Storytelling legend Stuart McLean to visit City this month

There are few people who are able to captivate an audience year after year the way Canadian broadcasting legend Stuart McLean has been able to.

McLean has earned a reputation as one of Canada’s most intriguing storytellers through his evolution of the CBC radio program The Vinyl Café. He will be sharing stories from the program on Oct. 19th with Vancouver group Joe Trio as guests.

Red Deer will be able to experience McLean’s flair for storytelling firsthand at the Memorial Centre during either a 2:30 p.m. matinee or an evening performance at 7 p.m. Tickets are available through the Black Knight Inn ticket centre.

“This tour is something I’ve been waiting to do for almost a decade. I’m going to be working with a group of young musicians from Vancouver called Joe Trio. Cam Wilson – the musical director of Joe Trio – and I composed a couple of pieces for the CBC radio orchestra back when it existed, and we performed them in Vancouver – A History of Canada,” said McLean.

“We had composed symphonic pieces – humorous symphonic pieces – and we’re going to be able to do those. I’ve been wanting to perform those for a very long time, and to travel with them.”

McLean has worked for decades to build a reputation as a talented humourist, a best-selling author, an award-winning journalist and beloved broadcaster. He has received many honours including three Stephen Leacock Memorial Medals for Humour for Vinyl Café books and a Canadian Author’s Association Jubilee Award for Vinyl Café Diaries.

In 2011, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada for his contributions for Canadian culture as a storyteller and broadcaster as well as for his charitable acts.

The Vinyl Café presents fictional stories, essays and music. The show is often humorous but also presents listeners with serious depictions about community, culture and history. McLean’s voice has become synonymous with quality storytelling and he has worked with many notable broadcasters and journalists along his way.

McLean humbly gave kudos to the, “Many very talented producers at CBC over the years” who, through their editing and support, helped shape him into the very capable and intriguing writer that he is today.

“There were certainly people who I’ve modelled myself after and who have supported me, but this was something that I wanted to do and pursued by myself and found by myself. I was lucky to collide with the writings of E.B White who inspired me and continues to inspire me,” McLean said.

“I have had friendships with other writers who encouraged me, and their friendships gave me permission to continue. They treated me seriously as a writer, which allowed me to take myself seriously as a writer.”

W.O. Mitchell, another great Canadian broadcaster and writer, as well as editors at CBC also influenced McLean and helped him to refine his craft. Since 1978, McLean has worked with CBC radio but it wasn’t until the summer of 1994 that The Vinyl Café was created. It was meant to be a replacement show but by 1998 McLean had taken the stories from The Vinyl Café on tours spanning Canada and dipping into the United States.

He also worked as a professor at the School of Journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto, and was awarded the ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) award for best radio documentary for coverage of the 1979 Jonestown massacre.

McLean’s passion for sharing stories has shone for more than two decades and continues to do so. His humble presentation of himself only adds to the charm of his wit and humour.

“I don’t know whether I have a gift for speaking. I never had a moment of thinking that I’m gifted in this and therefore should be doing it – I just wanted to do it and feel grateful that I am able to,” he said.

“It’s fun performing in front of a big audience because you get the feedback, and the feedback is big. If the feedback is laughter, you can surf on that laughter and it becomes almost a physical thing. However, I also enjoy the intimacy of small groups. They both come with certain delights.”

The performances in the City will likely be full of feedback as year after year Red Deerians line up to hear him speak.

“This tour is very special to me because it’s coming back to doing something that I’ve wanted to do for a while. We have a new CD out, a new Vinyl Record coming and just more stories to write,” he said.

“I like what I’m doing, and I like the people around me who continue to show me a lot of support. It’s what I do – it’s my work, but I enjoy doing it.”