‘Songs of Manitoulin’ project on track for completion

Jim Beech is just one of the songwriters to be featured on ‘Songs of Manitoulin.’

Producer seeks Islander input for vocals, cover art

PROVIDENCE BAY – Island musician, entrepreneur and screenplay writer Merdick McFarlane is well underway on his project to encapsulate the essence of the Island through an album of songs that are either about Manitoulin or give it a mention in their lyrics, and he has now filled many of the album slots as well as chosen a benefactor charity for the project.

“I was at the Providence Bay Fair and I went in and purchased one of (Mindemoya Hospital Auxiliary)’s tickets for a draw. The lady knew who I was and we started talking about the album I was putting together, and that I was interested in finding an organization or charity to work with,” said Mr. McFarlane.

The proposal went to the auxiliary’s board and the rest was history. 

“(The auxiliary is) looking to see if they can get some presales for the album so we know how many we need to stamp out,” he said.

So far, six songs are lined up for the CD. Mr. McFarlane said he has hopes that some more will trickle in before the recordings are finalized.

“We’re looking for a few more males and one female singer to do a song,” said Mr. McFarlane. He is working with an Island studio to record the vocal tracks and will be producing the music for a number of tracks with colleagues in Bristol, Tennessee.

The songs are mainly original tunes by Island singer/songwriters such as Lori Hall Gordon, Dale Gilchrist, John Gilchrist, Jim Beech and Mr. McFarlane himself. He said the interest in musicians to have their work featured on the album has been overwhelming.

“I’ve got an abundance of songs, in fact, too many,” he said. “I thought we might only get two or three songs from Manitoulin. If it keeps going this way, I may be doing a second album in the spring.”

There is another upcoming opportunity for Islanders to take part in the production of this album. Mr. McFarlane said he will soon be launching an album cover contest which will feature an online voting component for the public’s input.

“I’m looking for a scene that would instantly be recognized as Manitoulin, whether the swing bridge, the Chi-Cheemaun; I’m also hoping some people that own the photographs could send in a few pictures of dance halls in Spring Bay and that area from the late ‘60s, early ‘70s,” he said.

This will go to form the subtitle of the album. Although its title as ‘Songs of Manitoulin’ is set, there will be a secondary title that relates to what is depicted in the winning cover art.

“Whoever sends in that winning photo, I’ll take them out to a dinner of their choice,” Mr. McFarlane said with a laugh. He said he would be willing to accept photos for two weeks after the publication of this story.

This project has set forward a number of other future ideas for Mr. McFarlane. He told The Expositor of a man who survived concentration camps and wrote a number of songs in the ‘60s about Manitoulin Island. If he can secure the rights to the music, he said he would love to do a future album with a swing band to cover those tunes.

If all continues going to schedule, the album should be ready for release by the 2019 Christmas season, later this year. Mr. McFarlane asked anyone who wanted to enter cover art to reach out to him on Facebook or to send an email at merd39229@hotmail.com.