You could say The Huron Carole is back by popular demand.
While that’s glad tidings for anyone who enjoys hearing the charitable multi-performer Christmas concert, the fact is the Carole was reprised to help food banks meet a growing need — so it’s also sobering news.
Singer Tom Jackson had taken a seven-year break from performing the concert that first started raising money for food banks two decades ago. He shelved The Huron Carole in 2004 and instead brought Singing For Supper around to smaller communities, finding the more intimate show could sometimes fund rural food banks for an entire year.
But in the intervening period, the scale of Canada’s national hunger problem had swelled to the point that 900,000 people are now using food banks every month — nearly half of them children.
Discovering that statistic “was like cold water thrown in my face,” recalled Jackson.
Red Deer’s food bank was among those that saw demand rise by more than 100 per cent since the 2009 recession, said deputy director Alice Kolisnyk. While client numbers recently dropped by an encouraging 10 per cent, the local charity still fed 2,100 adults and kids in the month of November.
Jackson decided to relaunch The Huron Carole, which advocates an end to hunger. The concert named for Canada’s oldest Christmas hymn, written in the native Huron language by Jesuit missionary Father Jean de Brebeuf in 1643, is being performed this month in large and medium-sized cities from New Brunswick to Alberta.
There’s a Monday, Dec. 17, performance at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.
Jackson will be accompanied by fellow musicians Sarah Slean, Matt Dusk and Susan Aglukark — artists who share his desire to help defeat hunger, while feeding the soul of listeners with music and stories that embrace the Christmas message of peace and harmony.
The singers “are very socially conscious and they want to use their instruments for the better, to make a difference,” Jackson added. “With the strength of each artist’s voice on stage, this year’s Huron Carole will expand our ability to raise funds, awareness and hope, creating change one song at a time.”
Three-time Juno Award winner Aglukark is best known for her massive hit O Siem, as well as being a motivational role model for aboriginal youths.
Slean, is a piano-playing Ontario singer/songwriter, who has been inspired by cabaret music and contributed a song for a benefit album after the Japanese tsunami.
Dusk is a Toronto jazz crooner, who has so far produced three radio hits, including Good News. He’s described by Jackson as “a star of the future” who has a Bing Crosby-like voice from the past.
“It’s really an up show, with a lot of laughs,” said Jackson, a Calgary resident. “By the nature of the music, it will leave you understanding what harmony and joy are . . . and how the gift is in the giving.”
The Huron Carole is a project of the Christmas & Winter Relief Association, whose mandate is to support organizations who do hands-on work with the homeless and hungry in Canada. For more information, visit www.huroncarole.ca.
Tickets to the 8 p.m. show are $51.85 from the Black Knight Ticket Centre. (VIP tickets, including a pre-show reception, are $101.85.) Profits from the concert tour are split between local food banks. Donations of non-perishable food items or cash will also be accepted.