Orpheum Sparkles for Buddy Guy

Ah! The weekend, and a great start with an evening of blues at the launch of the 30th Vancouver International Jazz Festival.

We made our way to Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatreknown by some as the Grand Old Lady of Granville. Now home to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra as well as the city’s Bach Choir, Cantata Singers and Chamber Choir, the Orpheum opened in November 1927. Vaudeville acts were dominant, but the first full length talkie, The Jazz Singer, also played here shortly after the building opened.

Orpheum 0147 Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

This beauty reflects the work of Glasgow-born architect Benjamin Marcus Priteca, who trained in Edinburgh before relocating not far from the Canada-US border, in Seattle. He found success at an early age, designing all the Pantages theatres and a total of 150 theatres for four chains.

Vancouverites who grew up here in the 60s will remember the theatre for movies but, before those days, the Orpheum showcased such diverse acts as Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, a young Frank Sinatra and more. These days, its doors are open to events almost two days out of every three.

Orpheum_0157 Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

The theatre is a Canadian National Heritage Site and, last night, a great place to wind down the work week  with blues legend Buddy Guy on stage. … and in the audience, as it turned out.

Orpheum 0166 Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

The Chicago musician, who started life in rural Lettsworth, Louisiana, had the crowd from the moment he stepped on stage. When he stepped down from that stage and sang his way through first one orchestra aisle and then the balcony, with his musicians holding down the fort, he cinched the deal. Most of us in the audience were on our feet hoping to catch an even closer glimpse and, with music this good, it was even better being on your feet.

Buddy Guy 0169 Copyright Shelagh DonnellyQuinn Sullivan, all of 16 years young, was to have been Buddy Guy’s opening act last night; the two met when Sullivan went backstage at age eight to ask his hero (and now mentor) to sign his guitar. Sullivan was unable to make it, though, so the  popular Missouri -born local Jim Byrnes did the honours. The only quibbles to be had with the night were the times Guy took away from singing to talking to and shutting down an overly enthusiastic audience member, and wishing that the almost-octogenarian’s set list had included even more of his blues.

On another note: Kudos to the front row photographer who had the grace to take the pick Buddy Guy tossed his way (he sent a few flying to audience members) and walk it back to an audience member in the back row of the orchestra, a music lover who’d enjoyed the evening from a wheelchair.

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