It would have made the Grinch’s heart grow 3 more sizes!

Now that it’s mid-January, the lingering consequences of the festive season are starting to disappear. Folks in Edmonton have recovered from their food hangovers, and even their bank accounts are starting to fill up again. As people start to look forward to the coming year, and the warm weather that will hopefully be coming with it, the end of 2012 becomes a cozy memory, in spite of our harsh winter.

This past Christmas, that warm feeling brought on by the holidays even made it to those who suffer through the cruelty of  low temperatures the most.

And it happened because of the Edmonton music community.

On Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day, local artists organized a music festival at Boyle Street Community Services (BSCS). This filled the drop-in centre with music over the most difficult time of the year for people living in the inner city.

Scott Cook

The idea to do this starting a while back. A few years ago, Bob Cook’s daughter made a Christmas visit to Boyle Street with her school. The kids were there to deliver backpacks filled with gifts for folks who really needed them.

At the time, Cook thought it would be nice to do something for the community members, who aren’t able to attend many concerts, especially in the winter months. When his daughter and her schoolmates returned to deliver backpacks again this past December, Cook decided to organize a music festival over Christmas.

There wasn’t much time to pull things together. He contacted Allan Rathgeber, a musician who works at BSCS in community safety, and together they worked out a plan to get musicians in to the drop-in, and on stage with all the proper equipment.

A call to performers went out, and many quickly responded, readily giving up their own Christmas to brighten up the holidays for the less fortunate. The Edmonton Arts Council came through with last minute support, hand-delivering a cheque to for the festival on Christmas Eve. Cook, whose band Bob Cook and the Mucho Nada Party performed several times during the festival, was impressed and appreciative of the musicians. The same goes for the Edmonton Arts Council, who under Executive Director John Mahon, has been integral to the development of the local scene. What Cook wasn’t surprised by, however, was the community banding together.

Bob Cook’s lack of surprise isn’t unusual. The Edmonton cultural scene has a habit of being selfless. Recently, the Edmonton Journal published a piece entitled “Edmonton has come to embrace lively arts scene”. The article stresses the benefits of a strong creative community, which are many. It’s clear that artists are having an impact, and the Boyle Street Music Festival is but one example. Carson Cole, who performed on Christmas Day, is a big part of the Centre for Arts and Music, which brings musical mentorship to youth at risk. And Bob Cook, it’s no surprise, spends much of his time performing for schools across Canada and US as “Bobby Boogaloo,” entertaining children as he engages them with issues such as bullying, sharing, and respect. Oh, and he also offers songwriting workshops for kids too.

Passing through the drop-in centre on the evening of Boxing Day, it was clear the community members were enjoying the music. Picture the Ocean and Scott Cook filled out the bill that night, and their relaxed, mellow music was the perfect complement for the mood of their audience. When asking people what thought of the music, the response was always the same – with their eyes lighting up and smiles on their faces they’d say: “I love it.”

The positive impact of the festival was clear for anyone who attended. Hats off to Bob Cook, Allan Rathgeber, the other organizers from Boyle Street Community Services, all the musicians, the Edmonton Arts Council, and all the community members who danced and sang along to the music. For an example of how people involved were affected by the festival, here’s what Scott Cook posted on Facebook after he finished his set:

“Played one of the most interesting gigs of my life tonight, for the homeless folks at Boyle Street Community Centre, at my good buddy Bob Cook’s invitation, with my longtime comrade Moses Gregg for musical company. Hard to sum up all the extremes of tragedy, comedy and human drama in that rowdy room. Three fights narrowly averted. All levels of sobriety and intoxication. Innumerable requests for Johnny Cash. More people listening to the words than you’d find in your average bar. A woman crying in front of the stage during ‘Trouble In Mind’, until one fella came up and slow danced with her, to applause from their friends. The way they went nuts for ‘The Lord Giveth (and the Landlord Taketh Away)’, and how it felt to sing ‘there’s a fine line tween makin ends meet and sleeping in the rain’ to people who know way more about the reality of that than I ever hope to. Count your blessings this holiday season, friends, and keep your hearts set on peace on earth and goodwill toward men. Here’s hoping.”

Bob Cook

Bob Cook and the Mucho Nada Party

Picture the Ocean

Picture the Ocean

You can dance if you want to

You can dance to Scott Cook if you want to

The Whole Line-up!

The Whole Line-up!

Explore posts in the same categories: Edmonton Music Scene

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