The concert on the night of November 30th at Hugh's Room took my breath away.
After weeks of sorrow and confusion, we declared that night to be one of celebration, a time of joy in the midst of sadness and a moment for everyone who loved her to embrace Taylor's incredible spirit through the sharing of her music. I think everyone who was there felt, at one point or another, that she was in the room with us; and I know she would have loved every minute of that night.
It began with the house band for the evening, a group of world class musicians who came together to rehearse for several hours in the afternoon (the rehearsal, I'm told, was a powerful time of sharing and communion in itself) before rocking the house through two amazing sets. Each of the musicians had a personal and professional connection to Taylor, and many of them were a part of her recording. They played their hearts out: Chris Stringer, John Dinsmore, Noel Webb, Gord Tough, Jason Mercer, and of course Michael Johnston, without whom none of it would have come together.
The guests, beloved of Taylor, who came to interpret her songs, did so with passion and respect: Lynn Miles, Suzie Vinnick, Anne Lindsay, and Kate Rogers; and then there were those who brought their own music to share, inspired or touched by Taylor each in their own way: Andrew Cash, Ania Ziemirska, Josh Finlayson, and Justin Rutledge.
It was, however, the amateurs who stole the show: Taylor's young guitar and vocal students Siobhan O'Connell, Alena Mondok, and Maxine Baines, each making their on-stage debut at Hugh's Room that night, performed with a confidence and grace that reminded me so much of Taylor. Sean Mootrey, a former neighbour and Taylor's very first guitar teacher, performed an incredible rendition of Gordon Lightfoot's song "Carefree Highway" - more incredible still that he kept his cool and didn't change his song choice even after realizing that Lightfoot himself was in the audience, seated just a few feet from the stage!
The highlights of the evening are too many to list, but mine include Andrew Cash's song "Sometimes Everybody Has to Cry;" Lynn Miles singing "Clarity;" Anne Lindsay and Suzie Vinnick's rocking "Fun While it Lasted;" and all of Taylor's students joining Michael Johnston, Andy Maize and Ron Macey on stage to sing along with their song "Hello Beautiful Life." Justin Rutledge brought along a poignant and beautiful new song that fit the evening perfectly. Lynn Miles was sublime. The wonderful people at Hugh's Room donated the space and every single performer donated their time, many traveling some distance to be there.
The room that night was filled with love and music and guitar sounds - and yes, Gordon Lightfoot was there! - and it all fit perfectly together, an eclectic and touching and very fitting tribute to an amazing person. I think all of us who love her and miss her were buoyed up for days afterward; and I know that the memory of the evening has been a bit of a balm through the inevitable difficult days since.
(Read Annie's Eulogy for Taylor)