Remembering Gord

By John Swartz

Wednesday May 1, was not the day it was supposed to be, as weather forecasters predicted. The changing forecast earlier in the week was not good, rain was in the cards, but by Monday evening it looked like it was instead going to be partly sunny and warmer. It wasn’t, the skies were overcast but at least there was no rain.

That meant to organizers of the annual Lightfoot Days Festival could go ahead with their plan to hold a memorial to mark the first anniversary of the passing of Gordon Lightfoot in their original location, at the Golden Leaves sculpture in Tudhope Park.

Emily Baillie

Would anyone show up? Yes they did. About 120 people were on hand to hear some music and words of dedication. Emily Baillie and her husband came in from Horseshoe Valley to take part.

“It’s a very nice tribute to him. He obviously had some deep roots in Orillia, so it made sense to have it here and I can see a lot of people here are fans and miss him very much and take pleasure in remembering him and reminiscing with his music,” Baillie said.

Mayor Don McIsaac was there to represent the City.

“He was a humble and gracious man who never forgot his roots. He loved Orillia and we loved him back.” McIsaac said.

That is so true of the last couple decades of Lightfoot’s life. He never chased away fans and would spend time listening to what each one has to say. He always seemed to take joy in learning one fan or another had crossed his path earlier in life.

Daphne Mainrprize, vice president of the festival, emceed and she said they didn’t organize the day’s event, “just to mourn his absence, but to celebrate the enduring legacy of a musical genius.”

Steve Porter and Jeff Monague were on hand to sing a couple of Lightfoot’s songs. Porter did Face of a Thousand People and Monague Christian Island.

Monague said he used to work on Christian Island as a teenager and he was there once when Lightfoot brought his boat into the marina and later, a few times when Monague was working on Beausoleil Island.

“I never once thought to talk to him because I thought I didn’t want to bother him during his time off. I just watched him from a distance,” Monague said.

John Winchester, as president of the festival, also addressed the gathered.

“He verbalized many of my own thoughts. I enjoy reading the lyrics almost as much as listening to his songs,” Winchester said.

Gary Peters and Lisa Gillette

Gary Peters and Lisa Gillette of Hawkstone, were there.

“I love Gordon Lightfoot,” said Peters.

“We do, we cover his music as well and we are proud to be able to share his music with people, which is really special,” said Gillette. The couple perform at events as the acoustic group Little Otter and often include songs by Lightfoot. They were glad to have been at Tudhope Park.

“I thought it was amazing. There were tears,” said Gillette.

The last item on the program was some tunes by a group of musicians called the Brant Street Session, who played some Celtic tunes. Group member Alan Cooper ended everything with a rendition of Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra which Mainrpize said was one of the first songs Lightfoot learned to sing.

Later in the afternoon cellist Margaret Maria and vocalist Tréson held an event at St. Paul’s Centre to unveil a video they made covering Lightfoot’s Song For A Winter’s Night.

They showed the video, and then performed the song, twice, once with the backing instrumentation from the recording, and once with just the cello and singing.

Jeff Monague

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(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main: The first anniversary at Tudhope Park remembering the life of Gordon Lightfoot.


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