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Live Review: The World Class Blues Series @ The Gibson Centre


By Ken Wallis.



Ken Wallis

It’s wonderful to see the return of live music. And recently a remarkable event took place at the Gibson Centre in Alliston Ontario. Let’s dig deep to see what’s involved in putting on such an event. Joining us is Erin McCallum, the producer of the series. Erin thanks for joining us.




Erin McCallum

Thanks for having me Ken, it's great to be here.


Ken Wallis

And the musical director of the series, was acclaimed artist Teddy Leonard.


Teddy Leonard

Hi Ken, it's great to see everybody.


Ken Wallis

Let’s start off with Erin who produced the event. How did The World Class Blues Series come to be?


Erin McCallum

Well, The World Class Blues Series was really just an idea based on how things have been for the last couple of years in this pandemic world. I was having a conversation with the executive director of the Gibson Centre and one thing led to another in the conversation.


Instead of it being one show, it turned into well why not do three? Why not do a series? And that was the moment where I was like hang on a second, if we're going to be doing this, we need some extra help.


Ken Wallis

As a producer, what are your responsibilities and what does it take to mount such an undertaking?


Erin McCallum

Well, I’m not going to lie, it is a lot of work. However, as producer it's basically my job to make sure that everything goes well with respect to the show. Depending on what kind of a team you have or how big your team is. I should say it kind of encompasses everything. The producer is pretty much the umbrella of the event.


Ken Wallis

Teddy as music director what were your responsibilities?


Teddy Leonard

It is to be as pompous and mean as possible [LAUGH]


Ken Wallis

I doubt that somehow [LAUGH]


Teddy Leonard

No, I’m supposed to find the talent and get them to come and play which is what I did.


Ken Wallis

What was your thought process in deciding which acts best suited The World Class Blues Series?


Teddy Leonard

You want a nice choice between different styles. I mean you don't want two Chicago style artists in a row, and you don't want two acoustic acts in a row. You want to mix it up and I think we achieved that.


Ken Wallis

What do you think it is about this one that generated that support & positivity?


Erin McCallum

Well, I think there's a mix of things. Number one is that I think everybody was waiting for something to happen with live music, which was really a driving force behind The World Class Blue Series, so that's number one. Number two I think the right talent and that's on the musical direction, but the right talent was brought in and I think one of the things that was great about the artists that were showcased in this series is it painted a picture of the versatile music that is in blues in Canada, so I think that was exciting for a lot of people too.


Ken Wallis

Was the venue involved?


Erin McCallum

The Gibson Centre wanted to be involved in the sense that they provided the forum. It's a beautiful venue, there's no doubt about it and they did a great job in in hosting this series. They were partners in the sense that they gave us a place to do it and a forum for the series.


Ken Wallis

Teddy, it looked like it was a lot of work and a lot of fun, but would you do it again?


Teddy Leonard

Oh, sure it was great, my first time in any kind of role like that, but you know you get to employ your friends and you get to hear some great music, and some of it you get to play yourself.


Ken Wallis

You and Erin not only put the show on but performed together as well. Did your familiarity with each other help?


Teddy Leonard

Oh, sure. She knew the venue much better than I did, and that helped me with the technical details like the sound and the equipment and the logistics of getting everybody there.


Ken Wallis

What do you think made The World Class Blues Series a success?


Erin McCallum

I feel like the team, the partnership that was working on this made all the difference. I actually wouldn't have done The World Class Blue Series without Teddy being musical director because that's his strength. The teamwork was really important. It's one of those things where it had to be a perfect formula. To do it again, I feel the same way. I just wouldn't have tackled it without the right team and Teddy.


Ken Wallis

Teddy, you played the Friday night with David Vest. How did that go?


Teddy Leonard

It went great. I hadn't seen David for a couple of years but I’ve done a couple of records with him, and I’ve done a couple of tours with him, so I knew David's strengths were. We were in good stead on Friday night and the band was wonderful. Jim Casson (drums), and Gary Kendall (bass), and it was just great to be able to bring David out east again if you consider Alliston out east.


Ken Wallis

And Erin, you saw Diane Braithwaite and Chris Whitely on Saturday. How did that performance go?


Erin McCallum

Well, you know it's going to be a good show, because it's Chris Whitely and Diana Braithwaite, on the bass was Ron Johnston and Vince MacCrone on drums. I mean you can't go wrong when you know the musicianship is there. And switching gears from David’s night, it was different music with a different impact and the audience really loved it. You just can't go wrong.


Ken Wallis

I was able to make it there on Sunday to see you two do a solo act. I loved the way you two interacted. How did you two go about selecting the tunes? You guys played so seamlessly it seemed like you’d been playing together for years


Teddy Leonard

You know that was very loose. Whatever Erin wanted to sing was fine with me. It was a good way to kind of cap off the weekend because the other bands had the repertoires that they wanted to play and we played that we wanted.

Ken Wallis

Plus, you took requests, and some band members were there.


Erin McCallum

Yeah, it was interesting. Joe Pace, who's a current member of The Erin McCallum Band. He's the drummer; he was there. And John Dougall, who is an Erin McCallum Band alumni. He was there as well and I pulled him up. He had no idea that was going to happen, but it was great. And that's further to what we were talking about with respect to repertoire. I think one of the points of difference with Sunday’s show, it was more relaxed with zero planning involved. With every show something different was offered. On Sunday’s show, it was two people sharing some blues and I thought it was ironic that church was cancelled that morning and there's Teddy and I playing in place of church.

Ken Wallis

And both of you have a lot of gigs coming up, different festivals. Erin and Teddy playing together in The Erin McCallum Band and of course Teddy you're involved with so many fabulous bands, such as The Hogtown All-Stars. I just got that and I love that album. You're going to be awfully busy. Will there be time to pull off another one of these World-Class Tours?


Teddy Leonard

Well, we would do another one in a heartbeat because I love the venue and the people in Alliston seem to respond. It draws from a big area and there are lots of different people that I’d love to get in there. I’m sure blues lovers and music lovers would like to be there. It's a fantastic venue and the shows are great.


Erin McCallum

The sound is terrific there and I think you got a very good response for the first time for this and let's hope there's a lot more to come. It’s been great chatting with you both


Erin McCallum

Thanks Ken our pleasure.




Website: gibsoncentre.com



About the Gibson Centre: Built in 1889 by the Mercer Manufacturing Company to house their farm implement factory, the building sat apart from the original Village of Alliston. It was designed in the second empire style, similar to that of Canada's Parliament buildings. The structure was made from local virgin timber and local brick.


After serving for years as a manufacturing facility, the building eventually became a farmer's Co-op, selling grains and farming equipment and implements to support the significant agricultural community of the area. In the early 1960's the Gibson family bought the buildings on Tupper St. for their growing transport operation. The family knew when they acquired the location that underneath all the paint and feed supplies was an architecturally significant building. Although the building did not lend itself to their use, the Gibsons were compelled to maintain ownership of the property.


On August 5, 2000, a group of community leaders presented a possible use for the building to the Gibsons. The proposed use would fill a need in the community and provide for the restoration of the building. Leonard and Bing agreed, and handshakes out behind the building sealed the deal. The cost to the group would be $1 for the building and an acre of land.


Since the Gibsons stipulated the donation of the building was to be to a non-profit corporation, a seven member board was struck and status was gained under the name Gibson Cultural Centre Corporation. Charitable status soon followed. Ownership of the building was passed officially from Leonard and Bing Gibson to the Gibson Cultural Centre Corporation at the Canada Day Celebrations held in Alliston's Riverdale Park on July 1, 2001, when the doors were finally opened.