Charity concert a festive collaboration

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Money is no object for a group of Foothills musicians if it means ensuring no one in their community goes hungry.

A dozen musicians have signed on to perform for the 11th annual Okotoks Food Bank Charity Christmas Concert on Dec. 12 and 13 at 7 p.m. in the Okotoks Evangelical Free Church.

John Fraser, Okotoks Food Bank Christmas Concert committee chairman, said finding musicians to perform at the concert for free is never an issue, despite the amount of work that’s involved in preparing for the two-night show.

“It’s not just their time on stage to perform, it’s all the preparation that goes into it and they have to commit to the whole night even though they might be up there for 15 minutes,” he said. “It’s good exposure for them.”

Performers for this year’s concert include The Travelling Mabels, Michela Sheedy, Tanya Ryan, Samm Smith, Jay Burns, the Sheep River Bandits, Taken by Sanity, Dwight Forseth & Friends, Doris Daley, John and Lady C Fraser, Ellen Doty, Over the Moon and Go Ask Earl.

Organizers have also arranged for a surprise multi Juno Award winning musician to perform. While word has leaked out, Fraser refused to give any further details.

“It’s probably the worst-kept secret in Okotoks,” he laughed. “It’s helping with ticket sales.”

Performers weren’t the only ones eager to step up to support the food bank. Fraser said getting sponsors was also easy, and will result in approximately 95 per cent of ticket sales going to the cause.

“Our expenses are pretty minimal,” he said. “People have been extremely generous. Once they see what this event is about they go, ‘Wow, this is top notch stuff’ and they’re inspired to make a donation.”

Last year’s charity concert raised about $25,000 for the food bank, Fraser said.

“The food bank really needs the support,” he said. “It’s to the point where they count on it.”

Fraser said the show has been tightened up for this year with fewer performers.

“We decided to limit it to 12 each evening with most of them playing both evenings,” he said. “We are going to keep it as tight as we can so people can get home at a decent hour. We really try to deliver good value and we want to make sure that people can afford to go.”

Award-winning Black Diamond cowboy poet Doris Daley has hosted the charity concert several years, sharing Christmas jokes between performances, but this year she will both host and perform on Dec. 13.

Daley said it’s one of the highlights of her year.

“I love this Christmas concert,” she said. “I go home feeling 1,000 per cent energized and infused with Christmas cheer, hoping and praying they will invite me another year. This is the concert that’s become my favourite. The calibre of entertainment is top notch.”

Daley said she enjoys the variety of Christmas music with a combination of old favourites and originals.

“There are several singer/songwriters who are going to do originals,” she said. “For entertainment value it’s fabulous because those top-notch people are donating their time. It fills me up to think that that much talent is doing good work.”

Daley will share some Christmas poems, as well as one of her own.

“I am going to risk life and limb to show absolutely no sense whatsoever and do a poem that pokes fun at musicians, and there I am surrounded by musicians,” she said. “I laugh in the face of danger.”

As for the Christmas poems, Daley said one is about an Alberta girl who made it big in New York City and while it’s a fabulous life, she pines for a Christmas back home in the Foothills.

Okotoks-raised jazz singer/songwriter Ellen Doty, who now lives in Calgary, said this is her first time performing for the Okotoks Food Bank Charity Christmas Concert. When she was asked to do so by Fraser, she was ecstatic.

“There are multiple reasons why I love to be involved with it,” she said. “One, it goes to the food bank and, two, I always love supporting my home town and going out to perform there any chance I get. There are so many people from the town who have been so supportive and I always want to give back to the community whenever I can.”

Doty said she loves Christmas music and has selected the jazz standard What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town and Charlie Brown’s Christmas Time is Here.

“I’m really excited to get the chance to perform some of that music,” she said. “I love Christmas music. I will be playing a few Christmas tunes joined by an upright bass player from Edmonton, Murray Wood.”

Doty said she’s honoured to be a part of a concert where so many different artists come together under one roof.

“Okotoks has a lot of really amazing performers and it’s going to be nice to collaborate with some other people,” she said. “Often times at these types of things everyone helps each other out. I won’t be surprised to see other musicians jumping in our songs and us jumping in other songs.”

The concert starts at 7 p.m. on both days. Tickets to attend the Okotoks Food Bank Christmas Concert cost $20 for adults and $10 for children under 12 and are available at Sobeys, Safeway and Royal LePage Solutions in Okotoks. For more details about the artists or to purchase tickets online go to okotokschristmas.com

Concert-goers are asked to bring a non-perishable food item for the Okotoks Food Bank.

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