Making musical memories

Performers reflect on their favourite moments as they prepare for this year’s Valentine’s Cabaret on Feb. 14 at The Mack in Charlottetown

Sally Cole
Published on January 31, 2014

Don Fraser will never forget the marriage proposal that took place at a Valentine’s Cabaret a few years ago.

“A member of the bar staff whispered in my ear at intermission that someone in the audience wanted to pop the question, and they wanted to do it on stage,” says the Confederation Centre’s music director.

So, after a brief conversation, Fraser segued into some interlude music and the groom-to-be walked onto the platform.

“Of course, it was a great idea, if it all goes well, but we’re all sitting there, hoping she says ‘yes,’ because here we are, in front of a whole audience,” laughs Fraser, as he remembers the breath-stopping situation.

“So I stop playing. And he got down on one knee and proposed to his fiancé. And she said yes. The audience responded by hooting and hollering. It was fascinating. What could be more perfect than a proposal at a Valentine’s Cabaret?” says Fraser, who is looking forward to helping others create more musical memories at this year’s event, Feb. 14 at The Mack in Charlottetown at 7:30 p.m.

The night of romance and music will feature memorable love songs by crooners Joey Kitson, Catherine O’Brien and Wade Lynch along with the jazz trio of Deryl Gallant, bass, Alan Dowling, drums, and Fraser, piano.

“It’s a popular show because it’s traditional music — great love songs — that people love to hear again,” says O’Brien.

With its soft lighting and seating, the venue provides a romantic atmosphere.

“The Mack is such a great intimate space, people can sit at tables, cozying up if they want to.... I also think people really enjoy that feeling of going back into a bygone time of those really great jazz songs that really hit the heart,” she says.

That night the song list will include, among others, Have I Told You Lately That I Love You, My Funny Valentine, The Valentine, He’s a Tramp, I’m Beginning to See the Light, Unforgettable, Night and Day and Could I Have This Dance?

Along with the music, there’s bound to be surprises from funny man Lynch, who happily shared his favourite memory from Valentine’s Cabarets-gone-past.

“One year Joey Kitson and I were slated to perform with Margot Sampson, a wonderful actress and gifted singer. I have known Margot for years, and we have performed together many times. We wanted to change things up for this show and decided to forgo a few of our solo slots in favour of the opportunity to perform a few duets together.

“As she was in Halifax and I was in Charlottetown, we spent a lot of time rehearsing over the phone, checking-in with Don Fraser to make sure keys and arrangements were right,” he says.

But, on the day of the show, Sampson got storm-stayed.

“I was in a bit of a panic because I hadn’t rehearsed any extra tunes to fill in the now empty slots. At the last minute, Don suggested I sing both parts of the duets. What a blast.

“I sang my parts on the stage right side of the microphone and leapt over to the stage left for Margot’s. I will never be the singer Margot is, but for a few hilarious minutes, it was worth pretending,” Lynch says, with a laugh.

Other than the surprises that Lynch brings to the show, the others may occur when something happens that isn’t planned, says O’Brien.

“But, that’s actually the fun of this night. As much as we are rehearsed, there’s some spontaneity to it as well. We try to engage with the audience and we feed off of them. So, every time we do it, there’s a little bit of a different feeling,” she says.


Sally Cole is a features writer with The Guardian. She may be reached at or by phone at 629-6000, ext. 6054.

Performer Catherine O’Brien and musical director Don Fraser take a break from rehearsing for the Valentine’s Cabaret. This year’s event comes to The Mack in Charlottetown on Feb. 14. Missing from the photo are Joey Kitson and Wade Lynch who will also be headlining the show.