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Great Lake Swimmers Dive into the River

The Great Lake Swimmers literally swam and dove into the St. Lawrence, spending a hot summer day here in August filming a music video in the Lake Fleet Group of islands for their new album New Wild Everywhere

The award-winning Canadian band once again made the River their stage, plunging into the water from granite cliffs on Ramsden Island, playing music around a campfire on Wood Isle, strolling along the trails of Deathdealer Island and performing on a decorated barge at sunset. 

The Toronto band - which has previously recorded music at Dark Island's Singer Castle, St. Brendan's Church in Rockport and aboard Simon Fuller's Fair Jeanne Tall Ship for the setting of their video Palmistry - has shone a spotlight on the Thousand Islands with its music. Ian Coristine, a Great Lake Swimmers fan, first invited them to the region in 2008 and they were enthralled and enchanted with what they saw.

Ian and “The Swimmers” stayed close, and in 2011 when Ian was planning his new book release for the iPad (One in a Thousand), he introduced them to his new e-publishers, McLellan Group in Toronto. Doug McLellan and Caroline Yung are also both long time 1000 islanders and once everyone was introduced, the entire relationship took off.

Great Lake Swimmers recorded 18 instrumental tracks for One in a Thousand which are included with Palmistry and a second music video in the eBook.

When the group’s new album New Wild Everywhere was released, the team quickly agreed that re-visiting the River to shoot a new video was definitely in order. And the natural central location for filming … McLellan’s Wood Isle in the Lake Fleet Group. The Lake Fleet Group of islands stretch from the international boundary of the northern shore of Grindstone Island in New York and stretch northeasterly to Stave Island for nearly five kilometres.

“The island has an amazing history” says video director Doug McLellan, “and we have to believe past island owners would fully support the music and style of the Great Lake Swimmers.”

Back in the days of American prohibition in the 1920's through to 1935,  Wood Isle was owned by a colourful character named Pop Cameron who cruised the River in his Garwood while traveling back and forth to his business in Clayton. He ran the Clayton Casino where wealthy summer residents dined and danced to major bands and popular singers Pop brought in from New York city. Paul Whiteman, The Dorsey Brothers and May Irwin were regulars at the Casino. According to old River diaries, many a night the entertainers travelled back across the River on Pop’s Garwood to continue the festivities on Canada’s Wood Isle.

“So you see” says McLellan, “having the Swimmers party and record here was just natural.”

Boaters and cottagers in the area got a surprise serenade by the band, which has concert dates around the world. Upcoming appearances include New York City, Washington, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Berlin, Barcelona and Glasgow.

Singer-songwriter Tony Dekker, who plays acoustic guitar and harmonica, Erik Arnesen, who plays banjo, electric guitar and harmonium.   Dekker, Arnesen, Higgins and Millson, enjoyed a refreshing swim in the River after leaping off the cliff for the scene. 

Tourists aboard the Gananoque Boat Line cruise appeared delighted to get an unanticipated performance by the widely-acclaimed Canadian band, clapping and waving as the band's barge pulled alongside with musicians trying to keep their balance and hold onto their instruments in the tour boat's big wake. 

“As usual” says McLellan, “it was an island effort. Our friends allowed us access to their islands to film and our caretaker Rob loaned us his funky barge. Fred Guild  (of Alcatraz Island near Mallorytown) drove camera chase boat and my son Morgan drove the barge and did the underwater video. Ian took photographs and Caroline kept it all happening. And Calli, our Chocolate Labrador provided cooling “shake-showers” and lots of kisses on a hot summer day.”

The video will be released in early October and be available on YouTube, Great Lake Swimmers' web site as well as television like Much Music and MTV.

By Kim Lunman,

Kim Lunman is the owner and publisher of Island Life Magazine ( based in Brockville, Ontario. Kim's 2012 magazine was distributed in May in local newspapers in eastern Ontario and northern New York. A special Islander Edition is on sale in local book stores in both the United States and Canada. Each summer Kim visits many islands and meets their owners so we can all look forward to reading their stories in the coming months.

Note: Be sure to see Kim’s previous pieces about the “Great Lake Swimmers”, October 2008 and “Navigating Lost Channels” June, 2009, “Masts, Motors, and Music”, May, 2009, as well as Erin Green’s Photos and Music Celebrate the Thousand Islands, May, 2010. Check out the websites for Great Lake Swimmers, One in a Thousand and the McLellan Group.

  • Great Lake Swimmers music video

    Great Lake Swimmers music video "New Wild Everywhere" available soon. Photo I. Coristine

  • Production begins. Photo by D. McLellan

    Production begins. Photo by D. McLellan

  • Time for a jump.  Photo by I.Coristine

    Time for a jump. Photo by I.Coristine

  • Calli, ready for the day.  Photo by D. McLellan

    Calli, ready for the day. Photo by D. McLellan

  • Ramsden Island cliffs. Photo by D. McLellan

    Ramsden Island cliffs. Photo by D. McLellan

  • Great Lake Swimmers, Tony Dekker swimming...  Photo by K. Lunman

    Great Lake Swimmers, Tony Dekker swimming... Photo by K. Lunman

  • Divers with underwater cameras took the River to get all angles. Photo by K. Lunman

    Divers with underwater cameras took the River to get all angles. Photo by K. Lunman


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