How do you reconnect to your past travels? Do you have a trigger that makes you think, “Where was I? When was that? Who was with me?”
For me, that is music and my story begins with my dad cruising along Interstate 15 at 55 mph in our new truck and camper. It is the summer of 1976, the first vacation I can ever remember, and we just crossed the Sweet Grass border into the United States of America. Yes! My second country at the age of five. While en route to Yellowstone National Park in the state of Wyoming, dad pops an 8-track in the tape deck until mom can find a country station on the AM dial. What made me remember these details? I recently heard a musical tribute to the late Charley Pride, the very country singer crooning on that 8-track tape.
Fast forward to 2020. I’ve just passed Banff on my way to Fairmont, British Columbia, to visit my parents. Scanning the radio for reception in the mountains, I stop on Michael Gore’s familiar title theme from the movie, Terms of Endearment. Snap! Another flashback. This time it is the last day of our 1984 family trip to Oahu when we were at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Why are these memories so vivid?
I must give the recognition to Mrs. Pat MacFarlane, the first teacher to have made an impact on my life. She must have seen my passion for music and introduced this awkward, tippy-toe grade 7 student to music theory and the tenor saxophone. Pat laid the foundation with participation in the concert band and eventually pushed me to join the jazz band. Music seemed to be everywhere for me now.
This set the stage for 1988, when our Bishop Grandin High School concert band played John Barnes Chance’s composition, Variations on a Korean Folk Song every … single … day! It’s a great contemporary song, but practicing for hours on end, we were immersed in this song for a year. Under the direction of our teacher Mr. Elmer Riegel, the band toured Austria and Germany to compete in Vienna at the World Music Competition. Not only did we perform to near perfection and win the gold in our category, but to this day, hearing that musical score reminds me of Vienna.
This also brings back a memory of performing John Philip Sousa’s march, Semper Fidelis. I’m reminded of a favour I did for Mr. Riegel, filling a vacant position in the marching band. It’s only funny because I changed over to the bass clef to learn a brass instrument. Who else can say they carried a 40-pound tuba across Europe while playing the official march of the United States Marine Corps?
Throughout my travels, songs have conjured up some wonderful memories of past travels. The list is long, but a few of these include:
- “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire which reminds Lana and me of scuba diving at Sipadan, Sabah.
- “Here For A Good Time” by Trooper takes us back to train life on our 2005 Trans-Siberian rail trip.
- “Man in motion” by John Parr celebrates the feat of summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2006.
Whether it is a trip for business or pleasure, an epic journey or weekend getaway, every trip I take seems to have its own soundtrack, and the music delights my soul.
This leads me to talk about the musik of Oktoberfest. I can’t begin to tell you how much joy I feel to sing among 6000+ bier-fueled, bratwurst-eating, lederhosen-and-dirndl-wearing, table-dancing patrons. What are we singing? Everything! But it is the rocked up version of John Denver’s “Country Roads” that is fantastic!
At my first of 12 consecutive Oktoberfest visits, I watched my dad’s face light up when we walked into the Lowenbrau Festzelt. Hohner’s melodic verse in “Viva Colonia” was rocking and it was magical; my dad had the biggest smile on his face and to this day, he cites that song (with lyrics he doesn’t understand), as one of his favourites. I will never forget that moment. Whether we play an instrument, listen to our music or take in a live performance, these sounds connect us to our travels; but what about that radio dial? Wherever we go, Lana and I have made a habit of tuning into a local radio station. On a trip to Romania in 2016, we drove from Bucharest to Brasov and tuned in to 96.1 KISS FM — a Top40/Hit Radio station with local and pop favourites. For the time we were there, we felt like locals, connected to Romania. Today’s technology is amazing because we still stream KISS FM and play it in our home.
On the heels of this last point, our featured member is Randy Williams — better known around the world as R Dub! Randy is the creator, host and producer of Sunday Night Slow Jams which is heard on over 200 radio stations across America and around the world in 14 countries. I share this because of the story about my mom scanning that AM dial for a country station. Somewhere, next Sunday night, a traveler could be driving and tune in to Sunday Night Slow Jams. R Dub! will be there as that trusted DJ, playing special songs that will help cement the journey into a lasting memory.
I conclude with a quote from dad’s favourite country singer, Don Williams: “The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” Whatever your next journey, wherever your next destination, play some music and turn up the volume!