This is Pascal Dennis.
Pascal’s story and his relationship with music is the story of many immigrants new to Canada. Pascal’s parents barely escaped World War 2 and the civil war in Greece, which left his family (and many families) devastated. Landing in Kensington Market in Toronto, his Dad got a job as a dishwasher at Grossman’s tavern and his mother was a garment factory worker.
At 14, Pascal started playing guitar and writing music as a way of expressing his pain and helping to make sense of the things he and his family were going through – poverty, mental illness, intolerance towards being an immigrant in Toronto. As he dug into rock and roll and blues, playing guitar became “like breathing” for Pascal. He also found time to teach himself the piano and the harmonica.
Unfortunately for Pascal, like many immigrants, his family could not afford formal music lessons and he didn’t think he had enough training to pursue music as a career. Instead, he did the responsible thing – he stayed in school and graduated with a degree in engineering.
About 30 years ago, he met David Logan, someone who would eventually bring him back full circle. Pascal liked Dave’s arrangements and Dave liked Pascal’s music. They made a record, and it went nowhere.
In 1996, David went to Hollywood and found success as a composer in the video game industry, scoring music for games like X-Men – Mutant Academy, PacMan World 2 and Asteroids. He has also scored for film and tv for shows like Sex and the City and Disney’s Ready or Not.
Pascal started a family and a consulting company. But music was always his passion. His consulting took him around the world and he always carried a notebook with him everywhere he went. He found inspiration in those moments in between work and travel and he wrote and then he wrote some more. He took piano lessons. He took music theory lessons.
Fast forward to 2020 and a global pandemic. With no ability to travel, Pascal had his consulting life on hold and was able to focus 100% on music for the first time in his life. Pascal decided to reach out to David again. David now lives in Rome and teaches at the world renowned Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Founded in 1585, it is one of Europe’s oldest musical institutions. Pascal shared his latest collection of songs with David.
Once again, David liked them and they started producing the songs virtually.
Pascal took on lead vocals, guitar and harmonica. David plays producer, guitars, keyboards, drums and percussion. And David was able to recruit 3 more musicians through the school – Davide Sambrotta on piano and keyboards; Luca Camerota on electric, acoustic and nylon string guitars; and Marco Bonelli on saxophones.
The first album, Crazy Angels was released in 2021 and there are 3 more in various states of rehearsing, recording and post-production.
The whole album is a tribute to Pascal’s coming of age in Toronto. It tells the story of his family and all immigrant families and their struggles to be accepted as part of the city’s fabric. The second song on the album, Crazy Angels is an opera in 3 parts and ultimately a metaphor for the entire album. It is the retelling of the Great Gatsby story but through the lens of Pascal’s life growing up in Toronto. It refers to the infamous Prince Edward Viaduct that was made famous by Michael Ondaatje’s book, “In the Skin of a Lion” which was about the desperately poor immigrants who built this bridge to the wealthy area of Rosedale during the Great Depression. Referred to as the “bridge our fathers and their fathers built”, the narrator sees Rosedale as this mythical place he will never truly belong, much like the light at the end of the Great Gatsby.
Another 10 minute, 3-part opera on the album, called Summerside – is about Sunnyside Pavilion. A place and time in Toronto that many long for where, 100 years ago, our waterfront was like a beautiful British Beach town – with the Palais Royale, the Pier and elegant gentlemen and ladies dancing to music from the city’s jazz bands. Eventually, that part of Toronto fell into hard times and became more of a place for immigrant families (many of whom were involved in building the Gardiner Expressway, one of the city’s main highways) as they were trying to be part of the city. Despite it’s lost glamour, Pascal still goes there for inspiration.
There’s also a song called “Come to your window Sarah” which is set in the 1950s and talks about the immigrant experience back then, including the intolerance. If you go to the web site and download the lyric sheet for that song, Pascal has included examples and the history of this intolerance in the PDF.
The second album, Nicaragua Moon, will be released with a series of singles, and full album release in June 2022. The title song is an homage to the immigrants and refugees from across Latin America who have made Toronto their home and is also dedicated to Pascal’s friend, Nicaraguan poet Francisco Santos, who helped overthrow the Somoza regime. Like Pascal, Francisco and his family lost everything and had to start over in Toronto.
Watch out for the first single, “Not Saying it was Aliens”, which will be coming out on January 8th, 2022. Followed by “Blues in the Morning” in February and “Anchorman Blues (Bleep it, We’ll Do it Live) in April.