Among Canada’s most famous treasures is its endless array of ever-astonishing natural landscapes. So, when CBC Radio 2 launched its second annual Great Canadian Song Quest – in which popular musicians from the 13 provinces and territories were commissioned to compose songs commemorating listener-selected roadways in those places – it was a fair bet that the subjects would largely favor broad vistas and open highways. But in Ontario, where the first Song Quest yielded a brilliant homage to Algonquin National Park by Hawksley Workman (“They Left It Wild”), CBC listeners went in another direction. The stretch of road they chose to celebrate was a street in Toronto called Roncesvalles Avenue.
Roncesvalles Avenue is a “Main Street” slice of urban landscape from a time gone by, characterized by small business and handsome single-family dwellings. The neighborhood became home to the wave of Polish immigrants who settled in Toronto after World War II and, though it shows signs of insurgent trendiness, retains its Polish immigrant character. This Song Quest selection eschews the natural beauty of the province in favor of one of Canada’s other great themes: its ongoing experiment in multiculturalism.