Island musicians gather to help heat Holy Cross Church in Wikwemikong

Islanders Harold Dewar, Gord Grenough, George Williamson, Lyle Dewar, Peter Tilston and Norm Hore perform at the Holy Cross Church in Wikwemikong fundraiser.

WIKWEMIKONG— Musicians from all points across Manitoulin Island rallied to the cause of Holy Cross Church in Wikwemikong, gathering in the church for a special fundraising concert on the evening of Saturday, May 16 to raise money for the church’s winter heating bills.

The concert kicked off with a performance by The Islanders, including Harold Dewar, Gord Grenough, George Williamson, Lyle Dewar, Peter Williamson and Norm Hore.

In addition to the standard guitar gospel fair, The Islanders boasted Lyle Dewar on chromatic harmonica and mandolin, Mr. Tilston on washboard percussion and Mr. Hore playing his quirky washtub bass.

Island songbird Judy Blue was backed by The Islander crew, while Debbie Robinson (a Northern Opry inductee) and Helen Oswald were backed by musical wunderkind Maurice Labelle. Mr. Labelle also provided backup piano for fellow Northern Opry alumnus and incomparable entertainer Hardy Peltier. Ms. Robinson rooked concert organizer Rosemary Wakegijig onto the stage for a rendition of Moonlight on the Manitoulin to everyone’s great delight.

But it was iron worker/classically trained opera singer Everette Morrison, late of Moosenee but now calling Wikwemikong home, who really brought the house down—or rather to its feet—in the evening’s most enthusiastic standing ovation in response to his soulful renditions of ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ and ‘Softy and Tenderly.’

Following Mr. Morrison onstage fell to Leslie Neshkiwe, but she met the challenge head on with an entertaining set of her favourite songs before Manitoulin’s favourite troubadour, singer songwriter Kevin Closs, brought the first set to a close in fine style with his Manitoulin themed songs.

“I am always ready to help out,” said Mr. Closs, who recalled visiting the church for the first time as a very young child. “It is really great to be back.”

Whitefish River’s Julian Nowgabow is a familiar sight on the traditional flute, but he dusted off his classical guitar chops (albeit on a steel string) to entertain the audience with some good old honkytonk tunes as well.

The singing dentist Dr. Bill Studzienny provided a medley of favourite tunes, having travelled all the way from Gore Bay to add his contribution to the effort, and gospel singer/guitarist Melanie Pitawakwat got her inspirational tunes in, backed by husband Ferdinand on drums before scampering off to work.

Guitarist Dawn Leach and Lisa McGregor brought their musical offerings to the stage in their home community, performing before family and friends.

Mr. Labelle’s wife joined him onstage in a musical duet before Father George’s Band from St. Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church in Little Current belted out a number of lively gospel tunes.

Members of the band included Mike Erskine, Ed Landry, Linda Erskine, Stephen Marshall, Sally Marshall and Rick Lalonde.

The evening was completed by Debbie Mishibinijima, performing for her first time live on stage in front of a live audience.

Funds raised from the event will help offset the fuel bill for the historic Holy Cross Mission Church.