s.

Rankin was killed in a motor vehicle accident near Whale Cove, Inverness County in January.

The school board also announced that the library at the Dalbrae Academy will be named for the late Alexander Doyle, a former superintendent of schools in Inverness County.

The gymnasium at the Cape Breton Highlands Academy under construction in Belle Cote, Inverness County will be named for the late Archie Neil Chisholm. The well-respected local historian and storyteller passed away a few years ago.


Rookie Tal Bachman wins pair of Junos

March 12, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By The Canadian Press

Toronto - The first night of Tal Bachman's first Junos was a double success Saturday - the rookie musician picked up a pair of awards.

The quadruple nominee gets a shot at another one tonight. This year the Junos are divided into two separate nights.

Vancouver's Bachman, 30, who scored a hit last year with his first single, She's So High, took best producer and best new solo artist.  He lost in the best pop adult album category to Winnipeg singer Chantal Kreviazuk for her album Colour, Moving and Still, but the son of rock legend Randy Bachman is still up for best songwriter for his self-titled debut album.

In past years, the non-televised awards were crammed into two hours just before cameras rolled on the main event. To give the 31 off-air nominees a chance to relax and enjoy themselves, the academy presented their awards Saturday at a champagne dinner at the Metro Convention Centre.

Saturday's ceremony was hosted by Newfoundland singer Kim Stockwood and Toronto TV personality Carla Collins.   Alanis Morissette won as director for her own video So Pure, but also lost to Kreviazuk in the pop adult album category. She's up for three awards tonight, best female artist, songwriter and best album for her latest, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie.

Best single went to Kingston, Ont., rock journeymen the Tragically Hip for Bobcaygeon. Vancouver's Matthew Good Band won best rock album for Beautiful Midnight.   The year's best rap recording went to Toronto rapper Choclair for Ice Cold.   Best R&B/soul recording was Thinkin' About You, by 2Rude featuring Latoya and Miranda.   Reigning country queen Shania Twain was named country female artist. The Rankins, who lost family and band member John Morris Rankin in a car accident earlier this year, took best country group.  Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster won best instrumental album for In My Hands. Best alternative album - a hotly contested category that included much vaunted new bands Len, Danko Jones and Tricky Woo - went to Julie Doiron.

Tonight's show, hosted by teen group the Moffatts (triplets Bob, Clint, and Dave and brother Scott), will still be the main attraction, with the big prizes such as album of the year and star performances, including one from Grammy-winning jazz singer Diana Krall.


Tal Bachman takes two on sparsely attended Juno Awards Opening Night

March 12, 2000 - Canadian Press - Andrew Flynn

TORONTO -- The first night of Tal Bachman's first Junos was a double whammy Saturday -- the rookie musician picked up a pair of awards.

Like most of the big winners, Vancouver's Bachman wasn't there to pick up his awards. But the quadruple nominee will get a shot at another one tonight -- this year the Junos are divided into two separate evenings.

Bachman, 30, who scored a hit last year with his first single, She's So High, took best producer and best new solo artist.

"They keep telling me Tal was here, but I know he's not because I bump into him in bathrooms all the time ...," quipped co-host Kim Stockwood, accepting the award for best producer on his behalf.

Bachman lost in the best pop adult album category to Winnipeg singer Chantal Kreviazuk for her album Colour, Moving and Still, but the son of rock legend Randy Bachman is still up for best songwriter for his self-titled debut album.

In past years, the non-televised awards were crammed into two hours just before cameras rolled on the main event. To give the 31 off-air nominees a chance to relax and enjoy themselves, the academy presented their awards Saturday at a champagne dinner at the Metro Convention Centre.

But nearly half of the winners didn't appear to accept their awards, among them some big names: Cape Breton fiddler Natalie McMaster, the Tragically Hip, Alanis Morissette, Shania Twain and Bruce Cockburn.

Daisy Falle, president of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, said she hopes more winners show up at next year's planned double-Juno nights.

"I think it probably takes time when you do it for the first time they don't realize what a great event it is," she said after the show.

"They probably thought it was more of the same thing when we used to have the hour in front of the telecast -- get up and get your award, sit down sort of thing. I think there were enough people here who thought it was a success."

Saturday's ceremony was hosted by Newfoundland singer Stockwood and Toronto TV personality Carla Collins and featured performances by Quebec folk band La Bottine Souriante, country singer Tara Lyn Hart, reggae artists Willi Williams and the Luge Sessions and young R&B pop duo Sangia.

Morissette won as director for her own video So Pure, but also lost to Kreviazuk in the pop adult album category. She's up for three awards tonight, best female artist, songwriter and best album for her latest, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie.

Best single went to Kingston, Ont., rock journeymen the Tragically Hip for Bobcaygeon. Vancouver's Matthew Good Band won best rock album for Beautiful Midnight.

The year's best rap recording went to Choclair for Ice Cold. The Toronto rapper said despite the low turnout of winners, he favours the two-night Junos, "as long as they televise both nights."

"Every artist deserves to be on the televised awards," he said.

Best R&B/soul recording was Thinkin' About You, by 2Rude featuring Latoya and Miranda.

Reigning country queen Twain was named country female artist. The Rankins, who lost family and band member John Morris Rankin in a car accident earlier this year, took best country group.

"This one's for Johnny M," said Heather Rankin, accepting the award with brother Jimmy for the now-disbanded group.

MacMaster won best instrumental album for In My Hands. Best alternative album -- a hotly contested category that included much vaunted new bands Len, Danko Jones and Tricky Woo -- went to Julie Doiron.

Cockburn's Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu won best solo roots and traditional album while the group award in that category went to Kings of Love by Blackie and the Rodeo Kings.

Tonight's show, hosted by teen group the Moffatts (triplets Bob, Clint, and Dave and brother Scott), will still be the main attraction, with the big prizes such as album of the year and star performances, including one from Grammy-winning jazz singer Diana Krall.

This time Krall is nominated in just one Juno category, the newly created best vocal jazz album, for When I Look in Your Eyes.

