August 2008

The Firefly Cabaret
A Benefit for Camp Quality: "Lifting the spirits of children with cancer"
August 21, 2008 Hugh's Room Toronto
Oh, to be a firefly on the wall...
by Laila Boulos

It seemed only a short time ago that Hugh's Room, this community-minded venue, was playing host to the Save the Revue Theatre fundraiser, and now, it was opening its doors wide for the Second Annual Firefly Cabaret.

Hugh's Room, a sophisticated venue on any night, was especially elegant and sparkling on this occasion with twinkling centrepieces and gorgeous programmes adorning the tables. Although it was early in the evening, many had already gathered around the tables to savour a lovely dinner while others were curiously perusing the silent auction items in the lively room.

The evening's host, Jazz FM's Heather Bambrick, had the room bursting with laughter between performers with her freewheeling East Coast sense of frivolity and warmth, especially during her unabashed rendition of the theme from All in the Family. And with a sound system as sharp as this venue's, with the volume turned up for a room three times the size, Ms. Bambrick had even more presence!

The backup band, composed of Glenn Anderson on drums, Peter Hill on piano, Ross MacIntyre on bass, William Sperandei on trumpet and Richard Underhill on saxophone picked up the vibe of each performer with the speed of light. And, incidentally, the vibe did change almost at the speed of light, as each diverse act performed only three to four songs. These versatile players, many of them headliners themselves, filled the evening with a delicious interplay primarily between trumpet and sax, sometimes drums, and occasionally bass as musical shadows and light playfully jousted for most of the evening.

Organized by Toronto vocalist and actress Chantelle Wilson as a tribute to her late father, Wayne Wilson, it was an evening flowing, at once, with a sense of hope, community and catch-your-breath musicianship as each spectacular act rolled into the next.

The first act of Lickin' Good Fried's Alex Pangman and Colonel Tom Parker filled the room with bluegrass and blues-infused melodies allowing the honky tonk to ooze in a long, cool lemonade solo from Peter Hill's piano on the foot-stomping "Another Day, Another Dollar".

As the elegant June Garber took over the stage, her soothing vocals filled the crevices with the eternally hopeful "Somewhere Over The Rainbow". This piece she stated was "....why we are all here tonight". Rich Underhill's sultry sax interpretation on this piece was definitely a musical highlight of the evening. Layered over the dreamlike soft-shoe drumming of Mr. Anderson, the combination created much emotion and showcased Underhill's versatility.

Always an engaging performer, tonight, Ms. Garber`s heart and vocal chords worked in tandem to turn the audience to mush with her feather boa version of "Black Coffee".

Chantelle Wilson then took to the stage with Shannon Butcher for some mesmerizing harmonies reminiscent of their recently put to rest and sadly missed trio, Swing Rosie. Along with Kira Callahan, they performed and recorded for many years and this coming together reinforced the memory of their Andrews Sisters synergy.

Later, Ms. Butcher's sultry vocals melded with Mr. MacIntyre's meditative massaging of bass strings for Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight". In this duet, the spotlight finally focussed on the bass as he worked deftly up and down the fingerboard, in a gorgeous solo making up for the majority of the evening spent in the musical shadows.

June Garber

Rich Underhill

The heart-wrenching trumpet of Mr. Sperandei, on Ms. Butcher's reworking of Tears for Fears' "Mad World", highlighted the soaring in his improvisational confidence since arriving on the scene a few years ago.

Lori Cullen`s set was a testament to the power we all have inside. As this creative vocalist and guitarist performed her own popular silver lining radio hit "Clearer Weather", her audience practically became sunburned from the sheer sunshine exuberance of it all.

The final act of the evening practically sent the audience out dancing in the streets. Tyler Yarema worked his way up one side of the piano keys and swiftly down the other with his boogie woogie cavorting. He whispered softly one second and in the next, came back with a vengeance akin to the retreating and rebounding hippos from the movie Fantasia.

As the evening of terrific music, food to salivate over, staff you want to be best friends with, and a cause we should all be fighting for came to an end, rumour was that Chantelle, being the hard worker that she is, was beginning to plan next year's event, which promises to be even bigger.

Camp Quality is a non-profit organization in which dedicated volunteers provide support to children with cancer and their families. These services, held throughout the year, include family gatherings, reunions and fun weekends.

Through the (life-size) Puppet Program, almost 17,000 students learn about the importance of sensitivity to cancer and how it affects people during presentations in their schools.

All these events are provided at no cost to the individuals. Camp Quality is funded by donations from the public, businesses and special events (such as the Firefly Cabaret).

There are currently six Camp locations in Canada and more are on the way.


We welcome your comments and feedback
Laila Boulos
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