The release of Baie Sainte-Marie in 1979 was to propel the Cano group into a dazzling trail blazing experience right across Canada.
Written as a tribute to Cano singer-songwriter Marcel Aymar’s father, Baie Sainte-Marie is actually the result of an eight-hand collaboration. “Baie Sainte-Marie really was the first song we wrote together as a group,” Marcel Aymar recalled. “I brought in my ideas, the music and the lyrics. From there, we started working on the arrangements. With Cano, you could be sure that the song wouldn’t last just three or four minutes!”
David Burt, John Doerr and Wasyl Kohut all made contributions to the piece in the band’s rehearsal space. The song opens with the cries of invisible seagulls flying over the seashore, and with the shrill marine melodies that Kohut beautifully recreated on the violin. Baie Sainte-Marie, however, is not about marine life. It is a song that brings Aymar back to the Acadian fishing community of Meteghan, Nova Scotia, and to the fish scent of his youth through the memory of the father he adored. “The Acadian wind is my dad / In my dad / I so much want to see myself / I want to thank him / For what he has given me.” It is both a tribute and a declaration of filial love from the child who had left him to stand on his own feet.
At the beginning of the song’s fifth minute, Doerr’s trombone meets with the trombone of Aymar’s dad, thus creating an instrumental father-son duo whose high symbolism echoes the song lyrics. “I am making a reference to what my father gave me on all levels, including not just the Acadian culture, but also the love of life and family,” the lyricist explained. “It’s being expressed in a general way, but it’s personal also. I was very fortunate to grow up in an outstanding family with lots of love. We weren’t rich, my dad was the town’s barber, but it was an extraordinary family situation to be in. That’s why I’m thanking him, but there was also an identity matter to some extent. I had spent the first 18 or 19 years of my life in Nova Scotia, and, at that time, I was living in Sudbury where I had found a second family.”
The album Tous dans l’même bateau, which gave birth to Baie Sainte-Marie, was a smash hit that appealed to progressive rock lovers of both official languages, thus bringing together the two solitudes at the height of the constitutional debate. Selling 35,000 copies and supported by DJs who were playing the FM band at the time, this LP opened the doors of concert halls across the country while providing a voice to the Franco-Ontarian population which, more often that not, was a stranger to its counterpart in La Belle Province.
The Cano venture came to an end after 10 years due to the tragic deaths of the band leader André Paiement and violinist Wasyl Kohut. David Burt has since lent his talent to other Canadian artists including Robert Paquette. Now living in Toronto, he is involved in the francization of adult newcomers.
As for Marcel Aymar and John Doerr, they created the production company Majoma with the contribution of their colleague Marc Cholette – who was not a member of Cano. Together, the trio created the sound design of the CBC’s Seoul Olympic Games programming in 1988. That same year, Aymar and Jean-Marc Dalpé co-starred in Cris et Blues, a multidisciplinary show that was created by Brigitte Haentjens at Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario and toured across Canada until 1990. Nearly two decades after releasing his début solo album, Aymar is currently producing a series of song documentaries and videos featuring people from Baie Saint-Marie. That place is in Marcel Aymar’s blood, and he will continue to go back to it.