Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Silenced the Singer... But Not His Song

T'is with a saddened heart that I write to you this evening. Our family has lost a very valued friend... one who was introduced into our lives and family by my then wee son Andrew. Michael Burgess, the iconic Canadian tenor who portrayed Jean Valjeans in the Canadian stage production of Les Miserables passed away, taken from us too soon by nasal cancer.

I cannot recount how many times I went to  my son's bedroom night to say our "nightie-nights"... to be met at the top of the stairs by two voices singing songs from Les Miz. That love affair carried us to the Pantages Theatre in  Toronto for three performances... two by Colm Wilkinson and one with Micheal Burgess sharing the lead.

Andrew had asked for a coffee table book at the box office and I relented because I knew how very much this play and its music meant to him. He sat mesmerized by the entire production... and at the conclusion insisted upon going to the rear entrance of the theatre to await Colm Wilkinson's departure.

I tried desperately... but unsuccessfully to dissuade Andrew from his seemingly audacious and fruitless mission impossible... but in the end we as a family  joined him in the back alley for what seemed like an hour. Finally a black stretch limo arrived and out of it stepped a giant of a man. I approached him to seek his advice... or rather his support in ending the standoff. He told us to stick about... that he would see what he could do.

I remember Colm barreling out to the waiting limo looking sweaty and the brief interaction between the driver and himself. Without hesitation he approached Andrew... stooped down and shook his hand:

"And who might we have here?"

"Andrew Sherman... your best fan sir... I've come to see you and Michael Burgess three times now."

"Who do think is the best Valjean Andrew?"

"You're both the same... I love you both the same! Would you please sign my book for me?"

Andrew still has that book... signed:

"To my best fan and friend Andrew!"
All the best,
Colm Wilkinson

I learned a great lesson about Faith that day... as practised by a wee boy... and a man who could as easily have ignored his Hope.

I found these two unrelated tidbits that seem directed to me on this sad evening. The cartoon is likely motivated by Pope Francis's recent visit to the Americas.

The second is a YouTube clip featuring Michael Burgess singing two songs at an appearance he made for the 40 Oaks opening in 2012. Forty Oaks is a project for the Toronto Christian Resource Centre. The words seem ever so appropriate tonight:

Please enjoy this magnificent instrument of Joy... the "Voice" of Michael Burgess. I'm sure that a angel choir welcomed him to their midst with their own version of "Bring Him Home". Our family will never forget those uplifting performances. We are enriched still... by your gift... even this evening in your earthly absence.

Thank you Michael ... for the Music! 

What is life... without the power of song?

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