Also performing on tonight's show are the Barenaked Ladies, Great Big Sea, Our Lady Peace, Amanda Marshall, Kreviazuk, Prozzak, Choclair, Sharon Riley and Faith Chorale.

Morissette is scheduled to present Sarah McLachlan with the international achievement award, recognizing the huge international success of the Halifax-born singer and creator of the all-female Lilith Fair tour.

This year's inductee into the Canadian music hall of fame is Bruce Fairbairn, the Vancouver producer who worked with many of rock's legends, including KISS, Van Halen, Chicago, Yes and Loverboy.

Fairbairn died last May. He was 49.

A special achievement award was given posthumously to early recording pioneer Emile Berliner, marking the 100th anniversary of his registration of "His master's voice" as a trademark.

Berliner, who lived and worked briefly in Montreal, was instrumental in the founding of today's major record companies.

Backstage interviews from both nights will be featured on the Juno Web site at www.juno-awards.ca.


Nova Scotia artists score big at Junos
Rankin Family, MacMaster win
major awards

March 13, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By The Canadian Press

Toronto - The Rankin Family, who lost family and band member John Morris Rankin in a car accident earlier this year, were named best country group Saturday at the first night of the Juno Awards.  "This one's for Johnny M," said Heather Rankin, accepting the award with brother Jimmy for the now-disbanded group.

It was a night when East Coast musicians did well.   Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster won best instrumental album for In My Hands. Best alternative album - a hotly contested category that included much vaunted new bands Len, Danko Jones and Tricky Woo - went to Halifax's Julie Doiron.

Reigning country queen Shania Twain was named country female artist. Like most of the big winners, MacMaster wasn't there to pick up her award.

Neither was Vancouver's Tal Bachman who won twice. The quadruple nominee will get a shot at another one tonight - this year the Junos are divided into two separate evenings.

Bachman, 30, who scored a hit last year with his first single, She's So High, took best producer and best new solo artist.

"They keep telling me Tal was here, but I know he's not because I bump into him in bathrooms all the time ...," quipped co-host Kim Stockwood, accepting the award for best producer on his behalf.

Bachman lost in the best pop adult album category to Winnipeg singer Chantal Kreviazuk for her album Colour, Moving and Still, but the son of rock legend Randy Bachman is still up for best songwriter for his self-titled debut album.

In past years, the non-televised awards were crammed into two hours just before cameras rolled on the main event. To give the 31 off-air nominees a chance to relax and enjoy themselves, the academy presented their awards Saturday at a champagne dinner at the Metro Convention Centre.

But nearly half of the winners didn't appear to accept their awards, among them some big names: MacMaster, the Tragically Hip, Alanis Morissette, Twain and Bruce Cockburn.

Daisy Falle, president of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, said she hopes more winners show up at next year's planned double-Juno nights.

"I think it probably takes time when you do it for the first time they don't realize what a great event it is," she said after the show.

"They probably thought it was more of the same thing when we used to have the hour in front of the telecast - get up and get your award, sit down sort of thing. I think there were enough people here who thought it was a success."

Morissette won as director for her own video So Pure, but also lost to Kreviazuk in the pop adult album category.

Best single went to Kingston, Ont., rock journeymen the Tragically Hip for Bobcaygeon. Vancouver's Matthew Good Band won best rock album for Beautiful Midnight.

The year's best rap recording went to Choclair for Ice Cold. The Toronto rapper said despite the low turnout of winners, he favours the two-night Junos, "as long as they televise both nights."

"Every artist deserves to be on the televised awards," he said.

Best R&B/soul recording was Thinkin' About You, by 2Rude featuring Latoya and Miranda.

Cockburn's Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu won best solo roots and traditional album while the group award in that category went to Kings of Love by Blackie and the Rodeo Kings.

Sunday night's show, hosted by teen group the Moffatts (triplets Bob, Clint, and Dave and brother Scott), was set to be the main attraction, with the big prizes such as album of the year and star performances, including one from Grammy-winning jazz singer Diana Krall.

Krall was nominated in just one Juno category, the newly created best vocal jazz album, for When I Look in Your Eyes.

Morissette was scheduled to present Sarah McLachlan with the international achievement award, recognizing the huge international success of the Halifax-born singer and creator of the all-female Lilith Fair tour.

This year's inductee into the Canadian music hall of fame is Bruce Fairbairn, the Vancouver producer who worked with KISS, Van Halen, Chicago, Yes and Loverboy.   Fairbairn died last May. He was 49.

A special achievement award was given posthumously to early recording pioneer Emile Berliner, marking the 100th anniversary of his registration of "His master's voice" as a trademark.

Berliner, who worked briefly in Montreal, was instrumental in the founding of today's major record companies.


RCMP set to complete Rankin probe in month

March 16, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Tera Camus / Cape Breton Bureau

Inverness - It will likely take another month for RCMP to complete an investigation into the accident that killed musician John Morris Rankin.

Inverness RCMP Const. Shelby Miller wouldn't reveal whether charges are being considered, or whether a mound of salt on the road was a factor in the fatal crash on Jan. 16.

"It's all still under investigation because we haven't made a determination yet," he said during a telephone interview Wednesday. "It's taking longer than even I thought."  Const. Miller wouldn't say what's holding up the investigation.

A mound of salt was spilled onto Highway 219 near Margaree Harbour by a Department of Transportation plough, moments before the Celtic musician happened by with three teenagers, including his son Michael.

Mr. Rankin, 40, was driving the teens to an early morning hockey game in Cheticamp when he apparently swerved to avoid the salt, lost control on the snow- and ice-covered highway and plunged over a 25-metre cliff into the Atlantic Ocean. The surviving boys apparently jumped from the vehicle.

Part of the police investigation has concentrated on the mechanical workings of the plough and Mr. Rankin's sports utility vehicle.

In an interview with this newspaper days after the accident, John Archie Chisholm, the driver of the plough, said he was devastated. The longtime plough operator is still on compassionate leave.


MacMaster, Rankin 'Party' tickets on sale

March 16, 2000 - Halifax Herald

Tickets for another round of the Nova Scotia Kitchen Party, broadcast live on CBC Radio One from Halifax's Pier 21, go on sale today at 11 a.m.

