Huron Carole fundraising tour gives solace to performers

The Huron Carole

Where: Royal Theatre

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When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $52, $102.50

After George Canyon’s friend died in a plane crash, the Canadian country singer was offered the opportunity to leave The Huron Carole.

But Canyon said he wanted continue with the fundraising concert tour, which concludes tonight in Victoria.

“The performance went on [in Lloydminster, Alta., on Saturday]. George was head up, shoulders back. He was fantastic on that night,” Tom Jackson, founder of The Huron Carole, said from Calgary this week.

On Saturday, pilot Bill Lovse died when his plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Lloydminster airport. He’d just dropped off Canyon for The Huron Carole concert in the small city, straddling the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Canyon said in a statement he was devastated by the tragedy.

“We’re all really affected by this. George and I talked a little last night,” Jackson said.

As well as Jackson and Canyon, the tour includes Beverley Mahood, One More Girl and Shannon Gaye. The drummer for this year’s house band is drummer Jerry Adolphe, a Victoria native.

The crash “shook us all up,” Mahood said from Calgary, where The Huron Carole performed Tuesday. She added: “Music and making music is healing in itself. [Canyon] decided to do the [Lloydminster] concert, and I guess that night we decided to stand a little closer together than we ever had.”

Mahood is a television host and singer who in Victoria will sing her new single, Hope and Gasoline.

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“We’ve chosen the life we’ve chosen. I wake up every day and get to do what I love. I think in every job, in everything you do, there’s that chance you take,” she said.

Proceeds from tonight’s concert go to the Mustard Seed, a Victoria street church and food bank. Jackson said concert-goers are encouraged to bring dry-good food donations to the Royal Theatre.

Brent Palmer, director of the Mustard Seed food bank, said both food and financial donations are needed this Christmas season. He encouraged Victorians to also consider making a monthly money donation throughout the year. The non-profit organization’s website is mustardseed.ca.

Jackson, a singer and actor, has been taking The Huron Carole on cross-Canada tours since 1987. Born to an English father and a Cree mother, Jackson is best known for playing Chief Peter Kenidi on CBC television’s North of 60.

He was homeless himself in 1986, when he was 38 years old. At the time, he found a man lying on the street while people passed him by. Jackson called emergency services and later learned the man had survived. This inspired him to start The Huron Carole, which has raised millions of dollars for Canadian food banks and other social service agencies.

He has also raised money through his Singing for Supper tours, which help the needy in rural communities.

Jackson said Canyon’s experience is the only close call a Huron Carole performer has experienced on the road.

Now 65, the humanitarian vows to keep up the fundraising efforts as long as he’s able.

“If my spirit tells me to stop, then I’ll stop. If my body tells me to stop, then I’ll probably stop,” Jackson said.

“What’s remarkable to me now is that the need is greater than it ever was.”

achamberlain@timescolonist.com

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