A salute to a class act

Jazz fans of any generation have a rare treat in store on September 24, this year: McNamara’s Bandwagon Swings Again, a once-in-a-lifetime All-Star jazz concert, combined with an opportunity to lend a helping hand to a very distinguished senior.

A remarkable lineup of Canadian jazz artists will perform at a concert on September 24 at the Du Maurier Theatre (Harbourfront Centre) to raise funds for Helen McNamara, the beloved jazz writer and historian, who is a victim of Parkinsons and in need of financial support.

World-renowned artists performing include Rob McConnell, Peter Appleyard, Moe Koffman, Jim Galloway, Phil Nimmons, Guido Basso and Oscar Peterson, plus some pretty illustrious sidemen. All of these performers hold Helen McNamara in high esteem and have agreed to perform — without remuneration — as a token of their regard and concern for her. For more than two decades, Helen McNamara wrote her weekly column, McNamara’s Bandwagon for the Toronto Telegram, covering the jazz scene in and around Toronto with integrity and insight. Her column covered the clubs, concerts and recordings of so many jazz artists from Ellington and Basie to Dizzy and Oscar — that it would take a telephone book to list them all.

She also wrote regularly for various music periodicals, including Jazz Panorama and The Canadian Composer. She was a contributor to The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada and was the author, in 1973, of The Bands Canadians Danced To, to this day, the only comprehensive book on that fascinating era of Canada’s musical history.

Helen, now aged 77, has been under care at the Salvation Army’s Grace Hospital in downtown Toronto for some six years. Her youngest sister, Barbara Klich, a noted consumer advocate and broadcaster, has been looking after Helen’s care and welfare for many years. Grace Hospital is one of those facing closure, its patients scattered to various other centres around the province. Financial help to assure Helen’s future well-being is vital and that’s why these gifted musicians are playing without pay at this exciting jazz concert.

In addition, various record companies are donating numerous jazz CDs to be sold the evening of the concert (for $10 each) with all proceeds going to The Helen McNamara Fund.

Co-chairmen for this unprecedented event are Billy O’Connor and Alex Barris, both longtime friends and admirers of Helen’s. They have set up The Helen McNamara Trust Fund, with all proceeds going toward assuring Helen’s future comfort.

Tickets for the concert are $50 (taxes included) and can be obtained either at the box office or, in advance, by contacting either Billy O’Connor at (416) 221-9731, or Alex Barris (905) 640-9950, or Fax (905) 640-0715.