Stompin' Tom Connors helped plan his own public memorial, set for Wednesday
Nick Patch, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, March 11, 2013 12:56PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 11, 2013 2:28PM EDT
TORONTO -- For roughly two weeks before his death, Stompin' Tom Connors helped to arrange the public memorial that will be held in his honour on Wednesday.
The black-hatted Canadian music icon died of natural causes last week at age 77, and the nature of his illness gave him time to specify his plans for a public celebration.
"Oh, nobody knew exactly what he wanted more than he did, and that's typical Tom, through and through," spokesperson Brian Edwards said Monday in a telephone interview.
"I mean, nobody would expect anything less. Right down to some things that will happen there on Wednesday night, he's written all over it -- there's no doubt about it."
Edwards, who worked personally with Connors to make the arrangements, said the evening event will be a mix of live music, video clips, family photos and remembrances of Connors delivered by close friends, musical peers and government officials.
Edwards confirmed that speakers will include Canadian politician Ken Dryden, former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, former EMI president Deane Cameron and Peterborough Mayor Daryl Bennett, while the evening will also include performances from former Rheostatics frontman Dave Bidini, folk singer/songwriter Sylvia Tyson, Nova Scotia country-folk singer Cindy Church and Connors collaborators Dave Gunning and Juno nominee J.P. Cormier.
More guests are yet to be confirmed.
"It's going to be a good mixture (of) everybody that Tom would have wanted on there," Edwards said. "As a matter of fact, a number of people who are there were by Tom's request."
A private memorial for Connors will be held Tuesday, Edwards confirmed, but it was important to Connors that a public event follow to give fans and other well-wishers the chance to say goodbye.
The event will be held at the Peterborough Memorial Centre, a hockey arena -- and thus a fitting venue in a way.
Although he added that he and Connors kicked around a number of possible locations, Peterborough, Ont., emerged as the most sensible choice even though Connors lived in Halton Hills, Ont. Peterborough is the place where Connors received his "Stompin' Tom" moniker way back in 1967 during a gig at the King George Hotel, and it became a favoured locale for the folk-country original.
Fans will be rewarded with rarely gleaned perspectives into Connors. Edwards says he had access to the family vault of previously unseen photos and videos of Connors -- images of "The Hockey Song" writer with a moustache during his self-imposed hiatus from music as well as shots of him playing the accordion and fiddle.
Edwards says the venue will have a capacity of roughly 3,800 for the event and he's expecting a packed house. He said the outpouring of tributes from fans was so significant it brought Connors' website down again and again after his death, and he's anticipating that thousands will want to say goodbye in person.
"What's amazing is the people ... the fans have come through just strong as ever," he said. "That's the whole point of his career and always was, the fanbase. It certainly wasn't based on the fact that he had too many hit records on the radio.
"It was based on the fans, and they're coming out in droves."