A capacity crowd gathered at Elks Hall on Sunday at a fundraiser for local musician John Sykes and his wife Debbie Sykes—both long-time volunteers and community supporters.
John, diagnosed with cancer, is expected to return to Williams Lake this week after treatment in Kelowna, and the fundraiser was held to help support the couple and their family.
The event was organized by Elizabeth Cornett, Rocco Catalano, Sharon Hoffman, Sheila Wyse and Dena Baumann, with support from many others for the decorating, silent auction, refreshments and music.
High school students who have played with Tubajohn were among the volunteers who arrived at the hall at 9 a.m. and stayed throughout the day.
There was music by the Youth Fiddle Society, Willow, Quintet Plus, Williams Lake Community Band, Cariboo Gold Dance Band and the Cariboo Men’s Choir, with Rocco Catalano and Dena Baumann as MCs for the afternoon.
The lively event included dancing and singing and the opportunity to give back to someone who made astounding contributions to the community through his music, and to elementary and high school bands through his mentorship and inspiration.
Debbie’s son Tim Westwick and daughter Annaka Richter expressed warm gratitude for the organizers of the event and for community members who rallied to support John and Debbie and their family.
The Cariboo Men’s Choir performed pieces that included The Rose, I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You and Hallelujah. Quintet Plus, directed by Sharon Hoffman and Debbie Browning plus did a medley of songs from ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Coat’ and Every Time I Feel the Spirit.
Organizer Sharon Hoffman said that the silent auction was a big success, with generous donations and generous bidding. More than $6,000 was raised at the event, reports Jeannine Morgan.
Hoffman also said that there is an account set up at the Williams Lake and District Credit Union for John and Debbie Sykes under the name ‘Tubajohn’ for people who wish to donate.
“People donated through the silent auction, donations in the ‘giant tuba’ and the account set up at the credit union. We estimate that 500 people came through the doors throughout the afternoon,” she explained.
“Everybody loves John and Debbie and so support what they have done for the community, and welcomed the opportunity to help out today.”
At least two musical pieces were re-written in John’s honour, Boogie Woogie Tuba Boy by acapella singing group Willow, and Oh Johnny Boy (see below) performed by Rocco Catalano and George Cornett.
Long-time friend and fellow musician Glenn Robson said it was an honour to play Tubajohn’s tuba with the Cariboo Gold Dance Band at the fundraiser on Sunday. “I told him I’m just borrowing it and that it’s here waiting for him,” Robson said.
“Seeing the outpouring from this community today just feels right. This is the kind of generosity that John and Debbie gave from their hearts, and it’s a wonderful thing to be able to give it back.
Oh Johnny Boy
“Oh Johnny Boy, the bands the bands are calling you
To take your chair and play your tuba sweet
Carry us away with the music in your soul
And blow pure pleasure for our ears to greet.
But come ye back as soon as you are able
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow
And we’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Johnny lad, oh Johnny lad we love you so.
When you return we will be waiting for you
This will reveal how much we’ve missed you so
You’ve paid it forward so far ahead of now
Just sit you back in admiration’s glow.
And we shall feel your tuba playing in our hearts
And we shall see you casting on the lake
And we will know the youth and those you’ve helped
Will have an inner strength through you from which to take
Oh Johnny lad, Oh Johnny lad we love you so.”