In my second year as a volunteer at The Burlington Performing Art Centre, I lost some professional decorum and composure on duty as an usher in the theatre. It occurred when I doubled over with laughter during Brent Butt of CTV sitcom Corner Gas fame’s stand-up comedic routine. I was not alone as one patron told me he nearly fell off his seat he was laughing so hard.
While laughter was one reaction being moved was another. An intimate moment came when John McDermott, the “Celtic Canadian superstar,” had the house lights turned up to acknowledge local legend Gordie Tapp and his wife, Helen. They had come to the show, as their daughter, Barbara, who had passed away, was a dedicated fan. In his sonorous tenor voice John McDermott sang “Ave Marie” as a tribute to Barbara whom he felt would be there in spirit.
No one could be more approachable than John McDermott. Breezing around the atrium before, during intermission and after the show, he paused to chat to patrons and pose for photos with fans. It was hard to pin him down. At one point he was spotted sitting in the audience watching his guest artist perform. On stage he expressed his pleasure performing at our Centre by saying with outstretched arms to the audience: “I love this room.”
When Arlo Guthrie appeared in person at The Burlington Performing Arts Centre, I told my two sons. Knowing they were fans, I gushed about his music and the anecdotes he related about his famous father, Woodie Guthrie. My Ottawa son lamented missing the opportunity while my B.C. son commented: “ I shook hands with Arlo 20 years ago on the steps of his trailer at a show.”
On a nostalgic note, I enjoyed a journey back to my South African roots listening to the haunting melodies of Ladysmith Black Mambazo who were featured on Paul Simon’s 1986 recording of “Graceland”.
On my own musical journey I attended a camp last summer, taking fiddle lessons with members of the Leahy family. A film of the family at camp offered glimpses of their lives at home. Consequently, at the Leahy Family Christmas concert at the Performing Arts Centre I could relate to the person who yelled from the balcony: “I want to be a part of your family.”
I continue to cherish all these special moments with my family of fellow volunteers not to mention an upcoming performance when I will proudly watch my granddaughter perform on stage with her school band.
By Penny Heneke