Growing up in Rustico, PEI, Christmas time for Lennie Gallant was filled with family, food and music. That great Yuletide joie de vivre is now reflected in Lennie’s brand new album of original songs, Christmas Day On Planet Earth.
“When I was growing up, Christmas was a big deal,” he said. “My mom was fantastic in terms of making it special. She would cook Acadian meat pies (pâté). It’s something like a tourtière but not really. The only time we would get pâté was just after midnight mass on Christmas. My mom and dad were in the choir in the oldest wooden church on PEI. They’d be up in the gallery singing Christmas carols for half an hour before the service would start. The place would be lit with candles, and the whole community would be there. You’d get to meet old friends you hadn’t seen since the Christmas before. Then after that we’d go home, get into the pâté, pour some drinks, open gifts until 4:30 in the morning and then sleep ’til Noon.”
To make sure the new album was ready for a Christmas release, Lennie recorded the songs this past July with Les Cooper serving as producer. While other artists over the years had occasion to decorate the recording studio in a Christmas motif to set the mood, Lennie tried for a different approach.
“I was looking for a lot of egg nog which is really hard to find in July!”
Christmas Day On Planet Earth features eight new seasonal songs along with the previously released title song (featuring Black Umfolosi), 'The Innkeeper', originally found on 2005’s When We Get There and 2014’s 'I Still Believe In Santa', which features a duet with the late actor John Dunsworth.
“The rest were all written mostly in the summer, and we [added] those poor lonely songs that were looking for a home that weren’t on a Christmas album.”
Lennie feels the title song is a good reflection of the album as a whole.
“It looks at Christmas from various points of view and also geographically,” he explained “There’s songs set in the Middle East, the song I do with Black Umfolosi has a South African vibe to it with them on vocals, there’s one song that’s sort of reminiscent of being on the streets of Paris, and of course a good old East Coast kitchen party for a song or two. The album moves around geographically but I think it also does thematically. I was trying to look at Christmas from various aspects.”
To accomplish that, Lennie doesn’t shy away from some of the more serious elements of Christmas.
“Most of the songs, I think, are pretty joyful and celebratory,” he said. “But also a couple of songs address where we are right now in the world. 'The Gift' reflects front-line workers and, in particular, what’s going on in hospitals where nurses and doctors are working so hard, so diligently under tremendous pressure. What’s it like for them on Christmas Eve? My partner Patricia was a nurse for 15 years. She worked on the streets of downtown Vancouver with the addicts, so I had a good resource to call upon for that song, and I made sure the lyrics reflected what was true. What I’ve heard from nurses since they’ve heard the song is that it seems to hit the mark.”
Lennie is excited to promote the album with The Innkeepers Christmas Tour, taking him through the Maritimes from Nov. 25 until Dec. 15.
“We’re very pumped to do this tour,” he said. “I’ve got such a good band with my partner, Patricia, who’s a multi-instrumentalist, along with her son, Julian, a fantastic keyboard player in second year classical music studies. He’s adapted his playing style to my music and he’s brilliant on stage. Our new addition to the band is Keelin Wedge, who’s a multi-instrumentalist with a beautiful voice. We’ve been marveling at how well the four of us gel. It’s going to be a lot of fun doing this tour.”
An added element to most of the concerts will be a multi-media show featuring the artwork of Lennie’s sister, renowned artist Karen, along with photographs and films projected behind the band.