These shows include the April 8 installment with Natalie and Buddy MacMaster, plus the Cape Breton godfather himself, John Allan Cameron.  On April 15, former Rankins' member Jimmy Rankin will be joining the Ennis Sisters and Richard Wood, while sister Raylene Rankin appears on the April 22 show with the Irish Descendants and the dynamic duo of fiddler Howie MacDonald and pianist Tracey Dares.

Tickets are $15 (plus service charges) and are available through the Metro Centre box office at (902) 451-1221 and all regular Sobeys ticket outlets.


Sons of Maxwell, Wood to play Springhill Irish Festival

March 29, 2000 - Halifax Herald

Sons of Maxwell and fiddler Richard Wood will headline the 2nd Springhill and Area Irish Festival of Cumberland County, June 9 to 11 in Springhill.

Sons of Maxwell, aka Dave and Don Carroll, Ontario natives who now make their home in Halifax, earned ECMA nominations in 1998, 1999 and 2000 and have toured Canada and Europe.

P.E.I. native Wood, an ECMA winner in 1998, has performed with Shania Twain, Natalie MacMaster, Bruce Guthro, Ashley MacIsaac, Heather Rankin, Sharon Shannon and Symphony Nova Scotia.

Also on the bill are the Miramichi Fiddlers, traditional Irish stepdancers and local favourites KIRN and Drimindown.

As well there are narrated bus tours, children's entertainment, art displays, a parade, non-denominational church service and visits from Glennie the Leprechaun.

Tickets go on sale May 1. For more information visit the Web site www.town.springhill.ns.ca or phone 597-8216.


John Morris Rankin passes away

March/April, 2000 - Canadian Musician

On January 16, 2000 one of Canada's most talented musicians and songwriters, John Morris Rankin, passed away.

Taking his son to his hockey game on that fateful day is when John Rankin's 4-runner dove off a 25-metre cliff into stormy seas in Cape Breton. His son and the two other teens that were with them managed to escape, John Morris didn't.

John Morris has been a part of EMI Music Canada's family as part of the Rankin Family later known as just the Rankins. The Rankins are touted as one of the leaders that brought the music of Atlantic Canada to the forefront.

John Morris was a master pianist and fiddle player and together with the other members brought home five Juno awards for their five albums, which also sold over 2 million copies.

More than 1,000 people jammed inside the church for the funeral services to pay their respects to the man that everybody loved.

Playing a couple of songs that John Morris wrote in the background were 80 fiddlers, guitar players and singers. Among the musicians were Cape Breton's own Ashley MacIsaac and Dennis Ryan of the Irish Rovers.


Doherty records Rankin tribute

April 6, 2000 - Halifax Herald

One thing you can say about Cape Breton traditional music is that the musicians are each other's biggest fans.

A good example is master fiddler Brenda Stubbert, who's written a tribute to the late John Morris Rankin that has been recorded by Irish fiddler (and honourary Cape Bretoner) Liz Doherty on her new CD Fiddlesticks.

Those who have heard it call it "a kicky little tune" and it's sure to be come a standard, not to mention the first of many recorded tributes to the multi-talented Mabou musician.


Tin Pan South 2000

(or the day the Canadians invaded Nashville)

April 6, 2000 - Too Hip Records

Jamie Warren, Thomas Wade, Jimmy Rankin and Lawnie Wallace were invited by SOCAN to participate in this year's TIN PAN SOUTH conference in Nashville. Carolyn Dawn Johnson (hey, you remember her from last year's CCMA's ... she wrote SINGLE WHITE FEMALE!) was the host of the CANADIAN SONGWRITERS NIGHT. It was held Thursday, April 6th at the Radio Cafe. Fun was had by all! Excellent music, excellent singing, excellent company!

Tons of Canadians (and smart Americans) came out to see the show.... Gil Grand, Steve Fox, Patricia Conroy, Shirley Myers, Beverley Mahood... etc., etc.  The folks at NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) put on a great seminar!

We had lots of fun at the seminar and lots of fun celebrating Jamie & Beth's birthdays (April 8 & 6 respectively).  A great big THANK YOU to SOCAN, and especially Lynn Foster and Marnie Thornton for a GREAT time! Thanks for inviting us, and all the hospitality! Thanks too to ASCAP and Ralph Murphy for dinner (hope you're feeling better Ralph!)

Hope you enjoy the pictures from our weekend in Nashville! (Thanks to Beth Warren for the photos below).

Jimmy Rankin wowed the crowd with his new songs
Jimmy Rankin wowed the crowd with his new songs


CANADIAN SONGWRITERS NIGHT - Socan's Marnie Thorton, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Jimmy Rankin, Socan's Lynn Foster, Jamie Warren, Lawnie Wallace and Thomas Wade


Jimmy Rankin, Lynn Foster and Jimmy's manager/wife Mia Rankin


Thomas, Jamie & Jimmy on the town


"I'm not taking the kleenex outta my ears until Lynn stops telling the story about how she met Henson Cargill...."


"I told ya to get that camera outta my face!!"


Rankin, Burgess to appear with Symphony

April 13, 2000 - Halifax Daily News - by Marla Cranston

Strap yourselves in for a global voyage - Symphony Nova Scotia's new season is taking Halifax orchestra fans around the world.

But a familiar face from home was the surprise highlight at yesterday's launch at the Rebecca Cohn auditorium.

Raylene Rankin, in a stylish slate-grey suit, gave the lunchtime crowd goosebumps with the spellbinding Gaelic ballad An Innis Aigh. Her pure, sweet voice had the biggest impact on her toddler Alexander in the back row, who made it perfectly clear those powerful Rankin pipes live on in the next generation. As soon as the singer left the stage, her son's wails filled the auditorium, as if on cue.

Rankin returns in the fall for the symphony's Maritime Roots concert, with conductor Scott Macmillan and Newfoundland's Bernard Felix and Normand Formanger. Other regional concerts include Mary Jane Lamond with Slainte Mhath, Barachois, Frank Leahy's tribute to Don Messer's fiddle, and a St. Patrick's Day romp with Denis Ryan and Newfoundland's newest treasures, the Ennis Sisters.

