Timeless tribute

Sally Cole
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P.E.I. Jazz & Blues Festival to present Shine On: The Universe of John Lennon at Confederation Centre of the Arts on Aug. 25

Doug Millington, festival co-chair, and Laurel Lee, representing Confederation Bridge, festival co-chair, are excited about the newest addition to this year’s P.E.I. Jazz & Blues Festival – Shine On: The Universe of John Lennon on Aug. 25 at the Homburg Theatre of the Confederation Centre of the Arts at 7:30 p.m. The festival is also co-sponsored by the City of Charlottetown.

In 2010, a small jazz festival in Toronto decided to produce a tribute to British singer-songwriter John Lennon to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his death.

The project brought some of Canada’s most renowned musicians together to perform music by Lennon and the Beatles, thoughtfully arranged by Michael Occhipinti, a talented musician who had done a similar project previously with the music of Bruce Cockburn.

The tribute was a huge hit, and it spun off into a CD, which was also successful.

As a treat for music lovers, that concert experience will be recreated during the 2013 P.E.I. Jazz and Blues Festival in Charlottetown. Shine On: The Universe of John Lennon will hit the stage of the Homburg Theatre of the Confederation Centre of the Arts on Sunday, Aug. 25, 7:30 p.m.

“Audience members can expect to hear songs from the John Lennon songbook, including I am the Walrus, Instant Karma (Shine on), Girl, Cold Turkey, Beautiful Boy, Across the Universe, Julia, Don’t Let Me Down, Whatever Gets You Through the Night, Tomorrow Never Knows and Working Class Hero, among others,” says festival co-chair Doug Millington, who is pleased with the newest addition to the festival, which runs Aug. 21-25.

“I’m quite satisfied with this choice. In past years we’ve had traditional jazz, mainstream jazz, crooners, but this is progressive jazz,” he says.

At the Aug. 25 concert, audience members can expect to hear some jazz-inspired arrangements of Lennon’s work.

“They’re totally recognizable. Sometimes it’s as simple as the old jazz tradition of people improvising. The tune will continue on and someone will be blowing an instrument over the changes in a particular tune,” says Millington.

The Confederation Bridge is sponsoring the festival, along with the City of Charlottetown, and a spokesperson says there is plenty of excitement about the musical addition to this year’s lineup.

“The John Lennon tribute should bring in some new faces to the festival and may open up the interesting world of jazz and blues to the Classic Albums Live (fans) from the Confederation Centre,” says Laurel Lea, co-ordinator of marketing and community affairs for Confederation Bridge.

It’s not the first time that a tribute concert spin-off has taken place, adds Millington.

“Last year, Occhipinti and his group toured the album at festivals. The ensemble is a septet and people drift in and out according to how available they were,” he says.

For this occasion, the concert will bring together such Juno-nominated artists as Michael Occhipinti guitar, his brother, Roberto Occhipinti, bass, Kevin Turcotte, trumpet, Mark Kelso, drums, and singers Dominic Mancuso, Yvette Tollar and Elizabeth Shepherd.

“Everybody in this group has active careers, but they’re coming together for this special concert,” says Millington, adding he’s got a hunch that the late singer-songwriter would be impressed with the new arrangements.

“Lennon was (into) progressive, popular and rock music. Occhipinti says that what he was after in the music was if John Lennon walked into the room and heard what he had come up with, he would just say, ‘wow, I never thought of doing that.’ “


Sally Cole is a features writer with The Guardian. She welcomes comments about her column as well as suggestions for future columns from readers. She may be reached at scole@theguardian.pe.ca or by phone at 629-6000, ext. 6054.

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