Nicholsons mark 1,500th Wednesday Night in grand style
By Wayne Larsen
The Westmount Examiner
Wine and good cheer were both flowing freely last Wednesday evening at the downtown University Club of Montreal — certainly a common sight this time of year —but this was a much more momentous occasion than a mere holiday office party.
In fact the formally attired guests were gathered to help David and Diana Nicholson celebrate their 1,500th consecutive Wednesday Night salon — the weekly discussion group that has grown in both scope and reputation to become a bona fide Westmount tradition.
But this time there was very little talk of politics or the stock market. The gala evening served as an opportunity for Wednesday Nighters to pay tribute to their long-time hosts through congratulatory speeches and some good-natured ribbing.
The milestone was even acknowledged in the House of Commons last Tuesday, when Westmount MP Marc Garneau — himself no stranger to the Nicholsons’ table — rose to publicly congratulate the couple on their milestone.
“The highlight of the evening would have to be Brian Morel’s video presentation,” Diana said of the nine-minute montage of scenes from Wednesday Nights past — some dating all the way back to the early to mid-1990s. “Brian did an amazing job — and fortunately, after it was shown it was left playing, so people could watch it again and see anything they missed the first time.”
In their thank-you speeches, the Nicholsons acknowledged the absence of their good friend Herb Bercovitz, who has served as the Wednesday Night “scribe” for many years, taking notes on the conversations and compiling them for the weekly updating of the salon website (www.wednesday-night.com). Bercovitz was unable to attend the gala for personal reasons.
“We singled out Herb because we wanted people to know just how important he has been to us,” said Diana.
29 years of candid conversations
Imagine hosting a party in your home for between 20 and 50 guests every week for a year. If that sounds a bit daunting, multiply that by nearly 29 years and you get some idea of what the Nicholsons have accomplished with their weekly discussion sessions, which have been held without fail every Wednesday night since February 1982.
Once described as a modern Canadian version of the Algonquin Round Table, the Wednesday Night salon has attracted everyone from professors and politicians to captains of industry, often creating some interesting dynamics with journalists and economists rubbing elbows with cabinet ministers and ambassadors in an informal, off-the-record atmosphere where candid conversations not only flourish, but are encouraged.
Over the years, more than 3,000 guests have accepted the Nicholsons’ invitation to offer their views on a wide variety of current events, especially in the areas of economics and politics.
The tried-and-true format has changed very little over the past 1,500 weeks. Discussion topics are planned in advance and relevant guests are invited by email. Upon arriving, they help themselves to a glass of wine and mingle in the foyer until 9 p.m., when the sharp clang of a ship’s bell summons everyone into the dining room, where David has prepared a video montage of current events and other tidbits to serve as fodder for discussion.
Traditionally, these discussions have been held in the Nicholsons’ home at 33 Rosemount Ave., but the couple recently sold the house and downsized to an elegant Sherbrooke Street apartment just outside Westmount. They continue to host their Wednesday Night salons at their new abode — this week marks their 1,501st week — and both David and Diana are looking forward to continuing the Wednesday Night tradition indefinitely, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. This, they emphasize, does not mean they intend to stop their weekly discussion group anytime soon.
“We’re constantly worrying about what we’ll be doing next week,” said Diana.