For the rest of the season, the symphony features the world's greatest composers, with concerts dubbed Arabian nights, Sweden's mystery, French romance, Russia's magnificence, British baroque, and the grand Germany of Beethoven and Mendelsson. Pops conductor Howard Cable plans a musical tour of tropical beaches in his Postcards from the Sand show, with tenor David Rogers of Phantom of the Opera fame. Michael Burgess of Les Miserables is coming too.

"I always wanted to be an airline pilot," quipped resident conductor Greg Burton, coming out in a pilot hat. Flags festooned the stage yesterday, and in her own assortment of foreign hats, Olga Milosovich was more tour guide than emcee. Even the launch invitations resembled passports.

Helming the new season while the symphony continues its search for Leslie Dunner's replacement is artistic adviser Simon Streatfield. Guest conductors also include Grant Llewellyn and baroque specialists Jeanne Lamon and Bernard Labadie.

There are two new series - Popular Classics, with Oscar-winning movie scores and favourite classics featuring local cellist Denise Djokic and pianist Peter Allan, and the Family Series for children ages five to 12, with the legendary Pied Piper of Hamelin, and How the Gimquat Found Her Song.


Symphony Nova Scotia gets more worldly in 2000-01 season

April 13, 2000 - Halifax Herald - By Stephen Pedersen / Arts Reporter

Symphony Nova Scotia will take its audiences to the world's favourite travel destinations next season.

SNS launched its 2000-01 season on Wednesday in the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium. The orchestra, in full concert trim, played a mini-concert of samples from the upcoming season which begins Sept. 26.

The current season ends April 29.

The music by Glinka, Handel, Albeniz, Ellington and Tchaikovsky ended with Raylene Rankin singing An Innis Aigh (The Happy Island), a Gaelic song from the Helen Creighton collection. Rankin is scheduled to open the Maritime Pops series
Oct. 6 with Bernard Felix and Normand Formanger. Scott Macmillan will conduct the orchestra.

"There's a taste of everything on the program," said SNS President Bob Geraghty. "I think people like it. I think we are getting more appeal for more people."

The launch focused on works by an international roster of composers from England, France, Germany and Italy - but, strangely, not the USA - to be performed as part of the nine-concert, flagship Celebrity Series. Canada will also be represented.

Guest artists include pianist Anton Kuerti, violinists Philippe Djokic and Erika Raum, violin/cello duo Gwen and Desmond Hoebig, flutist Patricia Creighton and pianist Alexander Tselyakov. Conductor Grant Llewellyn returns for two concerts.

The game of musical podiums will continue throughout the season, though with guest conductors rather than conductor candidates. Principal guest conductor and artistic advisor Simon Streatfield will direct five of nine main series concerts.

Conductors Greg Burton, Howard Cable and Scott Macmillan introduced the music to be played on six different concert series, and five additional Holiday and Special concerts - a total of 40 concerts, not counting school shows and runouts.

Burton and Cable will split the four concert Traditional Pops Series and guest soloists include Joelle Rabu re-enacting Edith Piaf's last concert, and tenors Michael Burgess and David Rogers.

Macmillan conducts all four Maritime Pops concerts, presenting, besides Rankin, Felix and Formanger, Mary Jane Lamond, Slainte Mhath, Barachois, and old-time fiddler Frank Leahy.

Two very positive signs emerged from the season programming. The trend to featuring local and symphony players as soloists continues, and the Baroque series, with four concerts, each to be led by a baroque specialist, including Jean Francois Rivest, Bernard Labadie, Hank Knox and Jeanne Lamond, a sign that this already popular series is likely to get even more popular.

Popular is the word for a new series called Popular Classics. Conducted and hosted by Timothy Vernon, the two-concert series features cellist Denise Djokic in a concert of movie music, and pianist Peter Allen playing your favorite warhorses - the Warsaw Concerto and Liszt's Piano Concerto in E-Flat.

Also new is the two-concert family series. On Oct. 22 Burton conducts How the Gimquat Found Her Song, and Charles Cozens directs the orchestra for The Pied Piper on April 1, 2001.

A Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute, Handel's Messiah and The Nutcracker are back, as well as the popular season-ender Beer and Beethoven (with Howard Cable).


Kitchen Party hot worldwide
Radio, Internet a perfect marriage for roots-centred music lovers

April 29, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Stephen Pedersen / Arts Reporter

The buzz in CBC Radio these last 11 weeks is the runaway success of the Nova Scotia Kitchen Party, the Celtic and roots-centred musical show broadcast live every Saturday afternoon from Pier 21's Heritage Hall.

In what the show's private sector executive producer Mike Laleune refers to as "back to the future," its technologically hip use of the Internet has expanded its country music audience to include the entire globe.

And the good news is the back-to-the-future marriage of old-fashioned radio and technology will be back next season.

Both Laleune and CBC executive broadcast producer John Dalton estimate that up to one million people tuned in every week.

"People write in e-mails over the Net while listening," Dalton says. We read some of them over the air during the show. It gives people a chance to say hello back.

"We've gotten e-mails from as far away as Australia and Turkey. The day we got one from Rome, Natalie MacMaster was on the show. 'Oh my gosh,' she said, 'I'm going to be in Rome next week!'

"Sometimes they are misplaced Maritimers. A woman in Calgary, her father in Kelowna, and her sister in Halifax listen together each week. It's a lovely marriage of old-fashioned radio with modern technology."

By "old-fashioned radio," Dalton means "live" radio, a genre that used to dominate the airwaves before the coming of television. No one is doing live radio these days, he says, or live TV either. And filling that slot with the format of a Maritime, family-based, rural entertainment like the kitchen party where anybody and everybody gets up to play a tune is, to extend Dalton's metaphor, a marriage made in heaven.

"A lot of what has been done for this series has never been done before," says Laleune. "CBC has never produced a show (on radio) with a private sector partnership."

Such partnerships are both common, and even mandatory in television production where Telefilm and the Video Fund require a filmmaker to have a TV broadcaster partner in order to access government funding.

