In 11 days I will be performing my 13th self produced concert with After Hours. There's a lot of "firsts" happening in this show... it's our first show opening with a magician, first show my students "Nothing But Treble" will be singing in, first Christmas show ever at the Winchester and the first show we've done where Jon will have a lot of important leads throughout the evening.
It will also be the first show that my Dad won't see. True, he also missed the "Roar!" show in April but he did see a couple videos from the concert before he passed away on May 17th.
In the early concerts at Grace Church On-The-Hill he was always in the front row taking pictures with his 35mm film camera. When we moved to the Winchester Theatre in 2010, he put the camera down and sat back and listened with his eyes closed. For our 15th anniversary show (and our Chinatown concert later that fall) he actually took the captain's chair up in the mezzanine and ran the sound board for us, a job which has now been handed over to the amazing Paul Hutchison.
My dad, Rudy, has never missed a show. And I mean all of the public shows. He always showed his support by being there. He didn't always remember the other guys' names (he still called Jon by his last name, "Pong", right up until the very end) but he was always there, cheering us on. Now you might think, well, he's your Dad, of course he was there! The thing is, the secret is, I don't think he really liked a cappella music...
I know he liked Doo-Wop music, which is likely how I fell into it. But my dad first learned to play the accordion when he was young:
Later on after high school he became a drummer for a band called the Sapphires here in Toronto:
Music eventually became secondary to his new family but he continued drumming on things in the house, especially my Mom's ironing board, which she hated.
My father actually had a nice singing voice too, a bit like Nat King Cole to be honest, probably because he was a huge fan. In my opinion, a far better singer than I am. His only downfall was he was terrible with lyrics. He would sing songs around the house and eventually I would hear them on the radio and I'd have to give my head a shake because the words he sang hundreds of times and got stuck in my mind were NOT the same as the ones from the recordings where he first heard them.
But his truly favourite bands, James' Last orchestra, Santana, Isao Tomita, Jean Michel Jarre, Dan Gibson, Herb Alpert... all had one thing in common. They were all instrumentalists. The only a cappella they had in the house was the Nylons and he only enjoyed THEM because they covered his favourite Doo-Wop songs.
He had no passion for a cappella. After each show he was deeply critical of what we did, often complaining so and so was too loud, couldn't hear the lead, weird songs, etc. At first it really bothered me but then I realized he wasn't wrong, things could always be better so eventually I started relying on his criticism to improve. I thought there'd be no better person to mix our sound for our 15th anniversary concert but I think he finally realized how hard it is to do what we do and it wasn't so easy for him. I think his respect for the craft changed a bit after that.
He would often say he enjoyed us more than the Nylons, my inspiration for this craft. He felt our sound was more pure, more honest, that we didn't hide behind drum machines and extra dubbed vocals... which is likely a big reason why we've never tried.
I do know that he enjoyed the song "He Lives In You', lead by Yee Kuang.
And of course he enjoyed the songs from his youth that we do, Come Go With Me, Runaround Sue, Duke Of Earl, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, etc.
It felt strange in April, to not have him there for the "Roar!" show. Yee Kuang had just lost his mother in February so to have both of them not there... just not the same. But I didn't think at that point that I'd be losing him completely. We already knew we were going to do this upcoming show before he passed away so we just said very casually "oh you can just come to the Christmas one in December". None of us knew at that time that there would be no next one for him.
I'm sad that he's not going to see my students sing at the show. I'm sad he's going to miss Jon sing a bunch of leads in this show as I know he really liked Mr. "Pong".
But what I think I will miss the most is talking to him after the show, to hear the good and the bad, to hear his thoughts. To get better because he could be honest with me.
I became musical because of both of my parents. I learned to love a cappella because of my mother. I learned to be the best musician and performer I can be because of my Dad.
I know the boys will feel his presence missed along with some of you. I could easily say this show is dedicated to my Dad but I already know I always did this to impress my parents, to make them proud, every show. This show will be no different.
I was blown away with how well Yee Kuang kept it together at the "Roar!" show after losing his mom so soon before. Singing a cappella is such an emotional thing, performing period, so emotional. Easy to say "he's such a professional"... I hate that term. It's nonsense. He got lost in the music, had a good time and his mom was right there with him the whole time, making her proud. He sang up there with his a cappella brothers, surrounded by his closest friends, on stage and in the audience. And that's exactly what I'm going to do. Sing up there with my a cappella brothers on one side, my a cappella sisters on the other, and all of YOU out there in the audience, sitting around my dad as I try and make the old man proud.