Chris Scerri’s Vision For Meaford Culminates In “Rockin’ the Hall”

This Saturday night’s show at Meaford Hall is, in addition to being a celebration of The Meaford Hall & Culture Foundation’s accomplishments through the past decade, a celebration of live music in Meaford and Chris Scerri’s vision.  Most of the cast is composed of people that he introduced to our town, or made our town more aware of.  There is the great honkytonk piano player Tyler Yarema as musical director, the veteran soul singer Virgil Scott, Canadian Idol finalist Drew Wright, virtuoso violinist Victoria Yeh, and fast rising vocal talents Gracie and Emma Wright.  And of course Chris himself.

In the past year Chris Scerri has had quite an impact on Meaford and the town has had an impact on him.  This weekend’s Rockin’ The Hall show is in many ways the culmination of his efforts over the past year.  The Meaford Hall & Culture Foundation puts on a show every year as a fundraiser in conjunction with their Silent Auction and this year they asked Chris to put it together for them.  Their association with Chris began with their sponsorship (with others) of the Meaford Summer Concert Series which was conceived and produced by him.  Like others who were involved, as sponsors, participants or audience, when they saw how that project evolved they were impressed with his organization and effort.

Like so many people in Meaford who have made big contributions to the town, Chris was inspired by his love of his new home to bring something special to it.  He has always been a music lover, particularly live music, and he had a vision that would enhance tourism and night life in the town.

"The Great Canadian Songbook" at Meaford Hall

“The Great Canadian Songbook” rocked Meaford Hall this spring, including locals Chris Scerri and Drew McIvor

His initial effort was to suggest to several musical friends from his former home in Port Credit that they put together a special show.  With talents like Tom Barlow, Johnny Max and Tyler Yarema on board, he sold them on the idea of bringing their show to the Opera House, knowing that not only would they love the venue, but the local audiences would love them.  The result, called “The Great Canadian Songbook” was a rousing success, creating a memorable evening for everyone who was there and, for a few of the participants, introducing them to the beauty of Meaford, which they have come to regard as a second home.

Tuesday Nights at The Leeky (photo by Marissa Dollotallis)

Tuesday Nights at The Leeky (photo by Marissa Dollotallis)

Next he wanted to start an open mic night at The Leeky Canoe.  The Leeky had been booking local bands for some time, rotating well-known local talents on Saturday nights.  Chris saw the open mic as an opportunity to bring some new talent to the fore.  He had the ingenious idea of bringing along a different co-host each week, which had the effect of creating a new vibe for each open mic night.  There has been a steady stream of great accompanists at his Tuesday night jams, attracting a good audience as well as a variety of talented performers.

Carrie Stoffers at Captains Corner caught the spirit and added an open mic night to her outside patio during the summer, along with Friday night concerts.

Chris has a vision of bringing live music to more venues in Meaford. He says he is currently “working with another local restaurant to offer live music on a regular basis, with more of a jazz/classical feel.”  He adds, “I would love to see more venues hosting live music.  We have come a long way in less than a year, and if we continue making Meaford a live music destination, there is no limit to what can be achieved.”

Max Breadner with a little help from his friends, performs at the Meaford Summer Concert Series

Max Breadner with a little help from his friends, performs at the Meaford Summer Series

Chris’s idea for the Meaford Summer Concert Series was to bring in headliner bands that would draw a crowd and combine them with performances by local young performers.  He wanted to create a reason for people to come to downtown Meaford on a summer Friday night, and the series built an audience as it progressed.  Almost all of the performers from out of town have returned again to play for Meaford audiences, usually at The Leeky.  The young local performers who participated in the series have become better known locally as a result.

“This is one of my favourite returns on investment,” he says, “The young talent pool we have right here in Meaford is beyond anything I could have imagined.  Every time I see a young artist perform live at an event I helped create it tells me I’m on the right track.”

As a promoter, Chris has an outstanding approach, leaving no stone unturned in his efforts to get the word out.  That is a big part of his success.  With the Summer Series he not only lined up sponsors and the talent, he arranged posters, card racks and a large on-site banner, made sure that a sound system and lighting was in place, and spared no effort to make people aware of the events.  During the first few concerts, when the word was still building, when the crowd was not gathering fast enough for him, he personally went down to Memorial Park and solicited the campers there to come downtown for the free music.  As much effort as he put into bringing an audience, he did the same to make the performers feel welcome, including arranging food and beverages and inviting them over to The Leeky after the Market Square concerts.

He also added to the night life of Meaford by arranging with the Leeky Canoe to stay open late on nights that there were concerts at Meaford Hall, and present live music.  It became a new opportunity for fans at Meaford Hall to head across the street afterward and enjoy a beer and wings while taking in more live music.  It became such a success for the Leeky that they expanded their musical offerings to several nights a week, asking Chris to book the extra nights.  In addition to bringing talents from Owen sound and Collingwood, and bringing back performers who had been part of the summer series, he introduced Meaford audiences to some impressive new talents from around Southern Ontario.

Throughout this process, he has also built a reputation as a fine interpreter of songs.  The process of being accompanied each week by a different musician and singing on stage on a regular basis resulted in a clear progression of his talent.  He had been asked to join the cast of “The Great Canadian Songbook” when they performed at Meaford Hall and later in the summer when they took the show on the road up north, he was invited to be a part of it.  He was one of the sellout performers at Meaford Hall’s Terrace Thursday series in the summer and he was a headliner at the recent benefit for Raven Taylor at  The Marsh Street Centre in Clarksburg.

“I am very fortunate to get to play with all the talent that I do,” he says, “I have a lot more confidence when performing and feel I’ve gotten to know my voice better, if that makes sense.”  He’s a firm believer in the value of an open stage to allow for that kind of development.  “I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for the open mic I started performing at ten years ago.  I think this format gives new artists the opportunity to experience performing in front of a live audience.  I found that along with improving musical skills through practice, nothing built confidence like performing live!  It is also the place where musicians meet and may end up performing together down the road.”

He’s excited about this Saturday’s show.

“We have put together a set list that will not only have energy levels high,” he says, “but will touch a lot of emotions.  I would tell you more but don’t want to spoil the surprises!”

The show, which is a fundraiser for the Meaford Hall & Culture Foundation, is a bargain with ticket prices at  $40. The show starts at 8 pm, Saturday December 3rd. (see sidebar for link to ticket info).

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4 Responses to Chris Scerri’s Vision For Meaford Culminates In “Rockin’ the Hall”

  1. Gillian says:

    As a “band mom” I’m very grateful to Chris (and you). Can’t wait for 2017!

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  3. John Scerri says:

    Go for it son!

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