Laleune believes that Nova Scotians have a deeply centred feeling for their music. "Our success in this style of music is well out of proportion to our size," he says.

"Other places have music which is identified with them - the waltz in Vienna, Motown in Detroit, country music in Nashville.

"I first pitched the idea to CBC three-and-a-half years ago. My requirement was that the music be Celtic-centred, roots/traditional. That's what people from outside think of our music.

"It was a fairly easy sell - it's motherhood. The difficulty was how to put it together. I had much less to do with the shape of the show."

CBC's Dalton says he thought of the show as "a Grand Old Opry kind of thing."

"An hour-long broadcast, live, on Saturday afternoon, with the fun of listening (or watching it), knowing it's live, with Max MacDonald as host."

The format Dalton came up with was to have two different invited acts and one continuing act each week. A headliner like Richard Wood or The Irish Descendants, plays a tune or a set right off the top of the show. Then the secondary act - like The Ennis Sisters, or Howie MacDonald with Tracey Dares and Dave MacIsaac sing a couple of songs or play a Cape Breton set.

The continuing act, on every show, is a Minnie Session of two songs with guitarist Scott Macmillan and a guest such as Jimmy or Raylene Rankin, performing in the kind of musical collaboration that has made Macmillan's three Minnie Session CDs so popular.

The headliner comes back then to play a half-hour concert segment. During breaks and pauses in the show, MacDonald reads e-mails received on site by technician Dermot Kenny, who prints them off and gives them to Dalton to choose two or three to be read on air.

Macmillan says the Minnie Session segment has so far premiered new songs and compositions from guests like Rita MacNeil, Lennie Gallant and Jerry Holland.

"In a way the Minnie Sessions are kind of closer to the idea of a kitchen party, because it's so flexible," Macmillan says.  "Sometimes we put it together almost on the spot - it's a little unpredictable - just like a kitchen party."

Following that idea out, Laleune and assistant producer Ron Bourgeois came up with the concept of a Rising Stars session in the capacious lobby outside Heritage Hall. It takes place an hour before the broadcast show, and features newcomers.

"The broadcast show has to be at a national broadcast level," Laleune says.

"But in a true kitchen party you have everybody, amateurs and professionals both, taking part. The Rising Stars spend the day with us, listen in to a rehearsal, have lunch with us where they can talk to people like Jimmy Rankin, for example, if they want to, and then perform in the lobby for an hour."

Every week 350 people crowd in to Heritage Hall for this popular Saturday afternoon. It has been selling out ever since it started. The reading of the e-mails enhances the excitement of the live radio show for the all-ages audiences.

When Max MacDonald asks everybody in the crowd to perform a "test yell" he begins to work up the kind of enthusiasm you hear every week right off the top of the show. Another kind of yell often goes up as it did when Max MacDonald read an e-mail from John Finbar Crowley in Ireland and a table full of his friends in Halifax gave voice to their feelings.

The first series of 11 Nova Scotia Kitchen Party shows, which began Feb. 19, ends this Saturday with Rawlins Cross, downeast fiddler Frank Leahy, and McGinty in a tribute to Stan Rogers. Macmillan will not be there because of a previous commitment to perform with Raylene Rankin and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra in Ontario. The words to Barrett's Privateers will be published on the program website, http://halifax.cbc.ca/kitchenparty/, for what Dalton is calling "the first ever Internet Singalong."


Rankin lands gig with Simon, indie film

May 11,  2000 - Halifax Herald

Heather Rankin has landed a role in the indie feature film, Scotland, PA., which begins filming in Halifax next week.

But before she steps into the role as nurse Peg she will be heading down to New York for two weeks to work with Carly Simon.

Heather will sing with Carly for tapings of ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday (May 16), on Late Night with David Letterman at CBS on Wednesday (May 17), The Rosie O'Donnell Show on May 22 and The View on ABC on May 23. Check local listings.

As for the film, Abandon Pictures of New York will be shooting Scotland, PA., well into June.

The producers are Richard Shepard and Jon Stern. It is written and directed by Billy Morrissette.


RCMP still probing Rankin death

May 19, 2000 - Halifax Herald

INVERNESS - RCMP are still investigating the traffic death of musician John Morris Rankin in January.

His vehicle left the road near Whale Cove, Inverness County, and went over a 25-metre embankment into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. His son, Michael, and two other teenagers escaped without injury.

Const. Shelby Miller says police are continuing to take statements, but that it's time-consuming to reach people.

"It's not an open-and-closed thing," he said Tuesday.

He said he hopes the investigation can be wrapped up soon, but wouldn't speculate when it would be finished.


Reunited Reels
Four Cape Breton fiddlers will play a new piece at this week's Scotia Music Festival

May 23,  2000 - Halifax Daily News

By Sandy MacDonald

Is there no place too tony for Cape Breton fiddle music? The heel-rocking rhythms and lilting melodies have been tumbling out of the country dance halls and front parlours into the fancy concert halls and outdoor festival stages around the world.

This week, four of the best Cape Breton fiddlers bring their music to the annual Scotia Festival of Music, sharing the secrets of cut bowing, grace notes and dotted time rhythms with eager students and music fans.

They're among more than 20 guest faculty artists at the Halifax festival.

Now into its 21st season, Scotia Festival of Music invites the cream of young classical players from North America and abroad to expand their musical education through a series of master classes and concerts with world-class musicians.

But the learning experience is not limited to just the 50 chosen students - for a nominal $5 a session, the public can sit in on the open lessons.

"Everyone takes away something on their own level," says Christopher Wilcox, founder and managing director of the festival. Over a two-week span, the festival celebrates music with concerts, open rehearsals, master classes, lectures and recitals.

Among those "master" musicians this year are the four Cape Breton fiddlers - Buddy MacMaster, Carl MacKenzie, Howie MacDonald and Dave MacIsaac. This year's composer-in-residence, Scott Macmillan, has written a piece for four fiddlers and string quartet, simply dubbed The Set. He says it was inspired by Cape Breton dances held in packed halls in Glencoe Mills, West Mabou and other communities.

