The Digby Courier. By James Mallory.
DIGBY, N.S. – The audience at a church in Digby is expecting to increase exponentially as a unique opportunity presents itself next month.
Tomato Tomato will be stopping by the Grace United Church on Dec. 20 as part of its Maritime Christmas 2017 tour. Special guests at this show include Dave Gunning, Heather Rankin and Ray Legere.
Reverend Alex Constable of the Grace United Church says the opportunity to welcome more people from the community is a wonderful gift.
“I think it’s something that we can give and use this God-given space to benefit people and to fulfill needs that are there,” he said. “Culture and art is a very real need – it forms communities and helps give meaning.”
Tomato Tomato consists of the husband and wife team of John and Lisa McLaggan. With a base of folk, roots and bluegrass, the pair combine on vocals while adding guitar, washboard, bass drum and tambourine to their sound.
Rankin has been well-established in the music scene for many years as a member of the multi-platinum selling group The Rankin Family. In 2016, she released her first solo record.
Pictou County’s Gunning has been recognized with eight East Coast Music Awards and Legere, who hails from Sackville, is a 2016 New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame inductee.
Shelley Chase of Garrison Hill Entertainment said show organizers wanted to come to Digby to show off the performance to a smaller community in an exciting and interesting venue.
“We have three big theatres that we’re bringing the show to and then we all wanted to go into really small Maritime communities where nobody would expect us to pop up. So, we went and contacted small churches like Digby,” said Chase.
Normally, about 40 people attend services every week at the Grace United Church, however, the building can accommodate about 200 people. Chase said spectators can expect an excellent show and noted that tickets are selling quickly.
“It’s a multi-artist cast for an old-fashioned Christmas concert,” said Chase. “Tickets in the Digby market are going quite fast. It’s only a little venue and we didn’t know there would be such interest and we haven’t even done any promotions.”
Chase said other venues are selling tickets at a rapid pace as well. For example, the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island is almost half sold and that venue seats 1,000.
Rev. Constable was contacted by concert promoters early last summer about the potential of the church hosting a performance. He jumped at the opportunity and felt the church was a great place to welcome a concert.
“For one thing, it’s old, which makes it interesting,” he said. “It’s covered in this wooden paneling…and all the windows in the church are stained glass.”
Rev. Constable said the church will also be decorated for Christmas, making the concert that much more festive.
“It should be a feast for the eyes and the ears,” he said.
Rev. Constable said the initiative of the concert came from the event promoter and the church was more than happy to rent the venue.
“Our hearts are in it, we’re excited about it and we want it to be a special occasion in the community, even though it’s technically not our initiative.”
Rev. Constable said since he moved to Digby a little over a year ago, he has seen great potential for the church to expand its horizons in the community.
“I’m very happy about it,” he said of the concert event. “It fulfilled a hope I had. I only arrived in Digby from Ontario less than a year-and-a-half ago. So you land in a new place and look around and say, ‘What kind of potential does this place have?’ I look at all the seating and thought, ‘It’s kind of a natural stage. Wouldn’t it be nice if one day it could host the odd concert.’ Then, it was kind of an answer to an unspoken prayer.”
Rev. Constable said the congregation is excited to host the concert as well.
“It’s a warm congregation. They love to bake and make tea and cider, which they’ll be serving during the intermission. So, it’s good for the congregation in that way too – it’s another way to serve the community, which they love to do.”
Rev. Constable this event helps him with his mission of giving back to the community, and added that he’ll enjoy the music as well. He noted that while in Ontario, he was in a quartet with his siblings and they did folk covers, including songs from the Rankin Family.
“For me, this is one of the major perks of being a minister – is getting to be in the midst of musical wonderment. I really love East Coast folk. It’s my top three genres in music, personally.”
The Maritime Christmas 2017 tour begins Dec. 1 and goes to Dec. 22 with stops in Nova Scotia, P.E.I and New Brunswick. The show will feature Christmas music, old-time favourites and Tomato Tomato and Rankin will introduce new material.
For ticket information, visit www.tomoatotomato.ca or go to Marshall’s Gifts shop in Digby for ticket purchase.