Posted by: kaleidophonic | October 11, 2011

Expo 67 (Pt. 3)

Hey kids, welcome to Part 3 of my exploration of the sounds of Expo 67!

Today I’m sharing some tracks by Marc Gélinas, who issued three novelty songs for Expo in 1967 – “La Ronde”, “Rendez-vous à Montréal” and “Lorsque le rideau tombe”.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Gélinas studied singing at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal for one year and was a popular chansonnier during the 1950s and 60s. He wrote songs for several festivals and events, including one honouring the Montreal Expos baseball team, one for the Quebec Games, and one for the popular western festival at St. Tite, which has become one of the biggest country & western festivals in North America, complete with rodeo competitions. Western music has always been popular in Quebec. It was adopted en masse by French-Canadians in the 1950s – before rock ‘n roll. But I digress.

If you remember, in my last Expo 67 post I discussed Stephane Venne’s “Un jour un jour / Hey friend, say friend”, and how it came under criticism because it never explicitly mentioned Montreal or the world’s fair for which it was the official theme. Well, Gélinas’ “Rendez-vous a Montréal” didn’t have this problem: the city of Montreal is mentioned three times right in the first stanza, and over fifteen times throughout:

This song, like Expo itself, opens to a rousing fanfare. The lyrics emphasize an invitation to come to Montreal to see the fair, which promises “un plaisir fou” (“a crazy time”). Gélinas also describes Montreal’s vibrant nightlife, with its “bars, cabarets, discotheques”, as well as the international nature of Expo: “on rendez-vous des quatres coins du monde” (“we rendez-vous from the four corners of the world”).

Gélinas’ Expo songs, like Venne’s, were issued as 45 rpm discs on the Jupiter label. For the Anglophone market, “Rendez-vous a Montréal”  was packaged as the B-side of another Expo track “La Ronde”. For Francophone audiences, “Rendez-vous” was released with a song called “Fais ta valise” as the B-side, while “La Ronde” was issued with another song called “A Baie Jolie”.

“La Ronde” is the name of the amusement park that was inaugurated at the same time as Expo. While sadly the Expo pavilions no longer exist, La Ronde is still around, and is now one of the Six Flags parks. Gélinas’ musical “La Ronde” has a distinct carnivalesque feeling, evoking the circus-like atmosphere of the park. The song features a chorus of children singing “amenez-nous a La Ronde, le plus gros joujou du monde, La Ronde de l’Expo” (“bring us to La Ronde, the biggest toy/play in the world, Expo’s La Ronde”). Gélinas explains that all the children of the world will have a great time playing on the various attractions: the chutes, the gyrotron, the rollercoaster, etc. I wonder how many children heard this song then nagged their parents to include a trip to La Ronde as part of their summer vacation?

Marc Gélinas’ final Expo 67 song was a farewell to the fair, which, after just over six months of operation, closed its doors October 27, 1967. This song is different from the earlier celebrations, as Gélinas tells a tale of brotherly love. He confesses that he is sad, he has a heavy heart: his new friend is leaving. He addresses the audience directly, as “you”, singing to them as if they were this foreign friend he is about to lose. Along the way he recalls moments of international affection: a Chinese mayor who loves the French Pierrot, a Russian and an American coming to love each other unceremoniously, and his own love for a girl from ‘your’ country. He tells you that he already feels nostalgia for the ways of your country, that you had a nice house and pretty songs. But there isn’t time to talk, really, so he’s singing what he can. He feels pain, but your airplane’s coming down (again with the airplanes!). At the end of the song Gélinas says “good-bye” in several languages, again emphasizing the international nature of the fair.

And I think Expo’s closing “farewell” is a good place to leave things for today. More sounds of Expo 67 to come, stay tuned.

– KJ

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