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'A lot of mourning': Fans gather to celebrate Gordon Lightfoot

'He touched the core of the country from coast-to-coast,' fan says at sold-out Early Morning Rain: The Legend of Gordon Lightfoot at Orillia Opera House

On the stage named in his honour, Canadian icon Gordon Lightfoot was feted on Saturday night in front of a sold-out crowd at the Orillia Opera House.

Leisa Way & The Wayward Wind Band scheduled their show, “Early Morning Rain: The Legend of Gordon Lightfoot,” months ago.

When the legendary musician and songwriter died earlier this week, the band was in the midst of rehearsals.

“I was devastated. Just devastated," said Way of finding out about the death of Lightfoot, who passed away in a Toronto hospital on May 1.

She and her five-piece band reworked the show to reflect Lightfoot's death and Saturday's show was a time of celebration and healing for the almost 700 fans who packed the auditorium.

The band did a rendition of "We Come Here to Sing," recorded when Lightfoot was in the early 1960s duo, the Two Tones, followed by an interpretation of the lyrics to "The Hula Hoop Song,” a commercial jingle he wrote as a teenager.

The band also performed many of his hits, including "Sundown", "Early Morning Rain", "Canadian Railroad Trilogy", "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" and many more.

There were some moving moments throughout the concert but also some moments of laughter and a history lesson or two on Lightfoot himself; many in the audience didn't seem to know his name is actually Gordon Lightfoot Jr.

But they knew his music and his place in Canadian history.

"He touched the core of the country from coast-to-coast," Chris Robbins told The Canadian Press outside the venue, where many put flowers and cards on the bust of Lightfoot.

Orillia resident Duncan McDonald and his wife were there to remember a local legend.

“I want to be here to honour him; listen to the music; grieve a little bit; and sing a little,” he told The Canadian Press.

McDonald anticipated a night with "a lot of tears, a lot of laughter, a lot of joy and a lot of mourning for a time that’s passed."

Wendy Fairbairn, the general manager of the Orillia Opera House, said it was fitting to see the seats full in the auditorium that bears his name.

“He loved Orillia, and he loved his hometown, so this is such a fitting tribute for him,” said Fairbairn.

--With files from The Canadian Press


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