Saturday, 17 July 2010

Give Me A Place To Stand

At the impressionable age of seventeen, with my good friend Campbell Gordon, I was lucky enough to travel East to West on the Trans-Canada Railway; the CN route that went through Jasper, Alberta and the Fraser River canyon, ending in Vancouver. As a non-stop passenger service, the route has long since been discontinued, more's the pity.
Anyway, I recently came across the twenty-minute Super 8 cine film I shot from the train. It starts with two minutes of Montreal and ends with two minutes of Vancouver Island and the magificent Empress Hotel, Victoria (by night, when the facade is - was - etched by a thousand little pinpricks of light).
In between, apart from a lengthy single shot of the ubiquitous miles and miles of golden wheat in Saskatchewan, there are fifteen-minutes of rocks, and lakes and trees; the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen and a part of the world which I would dearly love to revisit, and at less than sixty miles an hour: Northern Ontario.
I still think about those high-speed glimpses through the trackside trees, of grassy meadows fringed with tamarack and bouldered shorelines giving onto water as clear as air.
Incidentally, Campbell taught me several Provincial anthems as we sped through the lands that inspired them. Most have since been reduced in my mind to snippets or opening lines, stirring but long since orphaned - "Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan.." and "In the wilds of Nova Scotia.." -  but the Ontario anthem has stayed with me to this day, even if the tune escapes me. I particularly enjoy the last line of each verse, which always makes me smile (in a good way):-

Give us a place to stand, and a place to grow
And call this land Ontario.
A place to live for you and me
With hopes as high as the tallest tree.
Give us a land of lakes, and a land of snow
And we will build Ontario
A place to stand, a plce to grow

From western hills to northern shores.
To Niagra Falls, where the waters roar.
Give us a land of peace, where the free winds blow.
And we will build Ontario
A place to stand, a place to grow

It turns out the song was written by Dolores Claman as the theme tune for the short film A Place To Stand. The film was made for the Ontario presence at Expo 67 in Montreal, and won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 1968. The film was edited by Christopher Chapman, who used it to premiere a multiple-screen editing technique he called "multi-dynamic image technique", which was later adopted by Norman Jewison to memorable effect in the Steve McQueen movie The Thomas Crown Affair.

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