TORONTO — Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman wanted to pay tribute to late Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie after learning of his death.
And so the directors of Choir! Choir! Choir!, a Toronto-based singalong collective, invited fans to Nathan Phillips Square on Tuesday night to honour Downie the best way they could — through his music.
“When we lose some of the great ones, if we can provide a space where people can come together and share the music and feel connected in a difficult time, then we’ll do it,” Adilman said. “It just felt like the right thing to do and I feel like these tributes are happening all over the country and big or small, they all matter.”
Downie died last Tuesday at age 53. Nearly two years ago, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an invasive brain tumour with one of the poorest survival rates of any cancer.
More than a thousand people gathered to sing about a dozen songs from the Hip as their tribute to the legendary Canadian band.
People braved the brisk, windy, 10 C weather to belt out songs such as “Wheat Kings,” “Bobcaygeon” and “Courage.” Downie’s “The Stranger,” off his solo album “Secret Path,” was also played.
Stylish suit jackets and hats similar to the ones Downie wore on the Hip’s “Man Machine Poem” tour in 2016 were worn. There were also people sporting hockey jerseys bearing the Hip’s name.
Children were placed on their parents shoulders to get a better view, while others lit candles in honour of the late musician.
Downie’s older brother, Mike, made an appearance on stage near the end of the set to thank those in attendance, which was met with a rousing applause from the crowd.
“I have to say that over the last week, the outpouring of emotion, grief and love has been overwhelming,” Mike said. “And my family and I have felt it and its made things easier and its made things harder.
“Made it easier because you showed how much you loved our brother and harder because we realized how many people were hurting and how many people were really affected by this.”
Mike also took the opportunity to talk about the Secret Path project, which he and his brother worked on. Choir! Choir! Choir! had asked that those in attendance to make a minimum donation of $5 to the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund.
Mike said that “it’s up to all of us” to help the reconciliation efforts.
“I don’t think the government can fix it, I don’t think there’s a program big enough to fix it, I think it’s going to take everybody doing their part,” he said.
“We think we’re a young country, but we’re not. We think we’re 150 years old, but we’re not. If we tried a little harder, if we brought in the Indigenous people that have been here for 12,000 years, we could be something so much different. And we would be better for it and I think we would be the envy of the world.”
Choir! Choir! Choir! capped off the show with some audience members onstage to sing “Ahead by a Century.”
“Gord Downie has meant so much to this country, he’s given so much and we just wanted to celebrate him and his music,” Adilman said.
Ryan McKenna, The Canadian Press