A Tribute to Leon Dubinsky was a concert unlike many of the perhaps more traditional Celtic Colours shows. Paying tribute to one of Cape Breton’s most prolific songwriters, the night played out as a homecoming reunion for many of the performers influenced by Leon Dubinsky’s writing.
Musicians featured throughout the evening at the Highland Arts Theatre in Sydney included Maynard Morrison, Doris Mason, Bruce Guthro, Fiona MacGillivray and Ronnie MacEachern.
The aptly stacked house band included Fred Lavery, Stephen Muise, Wendy MacIsaac, Brian Talbot and Allie Bennett.
Fittingly, all performers were Cape Breton Summertime Revue alumni.
At one point in the evening Max MacDonald asked how many in the audience weren’t from Cape Breton. He received a small applause in response, to which he good-naturedly replied, “Well you guys must be really confused.”
Throughout the evening a highlight was looking at the show’s Musical Director Fred Lavery’s beaming face. Thoroughly enjoying the moment, while no doubt remembering the hundreds of previous touches of time with those songs.
“Leon is a joy-bringer,” said Doris Mason, before she sang a song from the 1994 Revue, “Day Dream.”
MacDonald spoke of the era of the ‘70s and ‘80s where many artists from different backgrounds, from theatre to music to art, gathered and collaborated in Cape Breton. “We were united by the urge to tell our own stories,” said MacDonald.
Heartfelt nostalgia soared as many of his songs were shared, including “Home in My Harbour”, “Josephine”, “Around the Fire”, “Every Mile Brings You Closer to Home”, and “In the Pit.”
“If we sang all his tunes we’d be here until next Tuesday,” joked Maynard Morrison.
Leon himself took to the stage, along with his wife Beth and their daughter Ella. After a lengthy standing ovation, they sang several songs to their delight and the delight of the crowd. There’s a definite unique quality of harmonies from folks in the same family.
“Can I just say, I’m the happiest right now,” said Ella Dubinsky. “It’s the greatest honour to be your daughter.”
Buddy and the Boys took the stage and the theatre ramped up to yet another level of excitement. The “Boys” are Dubinsky, Max MacDonald, Ralph Dillon, Ronnie MacEachern, and Ron Parks. The band also thanked Allie Bennett for playing bass, sitting in for their long-time friend and bandmate Berkley Lamey who died in 2005.
This local institution, celebrating their 40th anniversary, was more than warmly received for their reunion show—compete with the hits “Working at the Woolco” and “Gypsy Man.” The woman sitting next to me sang every word of every song. The Boys ripped up the floor as if it was 1980 all over again; a time warp of talent and enthusiasm.
After yet another standing ovation, all performers gathered for the inevitable finale.
Leon Dubinsky, with a humble and kind voice, thanked the crowd and Celtic Colours for organizing the show. “It’s one of the highlights of my life to be here tonight,” said Dubinsky. “Thank you.”
The show ended the only way it could have—with everyone back on stage to sing the song of eternal hope, “Rise Again.” The sold-out crowd on their feet, as everyone on-stage and in the audience sang their hearts out.
With not a dry eye in the theatre and a tremendous tribute paid for his decades worth of creativity, there’s no doubt Dubinsky’s work continues to inspire and fulfill.