The 25-minute commissioned piece is built around three musical figures that characterize a typical dance set - two groups of jigs and a third of group of reels.

Macmillan has constructed what he calls `vignettes' within the set where the fiddlers trade off measures with the chamber players.

Macmillan is excited about the fusion, as he weaves traditional reels, jigs and strathspeys with his original tunes, sparking a melding of musical traditions.

"Having gone to the Cape Breton dances for so long, this was a nice form for this music," said Macmillan, from his country home in Cape Breton. "It was a fun piece to write, because I had the balance of the four fiddlers and the four (classical) players.

"The Cape Breton players will know the tunes ... the tricky part will be getting the whole ensemble into the rhythm."

Wilcox has been interested for some time in bringing fiddle music to his chamber music festival.

"My dream was to go back in the woods of Cape Breton and discover some of these guys myself - which was pretty stupid," laughs Wilcox. "Anyone who was any good was already known."

Wilcox started talking with Ashley MacIsaac last fall about performing in the festival.

But with the monsoon of bad publicity around MacIsaac's controversial New Year's Eve show, Scotia Fest backed off the booking and decided instead to bring on the four other fiddlers.

Wilcox moved to Halifax in 1967 to play clarinet with the then-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra.

He's developed the highly regarded music festival to where it now supports two full-time employees year round, with a budget of almost $400,000 a year. Sable Gas is on board as the leading corporate sponsor, contributing almost 10 per cent of the festival's total budget.

A huge slice of the festival's fundraising comes through its annual car raffles - last year Scotia Fest raised $162,000 through the car draws.

Through the festival, there are almost 60 events open to the public, from the master classes to the evenig concerts, including a gala Cape Breton ceilidh in the Rebecca Cohn.

Writing music for eight musicians with a Celtic edge and a classical approach is nothing new for the multitalented Macmillan. He also composed for The Octet, an eclectic ensemble of local players in the late '80s.

Macmillan has several other pieces being performed during the festival. Each night, a concert will be presented at the Sir James Dunn Theatre, featuring both the visiting students and the master players.

In addition to The Set (which will be performed May 31) Macmillan has written a piece for solo viola, a choral arrangement for the 35-voice Aoelian Singers based on a Sheree Fitch poem, some string quartets and a solo electric guitar piece called The Navigator, which Macmillan will perform himself.

"The festival is a chance to try out new things," says Macmillan, who attended in the mid-90s, taking some conducting classes.

Other guest artists this year include The Duke Quartet, a cutting - edge string quartet from England; virtuoso pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin and Cape Breton-style pianist Mary Jessie MacDonald.

To get tickets - For details on individual concerts, classes and tickets, call Scotia Festival of Music at 902-429-9467.


Springhill MusicFest nabs some of Canada's best

May 25,  2000 - Halifax Herald

Three-day event set for August

By Tom McCoag / Amherst Bureau

Springhill - Rita MacNeil's performance at the second annual Springhill MusicFestival this summer will cap three days of top flight East Coast music, the festival organizer promises.

"This will be the hottest event this summer in the Maritimes," Bernie Melanson said Tuesday as he listed the acts for the three-day event, Aug. 4-6.

Joining the Cape Breton singing star in the lineup are Blue Rodeo, Lennie Gallant, Kim Stockwood, Valdy, Gordie Sampson, Shirley Myers, Laura Smith, Barachois, Glamour Puss, Sons of Maxwell, the Fables and John Curtis Sampson.

"As you can see, this lineup is laced with ECMA winners; the best there is in East Coast music," said Melanson, who recently organized the Care Canada Concert for Kosovo.

"The great thing is, all of these great performers are all going to be here all at the same time, and not out west somewhere as they usually are.

"Those aren't all of them either. We have some surprises that we are working on. We will let you know about them at a later date."

One of those surprises could be Men of the Deeps. Melanson would only say he is negotiating with the Cape Breton singing group.

He would not say if Springhill songbird Anne Murray will be back at the festival she launched last summer in her home town.

Fans will see some changes, particularly in the length of time each performer is on stage. Last year, only headliners like Murray put on full concerts. Most of the other performers were on stage for only about half an hour.

This year, supporting performers will play for a full hour and headliners "will be on for 90 minutes plus," Melanson said.

In addition, the beer tent is being expanded into a second stage known as the Moosehead Melody Tent. It will come alive with various bands after each headline act ends at 11 p.m. The beer tent lineup includes perennial crowd-pleaser Matt Minglewood.

"This way we will have music going until 2 a.m. each night of the festival," Melanson said.

Organizers also plan to hold a songwriting seminar and a display of new musical instruments, including some computer-assisted ones.

They will also have a children's midway and a display of special effects by Streamer Effects International, an internationally recognized special effects company that does work for Disney World.

Last year's inaugural festival attracted more than 11,000 people. Tickets for this year's event are now on sale.

The first 5,000 customers can get weekend passes for $49.95 plus handling and HST. After those are gone, passes will cost $59.95 in advance and $69.95 at the gate.

Passes for children aged six to 12 are $20 in advance and $25 at the gate.

Tickets are available through the Springhill MusicFestival office and the Moncton Coliseum box office.


Scotland, PA up and filming

May 25,  2000 - Halifax Herald

It's spring and film production is beginning to heat up in Nova Scotia. You'll never know who you may pass on the street, meet at the gym, or find sitting at the next table.

Several films are already cooking, including the independent feature film Scotland, PA. which began shooting a football scene in Shannon Park last Wednesday. Film is rolling this week in Harrietsfield.

The Abandon Pictures of New York production stars James LeGros (Ally McBeal, Drugstore Cowboy, Born on the Fourth of July), Academy Award winner Christopher Walken (The Prophecy, The Funeral, The Dear Hunter), Maura Tierney (Liar, Liar, Primary Colours, Instinct), Andy Dick (NewsRadio, Inspector Gadget) and James Rebhorn (Third Watch, Snow Falling on Cedars, The Talented Mr. Ripley).

It is written and directed by Billy Morrissette.

