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Wednesday Night #1305 – Diana’s Report
Written by Diana Thebaud Nicholson // March 7, 2007 // Brian Morel, Fiona Nicholson, Gerald Ratzer, John Ciaccia, Marc Thébaud Nicholson, Margaret Lefebvre, Peter Trent, Reports, Special Wednesday Nights, The Salon // 4 Comments
The Wednesday Night Silver Anniversary
Jeremy Jonas’ brief account sums up a remarkable evening the origins of which started some months before when it was realized that Wednesday Night would soon be twenty-five years young. With Brian Morel taking the lead, a self-appointed committee of valiant souls was formed. In mid-January, Margaret Lefebvre and Peter Trent were delegated to take us to (a thoroughly delightful) dinner at Vago to discuss our thoughts about the overall plan.
With great efficiency they produced a checklist for discussion. It covered everything from:
confirming the date of the event — worked out after lengthy calculations, aided by assorted computer programs, re-worked to take into account leap years, semi-confirmed by historical data, such as the dates of the Pulp & Paper convention in 1982, and finally arbitrarily decided according to feasibility of timelines
design of the invitation — brilliantly executed by Anthony Philbin in two phases – the first formal invitation and the second cartoon-style reminder
selection of the caterer– By George was a sine qua non as George was “present at the creation”
to how many people could reasonably be accommodated if the basement were brought back to life, and how to cope with a crush of people with coats and boots arriving simultaneously at the door (sherpas to be supplied to ferry boots and coats to the second floor). The evening’s programme was in the hands of the committee, but it was agreed that it should not be too lengthy. Once those decisions agreed, the Committee took over, and aside from providing lists of addresses of current and former Wednesday Nighters, we were, (correctly) for the most part left in the dark.
We understand that the committee’s meetings were entertaining, sometimes raucous and that there were assorted disagreements, to the point that Peter Trent announced that he would NEVER have these opinionated people on any City Council. We also understand that committee members: Herb Bercovitz; Catherine Gillbert; Margaret Lefebvre; Allan Mass (the faithful Treasurer); Brian Morel; Gerald Ratzer; Roslyn Takeishi; Peter Trent; with special musical assistance from John Ciaccia and Katherine Trent had a wonderful time.
Meanwhile, Fiona and Heather Schilling had confirmed to me that they would come in from Canmore for the event, but Fi wanted to keep her arrival a surprise for David. Then, Marc announced that he would fly in from Singapore and also wanted to surprise his Father. As we got closer to the event, David would occasionally say wistfully how much he wished the kids could be here and I could hardly contain myself as I snapped back that it was much too far for our very busy offspring to make the trip – and what was he thinking of?
As the date approached, David (naturally) began to fret about the communications set-up for the evening. Enlisting the help of Perry West, our wonderful tenant at 444, he set about creating a CCTV system which would broadcast the proceedings, whatever they might be, to any overflow crowd in the basement. He also wanted to make sure that the event would be videotaped for the archives and for the friends who could not be with us. These activities were somewhat hampered by the fact that we could not know what form the programme would take nor what the committee’s requirements for sound systems would be. By the last 48 hours, the marital tension was palpable!
The Final Days
On Monday afternoon, I told David I had to go to a work-related meeting downtown. His gallant offer to drive me because of the bitter cold was refused under some pretext and I set off for the airport to meet Marc. Despite a pretty scary whiteout on the road, I arrived on time at Dorval (sorry, P.E.T.) airport, but of course his flight from Amsterdam was delayed.
Poor Marc, when we went out to the car, he experienced a 60-degree drop in temperature from what he is used to in Singapore. At the house, I dropped him at the front door and he walked in to find David in front of his computer, as usual. The surprise was total and great fun for all. We had a good evening together, with supper at Le Paris, our traditional gathering place for major family events.
Tuesday was chaotic between the all-out efforts of Jon Jonas and Andrew Flood to get the house in suitable order, Perry and David moving television monitors and microphones and stringing wires in all directions, last-minute requests from the committee (e.g. move the piano into the living room, with consequent rearranging of furniture) and the general order-counter order-disorder of an event planned by one dedicated group of busy people who, wishing to retain the element of surprise, cannot consult fully with those who are the targets of said surprise.
The committee, plus some extras (the chorus, as we were to discover later) bubbled into the house around 6:30 and, after considerable bickering about sound systems, microphones, video camera ‘stations’, wires (the amount of silver duct tape protecting the wires on the floor was, I suppose, symbolic of a 25th anniversary, however I was not amused), use of the basement and sundry details, while they rehearsed, we were summarily sent off to dinner at the Bistro with instructions not to come back early. Marc was off having dinner with Fiona and Heather who had arrived during the afternoon.
The Final Hours
Carolina Lafleche had sent a magnificent bouquet of cut flowers, which Catherine Gillbert had taken to a professional floral arranger friend to do the bouquet for the center of the table in the dining room. Wednesday morning, Catherine brought back the gorgeous centrepiece, along with some leftover flowers and we set off to buy more flowers for smaller vases around the house.
By the time we came home, David had gone to the barber at the Ritz. As planned, Fiona surprised him by walking into the barbershop and supervising the haircut before taking him off for lunch. Meanwhile, Marc and Heather went off on a tour of Westmount real estate, an education for both of them.
The afternoon was a blur of activity, between flower arranging, setting the table in the dining room, last-minute tidying of the 2nd floor, preparation of the kitchen for the invasion of By George’s team and all the hundreds of details that one tends to forget about in the planning stage. Jonathan (Jonas) and Andrew (Flood) of Maisonneuve Renovations did yeomen’s work and the basement was restored to its former glory. Bunches of silver balloons appeared magically and had to be strategically placed.
