2014 was rung in with dear friends Irene, George and Kathy, as we enjoyed the great music presented by George Olliver, John Finley, Cathy Young and schwingin’ band led by Grant Slater.
VIRGIL SCOTT’S MUSICIANS’ NEW YEAR CELEBRATION
On January 21, at the Hollywood on Queensway, musicians from all parts of the GTA came out of the woodwork, to attend this annual event. It’s the only time we get to see one another, it seems – and you never know who you’ll run into!
TRIP TO ENGLAND – March 30 – April7
I was very fortunate to have been invited to visit two friends in England. Martin Elliott, who I met in 1984, playing bass with Petula Clark’s band at the Royal Alex in Toronto. Martin lives in Whitstable, and we have been constant friends since then.
Martin and his partner Sue were very kind and charming hosts, and Martin took me all sorts of historic places during my 3 day stay in Whitstable. A highlight for me was High Tea at the Walpole Hotel, just outside of Whitstable.
The charming town of Whitstable, England’s “Oyster Capital” sports a typical British phone booth in the middle of town.
After my three days with Martin and Sue, Martin very kindly took me into London proper, where we enjoyed lunch, and some walking around. I’m glad he was escorting me, as I would have had a rough time finding the proper train to take me to Bath, to visit my friend Glenna, with whom I went to university.
Bath, where Glenna lives, is an amazingly beautiful ancient city, of Roman origins (when the baths were originally built). During my visit, Glenna drove me to the surrounding countryside, lush with multicolours of green, and flourishing vegetation; old churches; old towns; an old pub where I enjoyed some authentic fish and chips; the Roman baths; The Bath Cathedral, where we attended a church service on the Sunday morning. It was a whirlwind tour, full of fabulous memories and photos.
GUEST APPEARANCE WITH THE NIAGARA RHYTHM SECTION
I always look forward to being invited to join the mighty Niagara Rhythm Section to guest with the band for a night. The band members, led by Steve Goldberger, are wonderful musicians, and fabulous people to hang with. The Old Winery just on the edge of NOTL is the venue where the party takes place. When I go for my guest appearance, it’s usually around my birthday in May, and that’s when all the tulips and blossoms are at their most beautiful in NOTL. This year, my dear friend Cathy Subasic accompanied me to the gig, so she could share the long drive home with me.
PLEIN AIR – ARTISTS’ GARDEN SERIES
On July 16th, Debbie teamed up with Victor Bateman, and performed with her guitar and uke on the beautiful outdoor stage in the well tended city garden of Susan Brown. This year’s concert followed a heavy afternoon rain, and the sun came out just before the concert began. The garden chairs were wiped down, and the audience was full — SRO!
This year’s theme was Songs by Canadians, and Debbie performed songs by Shirley Eikhard, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, and many more – including her own songs.
CABARET NIGHT AT THE JAZZ BISTRO
On September 14th, Debbie and her trio – consisting of young phenom, Ewen Farncombe on the beautiful grand piano, and veteran bassist, Russ Boswell (with Debbie on vox) – performed a concert – with songs and stories, jazz standards, and showtunes. Debbie pulled out her ukulele on a couple of tunes (maybe a first for the Bistro), and enjoyed her debut performance there very much.
In March, Debbie was invited to sing a few songs with Whiskey Jack – a long running Canadian country/rock/bluegrass group, the members of whom Deb has known for many years. Debbie was really excited about singing with this great group of musicians, and was looking forward to playing guitar and uke with the team as well. There were a couple of gigs at the Cadillac Lounge, and a very prestigious guest spot with the group, when they perfomed a tribute to Stompin’ Tom at the Stratford Music Festival in the fall. It was all a great thrill for Deb, and the band members were wonderful. It was a short-lived experiment – but great while it lasted.
ORILLIA’S CELLAR SINGERS JOINT CONCERT WITH HAMPTON AVENUE 4
Mitchell Pady, conductor of Orillia’s Cellar Singers, and colleague of both Debbie and Tom Lillington in the choral scene, decided to put together a concert, celebrating the music of Hampton Avenue, and imparted some of the songs to the Cellar Singers (a mostly traditional choir). The exercise proved to be challenging for the Cellar Singers – jazz harmonies aren’t easy for the best of singers, if they’re not accustomed to it. But with Mitchell’s excellent coaching, and a wonderful productive fine-tuning of the group by the Hampton 4 – the concert was spectacular!
The Road Home was the title of the concert, which was held, also, to honour Orillia boy, and Hamptonite, Dylan Bell.
TORONTO MENDELSSOHN CHOIR
It was a great year of the best in the TMC repertoire – with highlights starting with my favourite Bach’s B Minor Mass (and singing a whole new DIFFICULT part); Porgy and Bess, under the baton of Bramwell Tovey; Beethoven’s 9th and the Proms at the Gambrel Barn in Elora; Haydn’s Creation; Mozart’s Requiem; Handel’s Messiah and in 2015 – Fauré Requiem; Tallis 48 part Spem in Alium; Verdi Requiem; and ending with The Mahler Ressurection Symphony (Number 2). I looked at the repertoire for 2014-15 season, and weighed a number of considerations, which led me to decide that this year, after giving my voice to this wonderful choir for 40 years, would be my last.
The friends I’ve made, the concerts I’ve sung, the musical education I’ve gleaned in those wonderful 40 years, will always mean the world to me.
TIMELESS, THE AULT SISTERS
I’m a proud mama bear – these wonderful singers, Amanda, Alicia and Alanna have released their latest CD, 90% my arrangements. I love arranging for these lovely voices – the girls are disciplined, and always into meeting new musical challenges. I’ve watched them grow astoundingly, in the 5 years I’ve worked with them, and this CD is a fabulous recording of some great songs, sung by three sisters with “that family sound”.