Scotland, PA. is based on life in a Scotland, Pennsylvania diner in the early 1970s and is apparently a spoof on Macbeth. It will also star Heather Rankin as nurse Peg.

Producers are Richard Shepard and Jon Stern.

The Tattler has some correspondence with people who happened to be on a tread mill next to Jame LeGros and Maura Tierney at the Y.

The film is expected to shoot in the province until the end of June.


Gracie's career takes family on tour across Big Country
ECMA winner one of hardest working singers in the business

June 3, 2000 - Halifax Herald

By Andrea Nemetz / Entertainment Reporter

Life on tour works for three-time ECMA male artist of the year John Gracie because it's a family affair.

His wife, Andree, is his manager and she and their kids Samantha, 10, and Nash, 9, travel with him on the summer festival circuit.  This year that circuit takes him across Nova Scotia, to P.E.I. and Ontario with a stop in Edmonton, June 18 and 19 for a celebrity golf tournament and concert and a tour of U.S. Eastern seaboard in September.

"It's not back-breaking touring on the festival circuit," says Gracie over cappucino at the Second Cup.

"It's not a four-hour concert night after night. I probably wouldn't enjoy it as much if I was doing it on my own - but we do a concert in the afternoon and then hit the beach. The kids really look forward to that kind of summer."

Among the highlights of this summer are an appearance as a mainstage act at Hamilton's Festival of Friends, which attracts 200,000 visitors, the Festival of the Islands in Gananoque, Ont., and the Soundwaves Music Festival in Ottawa on Canada Day.

Closer to home he'll be at: the Pictou Lobster Carnival, July 6; the Tall Ships Celebration, July 17 to 23; Ship's Company Theatre in Parrsboro, July 24, a return engagement after a sold-out show last year; the Riverfront Jubilee in New Glasgow, Aug. 6; Digby Scallop Days, Aug. 8; and Hank Snow Tribute Concerts in Bridgewater and Halifax Aug. 19 and 20 among other engagements.

Growing up Gracie was influenced by Snow, whom he calls one of Nova Scotia's three genuine superstars along with Anne Murray and Sarah MacLachlan.

"He was born in the 1920s in rural Nova Scotia and conquered the music business selling 85 million records, which is no small achievement.

"My father was a Hank Snow fan and so was my cousin, Terry Gracie, a fantastic musician who sang, played sax and harmonica and who was a popular bar singer in Cape Breton.

"When I got a call to do a tribute during the ECMAs my first call was to Terry to see what the best Hank Snow songs were."

Gracie was supposed to perform in a seven-minute tribute to Hank Snow at the ECMAs in February. But the show's producers opted to pay tribute to John Morris Rankin, who died Jan. 16 in a highway accident and lead into a commercial break with a brief clip of Snow.

Gracie pulled out of the show altogether and Andree accepted his third ECMA trophy, which Gracie sees as a perfect scenario, because of her contribution to his success.

While he knew for a long time the ECMAs were coming up Gracie's nomination for the Big Country Award's outstanding new male vocalist came out of the blue. The awards are based on RPM weekly chart positions between Nov. 1, 1998 and Jan. 31, 2000 and will be presented in Toronto on June 9.

"It's pretty cool to be nominated against someone like Jim Cuddy (the other nominees are John Landry, Chad Klinger and Kevin Waara) and the fact the award is based on chart performance means we are getting a lot of airplay."

He doesn't see himself as a country artist, despite the fact his new video, What's This Love Coming To, is getting lots of airplay on CMT.

The sexy video, featuring Canadian model INEZ, who just signed a $2 million US modelling contract, is the story of a young couple who are fighting.

"I'm a music fan," explains Gracie, who has released six albums in an 11-year period including 1999's Identity.

"I listen to everything and that is reflected in my music. I have a real difficulty understanding how a performer can do one style of music all the time and I can't imagine listening to one kind of music all day. Growing up, I listened to CJCB in Sydney which was easy listening in the morning, country in the afternoon and rock 'n' roll at night.

"To me country music is a focused form of folk music. Depending on the focus, folk can be roots/traditional, country or pop - it's all empathetically oriented."

Gracie has not one but four new albums in the works. A live album is the first up, recorded on the road over 20 dates and mixed and mastered at R and B Studios in Halifax with co-producer Ross Billard. As well there's a second Christmas Album, and John Gracie - The Songwriter, a project he's doing with a marketing company in Toronto. There's also a compilation disc for the Metro Food Bank which features Gracie's Pass It On, and artists including Liz Rigney, Lennie Gallant and Terry Kelly.


Howie's Brewin' comedy, music

June 8,  2000 - Halifax Herald

Celtic Brew bubbles over with C.B. talent

By Elissa Barnard / Arts Reporter Joella Foulds

When fiddler Howie MacDonald and his sisters were kids they put up a blanket next to the furnace and staged a play for neighbourhood kids.

Now, they're back at it, but the price of admission is higher than a nickel.

Howie MacDonald and sisters Marilyn and Cheryl have concocted Howie's Celtic Brew, a show of sketch and character comedy, traditional Cape Breton music and Cape Breton stepdance. It opens tonight in Glace Bay and tours Nova Scotia.

Directed by Bette MacDonald, produced by Rave Entertainment, the show ostensibly replaces the Cape Breton Summertime Revue.

Not exactly, says Howie, the show's musical director and principal comedian. "I've been thinking about this for years."

Howie MacDonald, of Westmount, across the harbour from Sydney, is best known as a fiddler. He toured all over the world with the Rankins, has put out two cassettes and six CDs, recently did a mini-tour of Nova Scotia with his friend, fiddler Ashley MacIsaac, and was in Halifax last week on the Scotia Festival of Music faculty.

However, he has been interested in comedy "since I was born," he said, during a break from the Scotia Festival.

"We used to hold concerts in the basement when we were kids. We had our father's lunch can and some hard hats and we'd dress up in work clothes and stuff," says Howie. His father worked for CNR.

Now he wants to explore the world of comedy, developing an act as a fiddler/comic. For that he needs to get out in public.

"You can sit at your kitchen table and you play music and you're learning and growing and getting better. With comedy you can't make yourself laugh, you have to have somebody there even if it's your kids."

