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Remembering Juan

 During Juan, I was working as producer of "Le Gala de la Chanson" (pense petite-vallee ou granby...).   We had five days to rehearse and 3 days with the crew. On day one - Juan changed paths and came right for us. 

 

Most of the crew arrived on the weekend and took residence in a hotel we had booked for the duration of the run.

 

What happened during the night was veritably a nightmare. Some of the crew were on in a rooftop penthouse, and even took refuge in the bathrooms and between the bed and the walls. I arrived the next morning, through a maze of fallen trees obscuring my drive, to find the hotel badly damaged. The awning had collapsed and damaged the front doors. I was escorted in through a staff entrance. The restaurant was in no shape to serve breakfast - No lights, No water... well, except the water coming through the ceiling. There sat Annette Campagne, with a bowl of dry cereal and a wet newspaper. I'll never forget the look on her face. I thought she was going to cry, but somehow we burst into ridiculous laughter. Slowly, the extent of the damage became clear and everyone joined the disbelief.    We wouldn't have power again for three days.

 

 

The taping of the show was on the Friday evening... and on the Tuesday, we were in a pitch dark hotel, 8 floor, no elevator.  Only candles - and a hotel manager bringing us sandwiches and water. I had a crew to feed, so I managed to find a propane fired pizza truck and convinced the old lady to cater for us.  We ate platters of fried everything that week... ad nauseum, et ad viteam eternam! Did I mention those candles came from the church across the street?  Hey.. you gotta do what you gotta do!

 

Annette and Mario's shock seeing photos of the surrounding destruction.Damage was everywhere - truly the city looked like a state of war. I went up to the crew and showed them photos I had taken around the neighborhood. Some had tears. Vincent Vallieres kept saying "incroyable. c'est l'etat d'guerre. j'ai jamais vu ca." 

 

The band rehearsed in an underground parking lot using a small gas generator - complete with the ambiance of a collection of disused Hearses.  

 

It was late Wednesday night (and now a day late for setting up) before the power came back on.  I remember it clearly. We had been holding our production meetings on the roof of this hotel - and we were all standing there, around 9pm, when we watched each suburb light up - one at a time - as if a child tuning on the switches. (Jeanne, tu nous manquent... ). I remember being on the phone with Leo Theriault, the producer for Radio-Canada, doing everything I could to push back the final cutoff hour. "Ouais mais Daniel ca nous prend une decision!"

 

What Leo never knew, is that I told them to leave Moncton hours before I had even confirmed the alternative venue.  At some point, I remember him calling me as I was standing in seaweed - inside Alderney Landing, and again, completely lying that the place was ready to go - as I stood there holding a hair dryer to an electrical box - hoping that we could get things dry enough to turn the power on before Radio-Canada arrived.

 

By now, I had 35 000$ worth of Tourtech sitting in the parking lot, Leo and his crew on the way from Moncton - arriving anytime... and still salt water in the electrical panel.   Frank DiCosta and Bob Daley you're amazing technical gurus. 'Nough said.

 

I remember Jocelyne Comeau called me in the middle of the Wednesday afternoon.  She just called to say that she'd heard I was doing a good job keeping the show together. And I cried.  And she understood. It had been a struggle. Halifax was a war zone and we were in the middle of it.

 

The show was recorded to a sold out house, a symbolic coming together after the storm. It went flawlessly, but for the fire alarm going off during the credits. After a week of hell, it was the last of anyone's worries.

 

Stage photographer Sue Mills captured the week's events.  Here is our story in photos.

 

 

 

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