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If You Could Read My Mind presents the songs of Gordon Lightfoot

by Sean McQuaid

Terry HattyDuncan McIntosh is a man with a lot on his mind. It's his first season as Artistic Director of the Charlottetown Festival, after all; but however full his dramatic plate might be right now, McIntosh seems to retain an insatiable appetite for one of his favourite creative comfort foods: the music of Gordon Lightfoot, celebrated this summer in the Festival's brand-new show, If You Could Read My Mind.

McIntosh approaches this production with a missionary zeal, and not just because he co-wrote and directed the show. For him, Lightfoot's music is a lifelong passion. "He wrote songs about love," McIntosh recalls, "when I was barely crawling out of adolescence, and my first feelings of love were somehow given voice and dignity by his music. He taught me that my country's history was mythic and poetic. He gave to Canadians a sense of what it was like to be Canadian."

Placing Lightfoot in an historical context, McIntosh recounts the flourishing of Canadian creative talent in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the emergence of figures such as Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Martin Short, Dan Ackroyd, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. "Gordon was part of an explosion of Canadian expression," says McIntosh.

Charlottetown Festival Artistic Director Duncan McIntosh

Amidst that explosion, Lightfoot stood out and somehow stood apart; or so it seemed to Terry Hatty, a senior member of the Lightfoot show's cast: "The sixties, Beatlemania, the psychedelic stuff...he just existed apart from all that, independent of everything, in the Gordon Lightfoot zone." As McIntosh and Hatty explain, Lightfoot was a storyteller as well as a musician, a modern-day balladeer or troubadour.

Asked what they hope audiences take away from this show, Hatty offers this take on it: "The nationalism thing, the sense of country, they gotta get that or it's not successful. The pleasure of being part of it, a wholesome, proud kind of a feeling."

McIntosh agrees, but notes that the show is first and foremost entertainment. "I'd like people to leave with full hearts, uplifted." In other words, McIntosh hopes his show will do for audiences what Lightfoot's music has done for McIntosh himself.

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