An interview with Ken Lavigne, Tenor and Entertainer
By Rosemary Phillips
The family is gathered together in the sitting-room around a box radio, listening to favourite Christmas songs by Bing Crosby, and swing and boogie-woogie with the Andrew Sisters. World War II wages on, but in this cozy room candles on the Christmas tree flicker, tinsel glitters, treasured glass ornaments sparkle, and the star on top of the tree shines. Paper chains, boughs, holly and mistletoe garland the ceiling, walls and doorways, while stockings hang from the mantle above a crackling fire in anticipation of Christmas Eve and Santa Claus.
Um, wait a minute… this is 2015, the age of huge computerized TV screens, iPods, iTunes, smart phones, electronic everything – including lights, decorations, and even Christmas trees…
Coming back to 2015… as Ken Lavigne, Vancouver Island’s very own romantic crooner explained, “We are touring the Island with a Christmas Old Time Radio Roadshow.” It was October, and Ken spoke on the phone from South Carolina where he was on tour. “Everyone down here has a bit of an accent,” he chuckled. “It’s rather ironic. I’m sitting here in 28 degrees in a beach hut and Christmas and my family seem a long way off.”
But, we all know how Ken loves Christmas and the shows he performs throughout Vancouver Island during the festive season. As an all-round entertainer Ken invites you into his life with his luscious, silken honey voice, singing Christmas favourites, ballads, show tunes and classical crossover hits, and tells stories that leave audience member’s roaring with laughter.
“This year I’m doing something completely different. It’s a throw-back to the golden age of live radio, evoking the sounds of radio drama, with special sound-effects, and presenting a Christmas story, putting our own modern spin on it. We will be dressing the stage as an old time radio studio, as best we can. It’s entertainment, sharing stories and the Christmas spirit – which is all about joy.”
The talent:Joining Ken and his band are the harmonious voices of the Company ‘B’ Vocal Trio (“You’d think we were listening to the Andrew Sisters,” said Ken), and the energetic and graceful O’Brian O’Connor School of Irish Dance (“They were part of Symphony by the Sea this year,” he added, “and will be joining me for the Nanaimo and Victoria Shows.”).
The music: “I pulled from a whole host of genres – from Bing to Bocelli,” Ken explained. “There’s a lot of variety, like Jingles Bells, the Bing Crosby version. It’s a show stopper. I’ll be singing songs I love to perform, such as Sleigh Ride, Winter Wonderland, What Child is This, Baby It’s Cold Outside, Carol of the Bells, Away In A Manger and O Holy Night – plus my regular songs, both serious and spiritual.”
The Tour: Of course there will be Ken’s stories and his casual and natural warm-witted banter with the musicians, fellow performers, and audience. “We start in Sidney (Charlie White Theatre, December 7), go up to Campbell River (Tidemark Theatre, December 8), Nanaimo (Port Theatre, December 9), Victoria (Alix Goolden Performance Hall, December 10), Comox (Comox United Church, December 11), Parksville (Knox United Church, December 12, 3 p.m.)… all over the place, with the grand finale in my home town of Chemainus (Chemainus United Church, December 19 at 7:30 p.m. and December 20 at 2 p.m.).”
Inspiring others: Interview over, it was time for Ken to go for a swim in the ocean. But, before he left for the beach he added, “After this tour I head home then fly off to Saskatchewan for 12 shows, then off to Oregon and California before the Christmas tour of the Island. Meanwhile, there are a lot of floods here in South Carolina. I have already been to one of the communities, devastated by floods, to a school, to give an inspirational talk. Unfortunately most of the kids couldn’t make it because they are still in shelters. I’m a bit timid about being an inspirational speaker but I enjoy doing it in my shows. I hope to inspire others, to follow their dreams.”
Who could deny Ken’s eternal optimism or forget his amazing feat of following his dream to perform at Carnegie Hall. He is totally genuine, blatantly honest, engaging, and full of heart, mischief and laughter. Add his inspiring recordings, such as his latest Christmas album, Comfort and Joy, featuring the kind of music that wraps you with hope, like a warm blanket – and you have Ken Lavigne – pure inspiration!
Come warm yourself with a cup of good cheer, nostalgia, happy memories and the goodwill of Christmas past – when life seemed simpler – while seguing into the present with Ken Lavigne’s optimism, hope, comfort and joy for the future. Advance tickets for Ken Lavigne’s Christmas Old Time Radio Roadshow are available at each venue.