South Okanagan musicians give back at food drive concert

Free mini music festival being held at the Shatford Centre in Penticton this Friday in support of local charities.

What started as a few bands looking to jam for a good cause has turned into a mini music festival being held at the Shatford Centre in Penticton this Friday.

“It went from humble beginnings of a couple of bands getting together to do a 60-seat venue to now about 16 different types of acts and maybe a 400 plus seat venue,” said Gordon Cunningham, one of the organizers.

Playing for the love of music, community bands have joined forces to create South Okanagan Musicians Unite and will be taking over the Shatford Centre for a free concert for the public. All that is required for entrance is a non-perishable food item for donation or a new toy. Those items will be distributed to various food banks in Penticton to hand out including the Inn From The Cold program at Cheers Church and the Gateway Resource Centre at Victory Church.

“Times are tough for a lot of people and we are just getting so much support from the community it is great to see,” said Cunningham. “I believe this is going to be so successful and maybe we will have to do one in the summer because people are in need throughout the year.”

One of the unique aspects to this mini music festival is the diversity of sounds that will take the stages. Cunningham said the evening will start off acoustically at 4 p.m. with The Group of 7, and will be turned over to amplified music including rock and roll and hip hop from 8 p.m. to midnight. The Group of Seven were chosen as the opening act to honour their lifetime achievements. As well as musical diversity, audiences will see a range of ages. From a group that has one of the oldest musicians participating (in his 70s) to some young musicians called AK Strings that includes a 17-year-old playing the violin.

“It is really quite a neat collection of people and it is sort of like the old ones passing the torch to the young ones playing in the same venue. It all fits in with the do unto others and love your neighbour kind of idea that we have,” said Cunningham, who will be playing with the Jeri and the Hatrix band.

While the idea of a benefit concert blossomed in a matter of days from two acts to five to 16, those weren’t the only phone calls Cunningham was fielding. Every time a challenge came up, someone in the community stepped forward to help, from All’s Well Security, sound and lighting experts to KalTire now bringing their special events BBQ and Huber Bannister Chevrolet helping by accepting donations of food and toys until Dec. 21 for the musicians to donate. Now, Cunningham said, they are looking at having three acts in different rooms running simultaneously on Friday to ensure everyone gets to play. He added they will be giving out wristbands and if one room fills up they will close the doors and when the next act takes the stage try and move people through.

“We hope to turn the building over, that is why we have acts in different rooms and hope people circulate through so more can come in and enjoy the music,” said Cunningham.

Whatever style of music you enjoy, Cunningham said you’ll probably find it at the Shatford on Friday starting right outside the doors where a musician will be playing his keyboard dressed up as Santa Claus and magician Gordon De Roos and Doc Holloway in the foyer. Performing in the main and side rooms will be AK Strings, The Group of 7, Left Fork Band, Pentictones, Janet and Ken Bates of Instruments of Change, William Leggott, Melody Hanlin and Craig, Thurein Myint and Jennifer Lauren, Mad Melody Records hip hop artists, Top Dead Centre, Penticton Indian Band dancers and drummers, Spadefoot, Okos Pokos Band and Jeri and the Hatrix Band.

The event can still use more volunteers to help in any capacity and are looking for donations from local businesses to use for door prizes.

Anyone who is interested in helping or donating can contact Cheryl Engemoen at 250-488-0541.