After 13 years apart, musicians of the former JUNO Award nominated Marcel Gagnon band reunite over blended voices, strings, and keys on Vanderhoof’s stage.
It’s a Musical Show of Support for the band’s bass guitar player Don McLelland, who is struggling with cancer and undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Friends, family, and other Vanderhoofians filled Nechako Valley Secondary’s Integris Community Theatre in support on Nov. 19.
With original members Justin Frey on saxophone, Jeremy Blattner on keyboard, Dianna McNolty as female vocalist, Susie Blattner on flute and percussion, and lead singer Marcel Gagnon on acoustic guitar, the night of celebration, emceed by Tom Bulmer, featured favourites from the band’s albums Crazy Maker and The Watchman – Tom Crow.
Crazy Maker, recorded in 2001 by the band in Banff Centre of the Arts, was one of five nominees for the Best Music of Aboriginal Canada Recording for the JUNO Awards of 2002.
Drummer Trevor Bigam of Edmonton was the only missing original band member, and accompanying local musicians included Steve Regnier, Mike Vigano, Robin Work, Steve Gailing, and Greg Ventin of local band Rosewood’s Diary.
McLelland’s twin brother Dan played bass guitar until intermission, when McLelland joined the band on stage.
“Just want to say, it takes cancer to get everyone together?” McLelland said. “Thanks to everyone for showing up; you have no idea how much it means to me.”
Between songs, Gagnon and McLelland shared stories of the band’s success.
“At one point, I was getting calls from radio stations in Bulgaria and other places,” Gagnon said. “The album was playing in 50 odd countries.
“I brought these songs to the studio, and you guys turn these songs into music.”
He recalled a moment with McLelland during Rockfest.
“On the poster, there’s Marcel Gagnon band on top, then all the little band names underneath,” Gagnon said. “Don came up and said, ‘We’re not bottom feeders anymore!’”
They also recognized changes over the years.
“Justin told me he wanted to be a doctor, and now he’s a doctor,” Gagnon said. “Susie is now a teacher, and married this guy — Jeremy.
“Dianna, you have eight grandchildren.”
McLelland thanked the crowd at the end of the show.
“I am one blessed and happy man, to play with these guys,” he said. “I’m going to stick around as long as I can; this is too much fun.”