Each Christmas season for many years, my parents would buy our family tickets to Stuart McLean’s show when it stopped in Edmonton on his cross-Canada tour. It became an annual tradition that each Christmas we would join hundreds of Edmontonians at the Jubilee Auditorium to listen to McLean do his masterwork. He would stand alone at the microphone for one or two hours each time and captivate the entire theatre with stories from the Vinyl Cafe.
And as he engaged the complete attention of those large audiences, he did it with humility. He acted as though he was just a normal person, which he was.
Dave Cooks the Turkey was always the crowd favourite at Christmas but my favourite Stuart McLean story was Christmas in the Narrows. In particular, the story of the lonely French-Canadian hotel manager, who, expecting to spend Christmas Eve alone was surprised by a car full of visitors – Dave, Morley, Sam, Stephanie and her boyfriend, and Arthur the dog. It was a heart-warming story and one that I always look forward to listening to as my family piled in to the truck and drove out to my uncle’s farm for Christmas Eve celebrations.
Stuart McLean was an exceptional storyteller and a Canadian cultural icon. He had the ability to connect with Canadians from coast to coast through the power of his story telling.
I never had the chance to meet him in person, but I felt like I knew him. His voice was so familiar and frequently present, on CBC Radio in the car, on a podcast at home and in the books on our shelves. I am not a person who is usually impacted by the deaths of celebrities or media personalities, but I felt genuinely sad today. His death is a true loss for Canada. I will miss him.
Thank you for the many years of stories, Stuart. Rest in Peace.