MacDonald, who did a comic turn with the 1997 Cape Breton Summertime Revue, was in the Nancy White Jokebox at the ECMAs in February and performed this spring at the Ha!ifax Comedy Festival. But before he goes out across the country with a solo act as a fiddlin' comic, "I thought I should stay home and educate myself as to what I feel comfortable doing."

Howie also wanted to be closer to his wife and two daughters after summers spent away from home touring.

He approached Joella Foulds, of Rave Entertainment, producers of the revue, and called on his sisters in Westmount, Marilyn, a singer, teacher's assistant, and mother of three including a three-month-old, and Cheryl, a mother of two boys and a psychology student.

"He asked Mar and I if we'd be a part of it and we were completely honoured," says Cheryl, who step dances, acts in the comic sketches and also did some writing.

"It's a nice change for Mar and I. We're home with our kids a lot. It's a chance to get back into the music and what we love."

The show is different from the Cape Breton Summertime Revue, she says, because it focuses a lot on music which is fiddle-based though ventures into jazz and even gospel and features a piano solo by Tracey Dares.

"The music in the show is absolutely fabulous and there's a lot of dancing in the show. It's music and dancing and we added some comedy," says Cheryl, talking on the phone from the mall on her way home from rehearsal.

She, Marilyn, their mother, who was a MacDonald, Howie and another sister, Evelyn, used to play festivals in Cape Breton as the MacDonald family.

"Every summer we were on the road from Broad Cove to Glendale." Glendale was their big destination, since their grandmother, mother and uncles hail from Glendale. "My father's father played the fiddle. My mother and her brothers played the fiddle.

"Our grandmother, we're hoping she will make it to the show. She'll be 102 in September."

Apart from Marilyn and Cheryl, the Brew team features Tracey Dares-MacNeil, piano/dance; Al Bennett, band leader/guitar/bass/fiddle; Matt Foulds, percussion/comedy; Patrick Gillis, guitar/fiddle; sisters Helen and Dawn MacDonald who fiddle and step-dance and are no relation to Howie, and John Chaisson, vocals/guitar.

"I've got a great bunch of people who are enthusiastic about what they do," says Howie.

They are also a great support system.

"When I did the comedy fest, it was so intense. The comedians were backstage going over their parts. They were pacing and it was not as lighthearted as I thought. These guys take their work very seriously and I was the new guy on the block.

"This show is a step back from that. I have people supporting me. "

Howie got together with Sydney playwright/director Kennie Chisholm to write sketches, which Bette MacDonald helped to shape.

"The characters are characters myself and my sisters have been doing most of our lives and the sketches were written with these people in mind.

"We started imitating funny characters in the country," says Cheryl, "and one thing led to another and here we are.

Howie's comic influences include Jack Benny, "the John Byner type of comedy" in Bizarre and the early Rise and Follies. "I thought they were really cool. It was something I had never seen before other than at the house."

He adores Jim Carrey, saw his latest film about Andy Kaufman ("it was very good") and got Carrey's biography for Christmas. He calls Carrey brilliant. "I think he's original. He never stops improving, he's always got something new going on."

Howie, himself, has plans for something new in the future.

"This is safer for me at this point. The other ideas that are in the back of my mind are on hold. I have a lot of Star Trek humour going on back there," he says with a smile.

For now, Howie is anxious to see how people react to his Celtic Brew. "I can't settle down till it starts. We really don't know how it's going to go over. All we have to do is see what people think. If it's any good we'll be back in August."

"I hope everything goes well for Howie," says Cheryl. "Mar and I are so glad to be a part of it with him and we really hope he gets what he wants out of the show: a good turnout and lots of people to enjoy it. We hope people come and they laugh and they have fun."

For tour dates, visit the Band Members Concerts Page.


A different shade of bluegrass
Atlantic Blue may be the most quintessentially Maritime album ever made

June 17,  2000 - Halifax Herald

By Stephen Cooke / Entertainment Reporter

The disc began as simply a special edition of CBC Radio's Atlantic Airwaves, combining some of the East Coast's best performers with superior examples of the region's songwriting, but it soon blossomed into a landmark cross-pollination of roots genres. Country, Celtic, Acadian and gospel all gathered to shake hands in a seamless meeting of musical minds.

The resulting effort, assembled at CBC Radio's Studio H on Sackville Street and labelled The Atlantic Newgrass Project by producer Karl Falkenham, was too good to let disappear into the ether after a single broadcast.

Like the project's title indicates, the foundation for Atlantic Blue is a progressive style of bluegrass using traditional players like J.P. Cormier on guitar and banjo and Ray Legere on mandolin and fiddle, plus backing vocals by Alan and Rick Spinney of Spinney Brothers and Close Company and Nadine Sarty and Angie Armstrong from the ECMA-winning bluegrass group Exit 13.

What makes the CD more universal is the choice of songs by the likes of Lennie Gallant, Ron Hynes, Rita MacNeil and John Morris Rankin, sung by a roster of guest vocalists including Cindy Church, Raylene Rankin, JeanMarc Doiron and Four the Moment's Delvina Bernard.

"Everyone we called wanted to be involved in this," says Falkenham. "There were lots of moments like when we asked Cindy Church to sing Ron Hynes' Atlantic Blue and she'd say 'Sure, he's one of my favourite writers!'

"Then I'd call up Ron and tell him Cindy was doing the song and he'd say 'I love her voice, she's perfect for it.' "

For the late John Morris Rankin's heartfelt tribute to his grandmother, The Eyes of Margaret, Falkenham called up one of his favourite local voices, Kevin Evans of the folk duo Evans and Doherty, to give the song the sensitive treatment it deserved.

"We actually recorded it a month or so before John Morris passed away, so it wasn't done as a tribute in that sense," recalls Evans. "It was just a great song that I wanted to sing the best I could.

"In fact, after we rehearsed the song, we did an initial test recording and Karl must have liked what he heard because he told me, 'That's the one.' And as it turned out, it was that first take he used on the record."

Send an email for info on obtaining this wonderful CD.


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