Local Players Excited To Be Doing The Last Waltz

The latest production at Meaford Hall by Chris Scerri, a tribute to The Last Waltz scheduled for November 25th, is a bit of a departure from his previous productions.  Up to this point he has put together variety shows that combined local and imported talent, built mainly around the talents of musical director Tyler Yarema and others from the Port Credit area that Chris has introduced to Meaford.  This time around it will be all local talent, some of the best that our area offers, under the musical direction of keyboard player John Hume.

For each member of this tribute band, The Band and their iconic farewell concert both hold special significance.

“It was a magic moment in music history,” says Chris Scerri, “that allowed for some of the most influential modern day artists to get together for the ultimate Jam.”  He adds that the DVD of the concert movie is one which, “I can watch time and time again, and continue to be inspired by both the musical talents and the show itself.”

The Last Waltz was the name Robbie Robertson gave to the farewell concert of The Band, performed on American Thanksgiving Day in 1976 at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco.  A film of the concert by Martin Scorcese was released in 1978 and was hailed by film critic Michael Wilmington as “the greatest rock concert movie ever made – and maybe the best rock movie, period”  Time bears that out, with the influence of the movie being felt almost forty years later.

“To me, when I first discovered The Last Waltz,” says Jaret Koop, “It was part of my musical awakening.  The Band showed me that putting your heart into your music is really what it is all about.” 

Jaret, born just the month before the concert took place, plays bass in Meaford’s version of The Band. Jaret sings and plays bass in his band WKRP with Trevor MacKenzie and Mike Weir from The MacKenzie Blues Band.  He’s excited to be part of this particular ensemble of talents taking on The Band. “They changed my musical taste, they changed my songwriting, they changed how I approached putting together a band.  I play their music regularly to this day.”

To the members of this tribute band, the fact that The Band was Canadian means a lot to them.

“I’m so stoked to be presenting the songs I grew up with,” says Drew McIvor, “The Band is as much a part of the Canadian mosaic as hockey and the CNE.  And now we’re part of that fabric too.”

Drew McIvor, who plays piano for the show, is already an integral part of the fabric of music in the Meaford area.  His Porchlight CD sparked some attention from CBC and there’s a big buzz about his new CD, Through The Tangle of Trees,  being released Sept. 28 at Heartwood Concert Hall.  His band, The Honey Brothers, will be at Desboro Hall in October.

Jon Zaslow, on guitar, also sees The Band as “totally original and deeply Canadian”, but also “right up there with the Beatles, Stones, Steely Dan.”

Jon is a songwriter and guitarist who is one half of The Travelling Thornburys.  He’s also, along with Beaker and Jayden, part of Horseshoes and Handgrenades.  He sees The Band as “a perfect combination of sloppy and elegant.”

“Who doesn’t love the band?” he adds, “It is a treat to spend a whole evening focusing and celebrating with so many great tunes.”

Having Beaker Granger on drums is as important to this tribute band as Levon Helm was to The Band.  Like Levon, Beaker is the senior member of the band, sometimes referred to as the father of live music here in Meaford.  In addition to playing on sessions, and touring with RPR, Beaker fronts his own busy band, River and Rock.  He has a big show with RPR coming up at the Roxy Theatre in Owen Sound on Sept. 28,

“Absolutely thrilled to be performing some of my favourite music,” he says, “with these great players, in this venue.  I have a long history with both Meaford Hall (one time employee, many time performer) and with The Band.  Anyone who knows me knows I’ve always said that musically speaking, there’s the Beatles and The Band…and there’s everyone else.”

John Hume, who plays keyboards in River and Rock, is taking on the role of Musical Director for this production.

“I’m honoured to be sharing the stage with such a stellar cast of musicians celebrating such an iconic band.  The Band were complex yet still accessible, cool without trying and gave Canadian musicians hope that there was room for them too.”

For Jayden Grahlman, the music of The Band was around long before he was, but he still calls it “some of my favourite music,” and predicts,”people will be playing these songs forever.”

Jayden, a busy and popular guitarist, plays in a number of local bands between solo gigs and giving lessons.  He’ll be joining Drew McIvor as part of the Honey Brothers show at Desboro Hall and he plays guitar with the great funk band Higher Funktion, who will be blowing the roof off the Marsh Street Centre on Sept. 30th.

All of the original members of The Band contributed vocals and one of the great strengths of Meaford’s tribute band is that each member sings as well as plays.

There is a buzz building quickly about this show and some of it is coming from the band members, who are getting excited about what they are hearing in rehearsals.

“I feel honoured to be playing these tune alongside this great band,” Jayden says,  “Everyone gels and we can’t wait to present this show to Meaford!”

One of the aspects of The Last Waltz that gave it a place in rock history was the presence of a cavalcade of stars that represented the era.  A local tribute wouldn’t be complete without reference to artists like Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, Neil Diamond, and Eric Clapton, who were all part of the original show.  Chris says that all of these artists will be honoured as well by local talents, and he will let us know details on that in due time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *