Country musicians often have reputations as easygoing, down-home kind of folk. They throw parties for their fans and record songs in collaboration with their competitors. And, says singer Jason McCoy, that’s just the way it should be. “Each time one of us, no matter who, gets a song out there, and people listen and like it, that’s positive,” says McCoy, 24, who is nominated for the Rising Star Award at this week’s Canadian Coun-
try Music Association Awards in Hamilton. The nomination follows a heady year for the native of Barrie, Ont. Not only has he caught the attention of the music critics—who call him one of Canada’s most talented new country artists, alongside million-selling performers such as Shania Twain and Charlie Major—but McCoy has also attracted a popular following. The first single from his self-titled debut album, This Used to Be Our Town, was No. 1 on the Canadian country music charts for three weeks running in August. “It’s a great feeling to be on the charts and selling records, but you have to look beyond that,” McCoy says with a laugh. “Like, if it’s good for me, I hope it’s good for you, too. And vice versa.”
IN OPERA’S UPPER ECHELONS
Two Canadians were right in the thick of things when the prestigious Paris Opera opened its 1995-1996 season last week. Director Robert Carsen and designer Michael Levine have pooled their talents on Verdi’s 1836 opera, Nabucco. Staging it presents a formidable challenge. In the Paris production, which features six very different set changes, lead singers Julia Vardy and Samuel Ramey are joined onstage by 100 members of the chorus and 70 extras, who among them wear 450 costumes. And because of the way the opera season is scheduled, there is much less time for dress re-
hearsals than is normal in other forms of theatre. So even though Carsen, 41, and Levine, 35, both originally from Toronto, began working on the project nearly two years ago, it all came together just days before the Sept. 9 opening. “You get just one night to decide if something works, and make quick decisions on how to fix it if it doesn’t,” says Levine, who has worked with Carsen before, most notably on the Canadian Opera Company’s 1992 world premier of Mario and the Magician. Both men said they were thrilled to be working in Paris. “It is the best-equipped opera house in the world,” says Carsen.
When he broke major-league baseball’s all-time endurance record last week, Cal Ripken Jr. brightened up a season that the sport might otherwise prefer to forget. The Baltimore Orioles’ all-star shortstop played in his 2,131st straight game on Sept. 6, thereby eclipsing a record set in 1939 by Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig. For a change, the big story in baseball was an on-field achievement, and not the unresolved labor dispute that forced the cancellation of last year’s World Series, abbreviated the current season and drastically reduced attendance at many ball parks. And in a sports world renowned for its spoiled millionaires, Ripken, 35, is a player whose character many of his followers say is truly worthy of praise. Even after being cheered on by the likes of U.S. President Bill Clinton and Vice-President AI Gore, who attended the game in Baltimore, and by a 22-minute ovation from the home-town fans midway through the record-breaking contest, Ripken remained his usual modest self. “All I did,” he said, “was show up every day and do something I enjoy.” Baseball and its fans are glad he did.
AN APPETITE FOR WRITERS
Biographers, especially academics, often take a detached view of their subjects. But Rosemary Sullivan, an English professor at the University of Toronto, has taken a different approach in writing her latest book, Shadow Maker, about the life of poet Gwendolyn MacEwen. Sullivan and MacEwen were friends for five years before MacEwen died mysteriously in 1987 at age 46. But rather than complicating her task, Sullivan says that knowing MacEwen gave her an advantage over biographers who have never met their subject. “Most writers traditionally have to reconstruct their subjects through written documents and interviewing people who knew them,” she explains. “I had a clear idea about the person I was writing about.” Sullivan’s 1992 biography, By Heart, profiled nov-
elist Elizabeth Smart another Canadian writer who, like MacEwen, had a turbulent personal life. But Sullivan says she would not have written either biography had the women been merely selfdestructive. “They were both brilliant writers, and they both had large appetites for life,” she adds. Sullivan, it seems, likes her subjects larger than life.
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