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HEATHER RANKIN CELEBRATES HOLIDAY SEASON WITH ‘IMAGINE’

By JOHN R KENNEDY. Wednesday, November 22nd 2017 – 9:05 am
Heather Rankin knows there’s some irony in making a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” the title track of her first solo holiday album.

“It was a conscious decision,” Rankin insisted, on the phone from Halifax.

Lennon’s famous song, released in 1971, expresses hope for a world with “no religion” filled with “people living for today.” He wrote: “Imagine there’s no heaven / It’s easy if you try / No hell below us / Above us only sky.”

Rankin explained: “I was raised in the Catholic church but I consider myself to be an open and accepting person and I’m still learning. The point of celebrating the season has evolved. The reason has evolved.”

 

Rankin, 50, said she now prays to “a bigger God, a universal God” but understands Lennon’s hope for reality-based humanity.

“So often it’s religion that is at the root of so much of the pain and discontent in the world,” she said.

Lennon’s message of peace and love is particularly important in the age of instant outrage.

“Technology has created this environment where we all have to be constantly responsive when, back 20 or 30 years ago, we were allowed to take [time] to consider and make a well thought-out decision,” said Rankin. “I think that’s really at the root of a lot of anxiety.

“There needs to be a revolution where we all take a step back.”

Rankin said the holidays are a time for her to slow down and reflect. And, she added, “to remember the people that are important in my life and make sure I address the direction that my energy is going.”

It’s also a time to reflect on her favourite Christmas memories.

“Growing up in a big family it was always a chaotic situation,” said Rankin, the 11th of 12 children born in tiny Mabou, Nova Scotia to Kathleen and “Buddy” Rankin. She and her siblings found their voices while singing in the St. Mary’s Parish Choir.

“One of my favourite things about Christmas back then is that my mother had a tradition of preparing a hot meal and serving it after midnight mass,” Rankin shared. “It was one of the few times we would go and do something together, the 14 of us. We would go to the church and then come home and have a meal and sometimes open gifts early.

“That was part of our family tradition so when she passed away, I carried on the tradition of celebrating on Christmas Eve — but I don’t do it after mass. I’m too lazy for that.”

Heather was one-fifth of The Rankin Family music act, which released five studio albums in the ‘90s and toured across Canada and abroad, collecting Junos, Canadian Country Music Awards and East Coast Music Awards as they went.

After years of working in theatre, film and television, Heather released her debut solo album, A Fine Line, in 2016. Though Imagine (out Dec. 1) is her first solo Christmas album, it’s not the first holiday collection she has recorded. In 1997, she and sisters Raylene and Cookie released Do You Hear…, which spawned annual tours and a pair of TV specials.

Imagine features 10 tracks, including traditional songs like “Silent Night” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” to original compositions like the first single, “Wrap It Up.”

BELOW: Listen to Heather Rankin’s “Wrap It Up” from Imagine.

There’s also a collaboration with Alex Cuba titled “Dark Eyes (Lullaby)” that came about after the two took part in this year’s Canada C3 Expedition and co-wrote (with Andrea Menard) a song called “River of Nations.”

Rankin described Cuba as an “incredible talented person” and said she believes their voices “really blended well.” She hopes the track showcases Cuba to “an audience he wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to.”

The stunning cover art for Imagine was designed by Hugh Syme (Rush) using a photograph by Timothy Richard.

Of course, one of the challenges of making a Christmas album is being able to channel the holidays long before there is snow on the ground or a chill in the air.

“I guess you have to be a fan of Christmas music to really get yourself into the spirit of the season when you’re recording in the spring and summer,” she explained. “I had no problem. If anything, it gets you in the spirit long before other people are.”

Getting her Christmas shopping done early is a different challenge. “Oh my God, no,” she said. “I haven’t even thought about that.”

Rankin admitted Christmas has become less materialistic as she has gotten older.

“It used to be about gifts and it used to be about going all out with decorations and that sort of thing,” she said. “I don’t have the time these days but also my priorities changed.”

Rankin agrees it’s more important to do good things than to have good things. “Find somebody who needs a friend at that time of year and have them over or send them over a pie or buy them a new pair of socks or make a donation to a charity that really needs support,” she said.

Rankin hopes Imagine will be played in homes across Canada this holiday season. “That’s kind of what we were hoping,” she said. “To create something beautiful and classic and something that gave people hope.

“And, something that was not intrusive but very playable while you’re gathered with the people closest to you.”

Of course, one of the challenges of making a Christmas album is being able to channel the holidays long before there is snow on the ground or a chill in the air.

“I guess you have to be a fan of Christmas music to really get yourself into the spirit of the season when you’re recording in the spring and summer,” she explained. “I had no problem. If anything, it gets you in the spirit long before other people are.”

Getting her Christmas shopping done early is a different challenge. “Oh my God, no,” she said. “I haven’t even thought about that.”

Rankin admitted Christmas has become less materialistic as she has gotten older.

“It used to be about gifts and it used to be about going all out with decorations and that sort of thing,” she said. “I don’t have the time these days but also my priorities changed.”

Rankin agrees it’s more important to do good things than to have good things. “Find somebody who needs a friend at that time of year and have them over or send them over a pie or buy them a new pair of socks or make a donation to a charity that really needs support,” she said.

Rankin hopes Imagine will be played in homes across Canada this holiday season. “That’s kind of what we were hoping,” she said. “To create something beautiful and classic and something that gave people hope.

“And, something that was not intrusive but very playable while you’re gathered with the people closest to you.”