It was a night to remember.
Wednesday, Dec. 8, was a night of great anticipation and a real test for Massey Hall’s new look and sound makeover. The faces in the crowd were those you’d pass on a street outside of Toronto, up the 401 and in small communities. The Hall was built in 1894 by Hart Massey and designed by architect Sidney Badgley for the people of Toronto, and those in attendance to experience the remake gave it a resounding thumbs up. One couple from the farm belt asked all about the interior, the restoration of the stained glass windows, and marvelled at the curved ornamentation hovering above. So, the people have spoken, and they love it!
They also love Andy Kim, and Kim loves back.
In the hallowed hall, this was a first for Andy and his annual Christmas party – number 17. The entirety of the newly renamed Allan Slaight Auditorium had the seasonal vibe of Christmas – the reds, greens, evergreens, and feel of a cozy family get-together around a fireplace.Halfway in, Toronto Mayor John Tory presented Andy Kim with a Key to the City, stating: “Andy Kim has been entertaining and uniting people with his music for decades, both here at home and around the world. We are proud that Andy has made Toronto his home for the past 20 years and for being such a strong member of our community. The funds raised through his annual Andy Kim Christmas Show not only impacts the lives of many but cements his commitment to building up this city and its people”
Andy wasn’t short for words: “The rich heritage of Massey Hall inspired me and all of my musical guests as we stood on this storied stage. I've reached many milestones, but the night's surprise was His Worship Mayor John Tory honouring me with my jewelled framed moment The Key to The City.”
The night worked on many levels.
At once, a fundraiser for CAMH – Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and secondly, Kim's musical gift and thank you to our ailing country.
Mayor Tory stated that “Andy has become a true champion of our cause and for the past nine years has chosen to support CAMH Gifts of Light. His concerts alone have raised over $800,000 to support the patients of CAMH, and we are forever grateful for his partnership!
“The pandemic has only highlighted how crucial mental health support is for us. Whether it be in our work life, personal life, or, more specifically, the music industry, mental illness will touch us all.
“Thanks to Andy, all of the evening's artists, Live Nation and Donna and Gary Slaight, for understanding and valuing the importance of our work.
Last night's 50-50 draw also raised $3,500 from generous concert attendees. “When Quinn Kirby, manager of Gifts of Light, had the idea of providing tablets to patients and with the help of Gary and Donna Slaight, that idea became a reality.
A $300,000 donation in 2020 from the Slaight Family allowed CAMH to purchase tablets for all patients across the hospital.”
“Over the months, we faced many new and unexpected limitations and challenges surrounding the patient experience at CAMH. We believed that access to technology for our patients and allied staff could fill a big gap that we were facing, but it came with a hefty price tag,” Quinn said.
"Overnight, we became reliant on technology for nearly every aspect of our jobs, so we knew right away that it was just as important to provide to our patients easier access to the online world as well. The pandemic was going to change the way we all interacted with one another."
The donation from the Slaight family secured 500 tablets for patients to use at both Queen Street and College/Russell Street sites and 54 tablets for staff to facilitate virtual care sessions.This night, Gary and Donna graciously presented CAMH with a check for $50,000.
Kim also produced a Ken Burns’ quality video tracing the beginnings of radio and television through the guidance of the late Allan Slaight. Then pointed out that the meticulously refurbished hall everyone was enjoying came through a generous gift from Allan Slaight.“That was beautiful. Oh, it was great. And I hope I can get a copy. I knew he was working on something. But it didn't know how much he put into it, the effort he put into it. That was, really nice, of Andy,” Gary Slaight of Slaight Music said. “And it was, it was great for me, seeing and being on the stage. It was cool. It was so odd, but it was fabulous. Also, that it's the Allan Slaight stage, which, for me, was special.
“All the promotions and the ads mentioned in Andy's ads, and all this, all the things Andy did for Donna and CAMH, for Gifts of Light, are helpful and appreciated. Some years, Andy has had two or three charities and split it up. But this year, the focus was on CAMH, which was great. This is the perfect place for this. They sold it out. It was great. It was an outstanding event. We appreciate it, and we appreciate everything Andy does and the way he puts this together.”
The night was about music and specific choices – those players and bands that resonate with Kim. No letdowns, no moments of uncertainty, just a full-on evening of guitar-driven rock courtesy of Sloan, Alex Lifeson, Moe Berg and Pursuit of Happiness, the Sheepdogs, Crown Lands and Billy Talent. The remaining acts owned the middle ground: Beverly Mahood, Tyler Shaw, Georgia Harmer, William Prince, Ron Sexsmith, Choir, Choir, Choir, Theo Tams, Jully Black and Jake Clemons.
And there were standouts…
The Money Notes: Theo Tams, Damhnait Doyle, Tyler Shaw.
Tams outdid himself – with a big, bold, passionate read of the holiday classic, O Holy Night, this after leaving the audience in awe a week earlier at the Phoenix Theatre memorial night for Canada Walk of Fame’s Peter Soumalias, singing Blood Sweat & Tear’s – And When I Die.
Allman Brothers Reunion: The Sheepdogs – guitar zone – Ewan and Shamus Currie- Jimmy Bowskill.
Keith Richards Crunch Time: Kris Abbott – Pursuit of Happiness
Best Led Zeppelin Moment: Billy Talent, Damhnait Doyle, Cody Bowes (Crown Lands) – Stairway to Heaven, Battle of Evermore.
Master & Commander – Stage Left and Right: Moe Berg – Pursuit of Happiness – I’m An Adult Now
Song With Lots of Feeling: Andy Kim and Ron Sexsmith – How Did We Ever Get This Way
Name That Tune: Big ups to bandleader Bill Bell. No song or performer got lost in the shuffle of chords and notes. Grand work!
Sounds of Silence: William Prince’s acoustic miracle.
Supplementary reading: Five highlights from Andy Kim’s Christmas Show at Toronto’s Massey Hall – Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail