Sign up for our free weekday bulletin.

Sing a song for Sarnia

Published on

Pam Wright

A life-long Sarnian is putting a new spin on old vinyl, and it’s one for the ‘record’ books.

Dave Potter has taken on the ambitious project of collecting and preserving sounds from the city’s musical past.

And soon he’ll be turning that collection over to Lambton County Archives.

A passionate music lover, Potter began singing in a church choir at age 7. He’s always been involved in the local music scene, took formal violin training and played with a symphony.

And he’s still at it, singing with the Bluewater Chordsmen.

Potter’s interest in preserving the musical heritage of Sarnia began when he wondered what would happen to his own music collection.

He’s 82, and thought about what his children might do with the recordings, which won’t mean much to anyone else. That sparked his interested in the preservation project, hoping the sounds of Sarnia will echo into the future.

“Obscure” is how Potter describes most of the orphaned recordings. Cassette and VHS tapes, CDs, 45s and long-playing albums are all part of the collection.

They cover a variety of long-defunct groups, ranging from the Rotary Boy’s Choir to the St. Andrew’s Senior Choraliers, the Arkona Chapel Male Trio and the Polysar Glee Club, to name a few.

They include old recordings of Johnny Bond, still a popular musician who played during the Kenwick-on-the-Lake days, and a Central Collegiate band recording featuring John Wing — who went on to an international career as a comedian and poet.

Some are of church choirs and school bands recorded as fundraisers and sold to family and friends to finance trips.

A recording by Sarnia’s Tessa Catton’s entitled “No Strings Attached” is a particular favourite, he said.

Potter hopes the collection will offer historical or emotional significance to future generations.

“I want to intercept the records before they go in the dumpster so they can be enjoyed down the road.”

He said he finds older music more melodic, while modern music features more percussion and a heavier beat.

“Music is ephemeral,” he said. “It’s to be enjoyed in the moment … to sit back and let it wash over you.”

Dana Thorne, Lambton’s lead archivist, said songs from the past are an important part of Sarnia-Lambton’s story. Potter’s recordings will be sent to Toronto to be digitized and made available online, she said.

“We’re fortunate that well-connected individuals like Dave make the effort to locate this material so it can be preserved for the future.”

Thorne said digital copies are a permanent record that will be available long after the original analogs start to deteriorate.

Potter are be contacted at [email protected]

More like this