Danny van Gelder arrived unannounced bearing a beautiful sketch by Harry Mayerovitch – a treasured possession that has hung in Danny’s mother’s house for many years. Knowing how beloved a member of Wednesday Night Harry was, he offered it to us for the evening, so that Harry would be with us in spirit. Somewhat tearfully, I gave it pride of place beside Herb’s sculpture on the side table in the dining room.
Wanda Potrykus, bless her, came to help and was simply wonderful doing odd little jobs like cleaning melted candle wax off surfaces while chatting cheerfully. As the nervous anticipation heightened, David and Perry continued fussing over their wires, switches and connections, which had been disrupted by the requirements of the committee the previous evening. In keeping with the long-running conflict between David’s technological demands and my attempts to maintain a reasonably normal décor, I fretted over all the exposed wires, last-minute requests to relocate microphones and for safe resting places for equipment, and the general ugliness of the communications arrangements, and wondered if the caterers weren’t arriving too late.
(Candle) Lights, Action and (lots of) Cameras (Copious, wonderful photos)
And then, miraculously, everything came together. The catering crew swarmed in under the supervision of Scott and the watchful eye of Gaétan, the Maitre d’Hôtel for the evening. In no time, coat racks were set up in our bedroom, bountiful platters of food appeared on every available table, the dining room table became a literal ‘groaning board’, candles were lit and trays of pre-poured wine were ready to greet the guests as they arrived. Suddenly, the house looked wonderful and the dreaded wires were invisible. As we dressed upstairs, there was an ever-increasing murmur, punctuated by peals of laughter as the Committee and Chorus arrived.
Fiona – looking absolutely gorgeous – and Heather came early so Fi and I had a few precious minutes together while I finished dressing and then it was time to join the party. And what a party! The next hour was a blur of greeting friends, oohing and aahing over sometimes unexpected sartorial splendor, starting and interrupting conversations, looking for one another – the pre-Wednesday Night social activity multiplied a thousandfold!
With the ringing of the Mayflower bell, the meeting was called to order by Peter Trent as we crowded into the living room and dining room. Peter, having welcomed everyone to a “sterling” evening, read messages from the Governor General and Jean Charest with his usual élan, followed by Linda Julien, who read one from Stéphane Dion. Peter then read a number of messages from far-away friends including part of the long message from John & Holly Jonas in Australia and Wanda Potrykus’ delightful limericks
Fiona and Marc were super stars and gave a highly entertaining view of growing up with Wednesday Night. They were a great verbal tag team, recalling that they were always the first people at the table — because they had to clean it — and Fi reminding us that Wednesday Night’s original purpose was to make sure that David got dinner. Marc’s remarks included the revelation that during the time he had spent growing up with Wednesday Night, he had lost his virginity – not to a Wednesday Nighter, but to the daughter of a Wednesday Nighter.
Roslyn Takeishi accompanied on guitar by her music partner Christopher van Soest, sang the hauntingly lovely Wednesday Night that she had composed for the occasion. Until this evening, few of those who had shared Wednesday Night sessions with Roslyn realized that she had another persona as singer and songwriter
The pièce de résistance of the evening was the performance of Peter Trent’s witty Gilbert & Sullivan parody: “WHOM TO INVITE, NEXT WEDNESDAY NIGHT? Or, David and Diana demonstrate they are never listless” by the distinguished members – not to say motley crew – of the Wednesday Night Chorus accompanied on the piano by John Ciaccia, under the musical direction of Katherine Stephenson Trent. The singers carried masks, replicas of Tony Philbin’s cartoons of David and me on the second (reminder) invitation and held them up according to whether they were singing in his voice or mine. References to and in-jokes about many Wednesday Nighters were greeted with much laughter and appreciation.
There was then a toast to us, given by Peter; and Gerald presented us with a gift in the traditional Birks’ box -the engraved silver picture frame holding the invitation for the Silver Anniversary evening. Following which, first David and then I replied with words that were heartfelt, but barely skimmed the surface of our appreciation for all the wonderful people, both present and absent, who have made Wednesday Night what it is, and the incredible committee who had worked so hard and lovingly to prepare this memorable evening.
Everyone was then invited to go to the basement to watch [for the first time] the extraordinary and nostalgic video montage so lovingly created by Brian Morel of Wednesday Nights and those who have made them so extraordinary.
However, just at that moment, in an eerie replay of Diana’s walk-on appearance earlier in the year in one performance of Infinitheatre’s fundraiser, Prescription for Murder there was suddenly a young woman impeccably turned out in a police uniform, standing in the middle of the living room and taking over the microphone. Convinced that this was a gag put on by some members of the cast, we were surprised to discover that she was for real and was adamant that someone’s car was blocking a neighbor’s drive. She was very charming, but no doubt a bit surprised at the levity that her appearance caused.
After the requisite amount of schmoozing, and as the amazing amount of amuse gueules had disappeared, they were replaced by the valiant crew from By George! bearing trays piled high with wonderful smoked meat, rye bread and coleslaw – an inspired Montreal-style midnight snack designed to send happy guests on their way – or guests on their way, happy.
The die-hards gathered in the living room to continue to munch and in that much quieter atmosphere, Wanda presented us with the framed 25 Years of Wednesday Night – A Voice from the Back Row, a touching and beautifully written ode to Wednesday Night, unfortunately too long to re-type for these pages, but to be read with attention and appreciation in a few quiet moments in the front hall.
The evening concluded on a quiet, contemplative note, as Canon David Oliver pronounced a lovely blessing on us all. Indeed, we felt – and feel – truly blessed in our friends and the extraordinary Wednesday Night family.