Far from a lazy summer month, this June promised to rock with the vibrancy of a Caribbean carnival packed with exciting events. My only challenge has been keeping up with everything.
It was while brushing my teeth on Saturday morning, listening to the radio, that I was shocked out of my brief sense of weekend relaxation by the realization that it was June 22nd and the Toronto Jazz Festival was in full swing; ten days of music featuring 1,500 artists, including (please imagine a drum roll) Mavis Staples.
Back in May, I wrote here about discovering Mavis through a CD given to me by a friend, and about adding a live Mavis Staples concert to my bucket list. I imagined myself, sometime in the future, tracking her down in the United States to realize that dream. But my friend Susan discovered online that she was coming to Toronto in June for the Toronto Jazz Festival and bought me tickets for my birthday.
Fortunately Susan hadn't forgotten the date, so, for the second time in one week, we headed for the city together--early, so that we would be sure to get a good seat. I could barely contain my excitement at the thought of actually hearing Mavis sing live.
Susan and I did find great seats, and balancing cardboard boxes of blatantly non-health-food poutine, we sat down to anticipate the show.
Not long after sitting down, Wendy, the friend who gave me the CD that introduced me to Mavis Staples back in May, came over to say hello. She had traveled all the way from Muskoka for the concert.
The hot air hung heavy with the scent of approaching rain mixed with exhaust, beer and fast foods as we ate our gravy and cheese curd loaded, french fries.
At 8 o'clock the emcee announced Mavis and her band. The crowd stood to welcome this queen of gospel blues, who once marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. in the Civil Rights Movement.
She had difficulty mounting the stage due to a painful knee that is soon to be replaced, but she was not about to let that keep her from giving her fans everything they hoped for and her deep laughter drew us to her, warmer even than the summer night.
We tried to guess how old Mavis Staples is, but I would not have believed that she is 73. The energy she put into the performance was incredible; her voice a powerful mix of gravel and honey.
We noticed the obvious affection her band has for her and how they watched over her; intuitively knowing when the pain in her knee meant she had to rest; covering for her with music that was electrifying.
Living the dream of seeing Mavis Staples "live," exceeded my expectations.
Sitting in Nathan Phillips Square in the heart of Toronto, hearing faith proclaimed in song; with no compromise, yet not a shred of judgment; felt like being where Jesus would be if he was here in person now--with ordinary people, out in the crowds, making them long for what he has to offer.