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The Chesterfield

The Chesterfield

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October 26th, 2020

Canadians are rightfully proud of our arts and culture — this country is home to some of the world’s most influential filmmakers, songwriters, authors, comedians and visual artists. So let’s talk about it!

The Chesterfield

FRIENDS is proud to announce The Chesterfield, a place for conversations about Canadian culture. This new weekly interview series is hosted by journalist Ben Rayner and songwriter and performance artist iskwē. They’ll be video chatting with Canadian creators from their homes across the country about great Canadian content that inspires them. You can meet Ben and iskwē in the official Chesterfield trailer:

Introducing The Chesterfield with hosts Ben Rayner and iskwē

Catherine MacLellan on the legacy of Don Messer's Jubilee and Singalong Jubilee

In the 1960s, a CBC folk music variety series hosted by a fiddle player from New Brunswick was more popular in Canada than the world famous Ed Sullivan Show. Don Messer’s Jubilee brought artists like Anne Murray and Stompin’ Tom to a national audience, and led to the equally beloved spin off series Singalong Jubilee. PEI singer-songwriter Catherine MacLellan has a special connection to the Jubilee shows – they helped launch the career of her late father Gene MacLellan. On this week’s episode of The Chesterfield, Catherine speaks to iskwē about the East Coast music family and CBC’s golden era of music variety TV.

Catherine MacLellan on CBC TV's Singalong Jubilee | The Chesterfield

Episode 8: Jeff Lemire on illustrating Canadian stories

Many Canadians known Jeff Lemire for his graphic novel The Secret Path, a collaboration with Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie which illustrated the tragic story of Chanie Wenjack. Comic book readers also know his prolific work for the biggest names in the field, including Marvel and DC Comics. On this week’s episode of The Chesterfield, Jeff talks to Ben Rayner about one of his favourite books: It’s a Good Life if you Don’t Weaken by fellow Southern Ontario cartoonist Seth.

Jeff Lemire on "It's a Good Life if Your Don't Weaken" and The Secret Path | The Chesterfield

Episode 7: Diana Reyes on "Let Your Backbone Slide"

In this episode of The Chesterfield, hip hop dancer and DJ Diana Reyes chats with iskwē about a moment in 1989 when a rapper from her own Toronto neighbourhood released a smash hit that changed everything. In 2020, Canadian hip-hop artists top the charts all around the world. But that wasn’t always the case. Back in the 1980s, this music wasn't nearly as accepted by mainstream music fans in this country. Reyes discusses “Let Your Backbone Slide” by Maestro Fresh-Wes, a groundbreaking rap track that was “the symbol it was possible to be successful coming where we were from.”

Diana Reyes on Maestro Fresh-Wes' "Let Your Backbone Slide" | The Chesterfield

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Episode 6: Max Kerman of Arkells on Shine a Light by Constantines

Ben Rayner, co-host of The Chesterfield, admits that this week’s episode touches on two things close to his heart: rock ‘n’ roll and newspapers. Max Kerman of Hamilton’s Arkells knows plenty about both. The frontman of one of Canada’s biggest rock bands joins Ben to celebrate an essential Canadian album: Shine a Light by Constantines, an electrifying indie rock group that had a great influence on him and a generation of Canadian musicians. Max also discusses his band’s campaign to encourage their fans to subscribe to their local newspapers.

Max Kerman of Arkells on Shine a Light by Constantines | The Chesterfield

Episode 5: Author David A. Robertson on The Marrow Thieves

Here’s a true story from behind the scenes of The Chesterfield: when we asked Winnipeg author David A. Robertson to choose a piece of influential Canadian art for his interview, he picked the album acākosīk, by iskwē — without realizing that iskwē was actually a host on the show. After we all had a good laugh about that, he suggested we explore The Marrow Thieves, a dystopian Indigenous survival novel for young adults by Cherie Dimaline. Both David and Cherie won a Governor General’s Award for literature in 2017 for their work for young readers. Both are also leading figures amongst contemporary Indigenous storytellers. On the latest episode of The Chesterfield, David and iskwē discuss why The Marrow Thieves is essential reading, and how Indigenous representation is vital for the next generation of Canadian readers.

David A. Robertson on The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline | The Chesterfield

Episode 4: George Stroumboulopoulos on the Hilarious House of Frightenstein

It only ran for one season in 1971, but the children’s TV show Hilarious House of Frightenstein has endured as a uniquely odd Canadian cult classic. Created by producer Riff Markowitz and starring comedian Billy Van as a whole cast of ghoulish characters including a vampire count, a werewolf disc jockey and witch chef, the show opened (or perhaps warped) the minds of its young viewers — including George Stroumboulopoulos. In the spirit of Halloween week, the latest episode of The Chesterfield features the Canadian radio and TV host in conversation with fellow Frightenstein enthusiast Ben Rayner, exploring this wild era in Canadian television and the power of waving your freak flag high.

Strombo on the Hilarious House of Frightenstein | The Chesterfield

Episode 3: Alanis Obomsawin on the NFB’s Ballad of Crowfoot

She’s been called the “mother of Indigenous cinema.” Alanis Obomsawin has made more than 50 documentaries that tell essential stories from Canada’s Indigenous communities, including the award-winning 1993 film Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance. Just last week, the 88-year-old documentarian was awarded the Glenn Gould Prize for her lifetime contribution to the arts. Obomsawin is most associated with her work for the National Film Board, and was working at the NFB in the 1960s when it established the Indian Film Crew, a ground-breaking all-Indigenous training and production initiative. In the latest episode of The Chesterfield, she honours the first film by the Indian Film Crew, Willie Dunn’s 1968 short The Ballad of Crowfoot, and talks to iskwē about the evolution of Indigenous storytelling in Canada.

Alanis Obomsawin on the Ballad of Crowfoot by Willie Dunn | The Chesterfield

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Fred Penner on David Blackwood's painting of Cape Spear

Fred Penner has toured Canada from coast to coast to coast for more than four decades, entertaining children of all ages with his original music. But there’s one edge of the country that has especially inspired him. In the new episode of our interview series The Chesterfield, the Winnipeg-born performer talks to Ben Rayner about one of his favourite Canadian artworks, a painting of Cape Spear, Newfoundland by David Blackwood. He also has a few things to say for fans of his dearly missed kids’ show Fred Penner’s Place about the lasting legacy of that CBC-TV classic.

Fred Penner on David Blackwood's painting of Cape Spear |The Chesterfield

Jann Arden on 70s pop star Patsy Gallant

Jann Arden grew up in Springbank, Alberta, a rural community far from the nightclub scenes of Montreal. But as a young aspiring singer and songwriter in the 70s, she felt a connection with the unlikely disco hit "From New York To L.A." Performed by bilingual Acadian singer Patsy Gallant, the smash track led Gallant to star in her own variety show on CTV. For teenage Jann, seeing a Canadian woman achieve international stardom at a time when few Canadian musicians broke out of the country gave her confidence to pursue her own dreams. For the premiere episode of our new interview series The Chesterfield, Jann video chats with iskwē from a writer's cabin in BC about one of her favourite songs and the power of having our own Canadian success stories.

Jann Arden on Patsy Gallant's "From New York to LA" | The Chesterfield

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