One of the enduring holiday traditions in the Foothills will go on this year.
The annual Okotoks Food Bank Christmas Concert is going ahead with a virtual set-up featuring some of the most beloved artists in the community performing pre-recorded videos spliced together into one viewing experience premiering Dec. 15.
“This will be our 14th year and it has continuously grown,” said John Fraser, Okotoks Food Bank Christmas Concert committee chairman. “We have held the concert in five different locations in order to accommodate the expanding numbers of people attending. It has become a major source of funds for the food bank.
“With all the challenges in 2020, their needs have increased, and cancelling the concert was simply not an option in our minds.”
The 2020 concert features familiar faces and long-time contributors to the fundraising show, including George Canyon, The Travelling Mabels, Over the Moon, Taken By Sanity, MzBehavin, John Fraser & Lady C, Michela Sheedy, Brettyn Rose, Jay Burns, Dwight Forseth, Al ‘Doc’ Mehl and Doris Daley.
Fraser said having an online live concert experience was too complicated to put together, adding that the E-Free Church has had its seating reduced to one-third of its capacity and the logistics of having all the artists’ changeover was too much.
“So we have opted for each performer or group providing us with their songs on video,” Fraser said. “Dwight Forseth, who is a committee member, but also music director for the E-Free Church, is offering his expertise in stitching the songs together.
“Our MC, award-winning cowboy poet, Doris Daley, will introduce each act, and also help acknowledge and thank our many donors and sponsors. She will also treat us to some of her poetry.”
Putting together the fundraising concert is a logistical challenge, but one the committee and its supporters have risen to with Fraser giving kudos to committee members Dwight and Dacy Zacharias’ organizing chops.
“There is still much left to do in terms of marketing and letting people know that it is still on for 2020,” Fraser added. “One of the benefits of going virtual is that people who would not be able to attend can now enjoy.
“Hopefully by our release date some of the restrictions for gatherings will be relaxed so that people can invite friends, family and customers to share the concert. Folks in Vancouver, Medicine Hat and many other places are already planning to watch.”
There’s also a great deal of work the artists put into the concert in a normal year, with those efforts compounded by the virtual component this go around.
“They obviously don’t perform these songs all year long, and many Christmas songs are renowned for how complex they can be, both vocally and instrumentally,” Fraser said. “The technology presents its own set of challenges. As an example, I usually perform with my daughter, Caroline Lady C Fraser, who lives in Toronto. She is working on a Disney movie being shot there, and has to be COVID tested three times a week, so cannot come to Okotoks to record. We have to get the music and my song to her, she will add harmonies and her own song, and Dwight will integrate them into a finished product.
“Many of the artists who perform music for a living have had to resort to virtual performances, so are already well-versed in the technology.”
Fraser said the committee received incredible support from local businesses and family trusts and foundations. In years past, the concert has raised over $50,000 for the food bank, with over $35,000 raised already for this year’s event.
The virtual concert is accessible from Dec. 15-28 with the pay-per-view tickets available through Eventbrite, which will give an access code for viewing.
“They can then watch at their convenience whenever it works best for their families and their schedules over the Christmas holidays,” said committee member Dacy Zacharias.
The Christmas Concert event page and tickets will be accessible through okotoksfoodbank.ca as well as Eventbrite and Facebook @Okotoks Food Bank Christmas Concert.
Supporters are also asked to drop-off non-perishable food items to the Food Bank, located a 220 Stockton Ave #120.
For more information go to okotoksfoodbank.ca.