News Local

Lightfoot to grace Opera House stage

By Nathan Taylor, Orillia Packet & Times

Folk music icon Gordon Lightfoot will return to his stomping grounds in November to play two benefit concerts.

The announcement was made yesterday at the Orillia Opera House, where Lightfoot will play shows on Nov. 14 and 15.

Proceeds from the shows, beginning at 8 p. m. both nights, will be evenly split between the Opera House and Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital (SMH), "two hometown institutions that are very important to Mr. Lightfoot," said Opera House general manager Krista Storey, who made the announcement in the Gordon Lightfoot Auditorium.

"Each time I stand in this auditorium, I can't help but think of all the various artists that have been on this stage," she said. "But it's because of our very own, who became an international legend, that this room is named the Gordon Lightfoot Auditorium."

Lightfoot managed to fit the two dates into his busy tour schedule. In fact, it was his idea. The multi-award-winning singer/songwriter approached the Opera House about the concerts.

"I'm looking forward to performing in Orillia once again," he said in a statement. "The Opera House holds some very fond memories for me and I'm pleased that the proceeds will go towards two very worthy causes that are close to my heart."

Lightfoot is doing the shows for free, which doesn't really surprise his sister, Bev Eyers, who was in attendance for yesterday's announcement.

"He wouldn't come here to make any money," she said. "He likes to give it away."

After all, she added, "Soldiers' Memorial Hospital are the ones who saved his life and he's been playing the Opera House since he was a little boy."

Lightfoot was taken to SMH after suffering an abdominal hemorrhage in late 2002. The incident, which left him in a coma for about two months, happened before he was to play the last of two benefit concerts for the Opera House and SMH.

"He's doing great," Eyers said. "He's really taking care of himself."

Hospital officials were glad to have played a role in Lightfoot's treatment and recovery and were pleased to learn he would hold another benefit for them.

"We're especially grateful to Gordon Lightfoot, who, despite his international career, remains firmly rooted in his hometown," SMH president and CEO Elisabeth Riley said during the announcement.

In a statement, she added: "He is truly a Canadian treasure and we are thrilled to be able to welcome him back to the stage where his legendary career began."

Eyers last saw her brother play last year at Massey Hall in Toronto.

"I haven't missed a concert in about 40 years," she said.

Eyers will be joined by family and friends when she attends the shows in November. Reasons for celebration at that time will be many for the family, as Lightfoot will celebrate his 71st birthday two days after the second concert. It's a birthday he shares with Eyers's granddaughter, who will turn 11.

"We're just thrilled," she said. Tickets cost $75 each and will

first be made available online, going on sale this Friday at 11 a. m. at www.orilliaoperahouse.ca.They will be available at the Opera House box office on Monday. For tickets or more information, call 326-8011 or 1-888-674-5542.



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