Forty Things I Love About Canadian Spaces
by Joyce MacPhee
Sept. 28, 2019
- I love the fact that a friend told me about the show in its second year, 39 years ago, and I have been a Space Cadet ever since!
- I love the theme music for Canadian Spaces, Sunrise II by David Essig. It is a beautiful song and I never get tired of hearing it.
- I love that the show is broadcast live on Saturdays, a day when I can usually relax and listen. It is always a bright spot in my weekends. Of course, I can access Canadian Spaces anytime on CKCU on Demand!
- I loved it when Chopper would say “It’s time to put on the kettle, make yourself a pot of your favourite hot brown drink, and stick around for 40 minutes of uninterrupted folk.” This tagline is used to this day. Chopper’s imaginative use of language was demonstrated in many other great expressions like, “Sounds like six bucks!”
- I loved Chopper’s voice – soothing, expressive and easy on the ears. The word mellifluous comes to mind. One friend of Chopper’s described it as being “like warm butterscotch on a cold winter morning”.
- I love that the music evokes so many wonderful images in the mind of the listener. For example, songs like Sea and Sun and Sand and Sky…
- I love the Forty Minutes of Uninterrupted Folk. I always hear songs both familiar and new, but all are interesting.
- I love that at the end of the 40 minutes, the host lets you know the titles of the songs, and the artist and throws in a few anecdotes to boot.
- I love that you can listen to the show while you are busy cooking, cleaning or doing anything else you might need to do on a Saturday morning. Also it’s portable. Over the years, people have listened to the show on radios, walkmans, cassette tapes and now on phones. Others listened to it on what Chopper called a BFR.
- I love simply that the show focuses on Canadian folk music. I’m so glad that Chopper ignored the person who told him that he would run out of Canadian folk music in a few months!
- I love that it includes music from Canadian Space Invaders, meaning non-Canadian musicians, especially American folk performers.
- I love that there are often guests performing live in the studio.
- I love that the show incorporates a lot of humour. Chopper’s good friend, musician Bob Stark, described it as a show where “Chopper keeps the fun factor high”. And of course, Chris White and his numerous co-hosts have followed this lead with humorous banter and tracks. Where else could you hear lyrics like “Polyester Polly lit a tire fire in my heart?” or Canadian cult classics like “Vampire Beavers”?
- I love that the show has truly made a difference in the lives of many musicians. Jane Siberry, for example, was so grateful for the support she received from Canadian Spaces and CKCU that she sent the station a gold record that is displayed in the studio.
- I love that the show includes music by Indigenous peoples of Canada, such as Susan Aglukark early in her career. Susan went on to incredible success and earned many honours, including the Order of Canada and honorary degrees, and recently had three sold-out shows at the National Arts Centre accompanied by the NAC Orchestra.
- I love that the show introduced me to new artists I had never heard before such as Ferron, among many others I heard first on Canadian Spaces.
- I love that when the hosts interview the guests, the guests talk about their music. Hearing the stories behind the songs is always illuminating.
- I love that the Space Cadets are updated about the wonderful musicians they are introduced to, so there is a strong sense of continuity.
- I love that listening to the show is an effortless way to learn more about Canadian folk music, and you don’t have to work at it. By osmosis, you just absorb things along the way.
- I love that the show has always included the music of newcomers to Canada. A very early example is the music of the late, great Dario Domingues.
- I love the Space Cadets. I have met so many, and the question “Are you a Space Cadet?” has been followed by many very interesting conversations! During a concert, if the same question is asked of the audience, it is heart-warming to hear the enthusiastic response!
- I love that, from the beginning, the music of women was showcased proudly, an early example being the music of Lynn Miles!
- I love that the show is broadcast at Carleton University, and it is always fun to visit the campus. But the remote broadcasts from places like Moose Maguire’s and The Record Centre also add a lot of excitement, and you can experience Canadian Spaces live if you show up!
- I love that the show is open to the public at various times, including during Doors Open Ottawa.
- I love that the hosts never fail to “plug the gig” when interviewing guests, and let us know what is happening in the local performing world out there.
- I love Funding Drive. It is always exciting to hear the enthusiasm of the hosts and many volunteers and it is heartening to hear the incredible results.
- I love the fact that, partially because of the generosity of the Space Cadets during Funding Drive, CKCU is still operating.
- I love the giveaways that happen once in a while (and not just during Funding Drive). These are lots of fun and everyone loves to win things!
- I love that the Ottawa Folk Festival, now CityFolk, was always encouraged and promoted. Without Chopper’s support and enthusiasm, the festival would not have gotten off the ground.
- I love the way that the show has helped keep folk music alive, not only on a local basis, but on a national and international basis.
- I love the fact that Canadian Spaces honours the history of Canada. The recent songs by Paul Weber about the history of Ottawa and those of people like Stan Rogers, James Keelaghan and Tamarack help us celebrate our heritage.
- I love going to Irene’s Pub after the show for “breakfast” and hanging out with the Space Cadets. And it is nice to reminisce about the days when Chopper would sit there talking with us. I also love the open stage there in the afternoon!
- I love that the show broadcasts international debuts of albums. You get to hear music that has never been heard before! How cool is that?
- I love that people who have never played together before get to jam with each other! This is similar to what happened in workshops at the Ottawa Folk Festival.
- I love the amazing diversity of music, both in content and in ethnicity. Vive la différence!
- I love that the show tells us about the hottest folk music venues and has been unflagging in its support of clubs (such as Rasputin’s, for example).
- I love that the show references other CKCU shows! The hosts of other shows occasionally host Canadian Spaces when needed and are sometimes on as guests.
- I love that while you can always depend on Canadian Spaces being there on a Saturday morning, you never know exactly what to expect and there are often wonderful surprises! Never a dull moment.
- I love that performers at every stage of development are welcomed, whether they are someone who has never been on the radio before or seasoned performers.
- I love that the show has intergenerational fans! Children listen to it because their parents had it on at home and they in turn become Space Cadets! And these children and their children are the future of Canadian Spaces!
Writer and editor Joyce MacPhee was a member of the original organizing committee of the Ottawa Folk Festival. She worked for over 19 years to document the programming and celebrate the role played by the late ‘Canadian Spaces’ host Chopper McKinnon and his loyal listeners (the ‘Space Cadets’) in supporting the festival’s creation and widespread impact.
‘The History of the Ottawa Folk Festival’ is a 186-page book with text by Joyce MacPhee and 200 festival photos selected by Jake Morrison. To order the book, contact Jake at orders@OttawaFolkHistory.org.