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Made In Guelph: Local musicians spread holiday cheer with Christmas playlist

'It is a Christmas gift to ourselves, to each other, to our families and to our community,' says Dan McLean Jr., the playlist organizer
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Rob O'Flanagan playing a cover of It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, a video featured within the playlist.

Guelph artists and residents have gathered together to create a Christmas music playlist to spread some holiday cheer.

Dan McLean Jr. is the organizer of a 35 music video playlist of original Christmas songs and covers of the classics. 

Five weeks ago, McLean created a private Facebook group and invited 50 musicians from Guelph, asking them if they would like to participate in The Guelph Christmas Music Project 2020.

“If a bunch of us do this, we can put together a playlist in which we can get together and give a Christmas gift to ourselves, to each other, to our families and to our community,” he says.

The playlist can be found here.

For someone who has taught self-care programs for the Canadian Mental Health Association for 15 years, McLean says organizing a community-building event was in his character.

“I’m a very social person, and I have a tendency to organize events, ” he explains when asked why he came up with the idea.

“It was sort of my general ambition to keep busy and stay productive, stay in touch with friends and build community events.”

Describing what he calls an ‘underrated music scene’ here in Guelph, McLean says he wanted to recognize local talent in this playlist.

“I don’t think people in Guelph really appreciate how strong the music community is here,” he says, “We have lots of live music, especially acoustic music in Guelph, for decades now.”

Once videos started pouring in, Mclean compiled them on YouTube.

Besides adding titles and fixing some sound issues, he says the biggest challenge was the logistics.

“I’m an audio engineer and I also do video work,” McLean explains, “For me, it’s easy… so it hasn’t been a lot of work, it’s just been a lot of coordinating.”

Overall, 26 artists contributed to the playlist, and McLean says he was thrilled with the level of participation from musicians of all skill levels.

“There’s professionals to people who play open stages,” he says, “Really, I’m just thrilled with it, just thrilled.”

As some residents have commented on their favourites already, McLean says there were a few videos that stood out to him. These artists include Tannis Slimmon and Rob O’Flanagan.

“He did a beautiful rendition of a traditional Christmas song, which everyone is loving,” he commented on O’Flanagan’s work.

“It is so heartfelt, so beautiful,”

To add to the fun, McLean and his friend, Dave Dunlop, created an original song for the playlist called Yes Virginia, based on an old letter to the editor.

“It’s (about) a 100-year-old letter in the New York Times called Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” he explains.

“My friend, Dave Parkhill, who’s been one of my friends for over 40 years, I wrote Yes Virginia, so he wrote one called No Virginia,” he continues, “It’s sort of a look at the commercialization of Christmas …. It’s very tongue and cheek, but it has a very serious message.” 

As the playlist developed, many musicians who hadn’t seen each other since the pandemic began, started re-connecting.

“We really needed a way to see each other, to perform for each other and to support each other,” he says, “It really has built community quite nicely.”

With the pandemic not ending anytime soon, McLean says he plans to release a video his type of project can help musicians and other people build connections within their own communities.


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Ariel Deutschmann

About the Author: Ariel Deutschmann

Ariel Deutschmann is a feature writer and reporter who covers community events, businesses, social initiatives, human interest stories and more involving Guelph and Wellington County
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