Ontario Bi-Centennial Show – 30th Anniversary

May 16 this year is a special day for me. It marks the 30th anniversary of the first performance of the Ontario Bi-Centennial Show that I wrote back in 1984.  The show was commissioned by the Ontario government, produced by Humber College, and cast with Humber students. I wrote the entire show (words and music), and Ron Collier’s arranging students scored my charts.  Don Calderwood and Paula Gallivan directed and choreographed it.

The show premiered on May 16, 1984 in Bothwell, Ontario, and played again the next day in Petrolia. Then on a schedule of four locations per week (from May to Labour Day), it toured the whole province. The cast of 12 and the 8-piece band travelled in a large school bus. Two tractor-trailers were needed to transport all the portable stage, lights, sound equipment, props and costumes for this huge undertaking. The cast and musicians performed to a high standard, and I was proud of the show and everyone involved in it. I heard that the government and the college were pleased with the outcome as well.

Performers and musicians - Ontario Bi-Centennial Show 1984

Performers and musicians – Ontario Bi-Centennial Show 1984

However, all along the way the question kept getting asked: “The bicentennial of what?”  The truth is – to us at the time, the answer was immaterial.  We were performers, not historians. Give us a budget, a theme, and a venue, and we set our focus on the performance.

The official answer was that it was the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists in Ontario. I later heard that the province’s history had been “massaged” a little to provide a convenient promotional opportunity in a pre-election year. No matter. It was a feel-good event.  And it was built up to be so big that the Queen was even invited to come to Canada (about a month after our show closed) to participate in a tree-planting ceremony at the Legislative Building.

But back to our show – of which I am still very proud.  Do any of you have any memories of it to share?  Please leave a comment below.



Filed under Theatre

7 responses to “Ontario Bi-Centennial Show – 30th Anniversary

  1. ah politics and musicians, the two just go together 😉 I read recently of how, during the American Civil War, many of the negro regimental bands played for *both* sides of the war, simply because they were the best. As you say, as musicians, we’re really just in it for a chance to deliver *our* message!

    Is this the concert that featured a work called “Celebrate Ontario” by I think it was Pete Coulter? Our city band has a hand-written score for this (long since missing parts) and we’ve had very little luck in tracing down the history of the piece beyond it being “for the bi-centennial” and the library had a lyric sheet that suggested the original was scored with a chorus. It’s always a crowd pleaser.

  2. Hi Gary:
    Thanks so much for your comment. Very true — we just love to play.
    I am not familiar with the piece called Celebrate Ontario. It was not part of this show and haven’t heard any history about it. Wish I could be more helpful.
    Keep up the good playing.

  3. well it *was* the bi-centennial, which was a pretty big thing, so I suppose yours wasn’t the only show. My quest goes on! 🙂

  4. Elma Maendel

    Hi Howard, I’m a teacher in Manitoba and am in search of a recording of the song “The Bee Song” by Catherine McKinnon. Would you be able to direct me as to where I can find it please. I understand (from Linda Cobon, the Manager at Records and Archives that you may be able to help me. Do you have the copyrights that would enable you to send me obtain a digital copy and/or the sheet music for use in the classroom?
    Thanks so much!
    Elma Maendel, principal
    Brennan School

  5. Hi Elma: I remember the song. It is from Sing Sea To Sea. I am not sure where the music is, but I’ll look through my library to see if I have it. In the meantime you may want to contact Don Harron, as he was the one who wrote the words to the piece and the one who encouraged Catherine to record it.
    Best regards, Howard

  6. Elma Maendel

    Thanks Howard,

    Linda Coban (Manager, Records and Archives | Exhibition Place) thinks that you might have the copyright to the arrangement and could perhaps send us the sheet music. She has access to the digitized file of the song and could send it to us for use in the classroom. But first needs your approval. Would you be able to grant us your approval please? This Song (“The Bee Song”) is ideal for teaching the concept and importance of community and would be a real asset to our unit on this topic.
    I look forward to hearing from you!

  7. Eric Delson

    Hello Mr. Cable,

    I would like to know if your arrangement (SSA) of the Marriage of Figaro Overture is also available for SATB voices. Many Thanks,

    Dr. Eric Delson
    Musical Director
    Brussels Choral Society
    Brussels Belgium

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