Liverpool’s Astor Theatre hopes to satiate the growing appetite for live musical performances following the dearth that resulted from COVID-19 health regulations with a full plate of musical fare at the end of this month.
On Oct. 26, the theatre will be serving up singer-songwriters Murray McLauchlan, Marc Jordan, Ian Thomas and Nova Scotia’s own Cindy Church, who banded together to form a group called Lunch at Allen’s and have gone on tour.
Combined, the musicians have written for, or sung on, over 25 million CDs and they have each been singing and songwriting for at least three decades. They have penned hits for Chicago, Josh Groban, Bonnie Raitt, America, Santana, Cher and Rod Stewart.
The Liverpool show will be their ninth and final stop on their East Coast Fall tour, their first tour since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s so exciting to have them back at the Astor,” said Jean Robinson-Dexter, general manager for the Astor. “I saw them originally at the Astor just over 10 years ago. I loved the show. It’s not just hearing the music that’s so familiar to people, but also the stories that they tell as part of the show. Folks are definitely in for a treat.”
In an interview prior to the group’s first show of their Eastern tour in Sydney, Oct. 14, Thomas described how they came together.
“It was about 2003, Murray had more or less quit playing. He was working on his pilot’s licence and, during the physical, they discovered an anomaly,” he said. “Long story short, he ended up having a quadruple bypass. His take-home was, ‘If you don’t use the gift God gives you, he gets ticked off.’”
After his recovery, McLauchlan was asked if he would put a song circle together, so he called Thomas to see if he was interested in joining him, then the pair talked to Jordan and Church who both agreed.
They liked Jordan’s phrasing and songwriting skills and Thomas said he was floored by Church’s “sweet voice and how sweet her songs were.”
“Murray didn’t want to do the standard song circle either, where three people sort of pick their noses and try and look interested until it’s their turn,” said Thomas. “I think songwriters, we’re a funny bunch. I think we all write music because other people’s music doesn’t do it for us.”
The group itself has produced five albums, and has enjoyed being on tour, especially in small venues such as Liverpool.
“Those gigs are just more fun…It’s like sitting around a campfire, or in someone’s kitchen. When you play hits that are part of what people grew up with, sort of the soundtrack of their lives,” he said.
Meanwhile, the performers are all of “equal status … There’s no hierarchy and that’s may what makes it such a joy.”
All four members have been performing and writing songs for more than 40 years.
McLauchlan has 18 albums to his credit. He released his most recent recording, Hourglass, through True North Records this past summer. He is also a writer, a painter and a member of Canada’s Country Hal of Fame.
Jordan was born in Brooklyn, New York, but grew up in Toronto. His musical career took off in 1978 when he was signed to Warner Music in Los Angeles. He has written songs for Diana Ross, Kansas, Kenny Loggins, Bette Midler, Joe Cocker, Olivia Newton-John and Rod Stewart. One of his most famous songs that he has written was Rhythm of My Heart.
His songs have been played on millions of CDs and he has recorded 16 albums of his own.
Thomas’s first international hit came in 1973 with Painted Ladies. He has 15 albums to his credit and has written for artists such as Ann Murray, Chicago, Bette Midler and Santana.
His songs also have been featured in numerous TV shows and movies.
Originally from Bible Hill, Nova Scotia, Church is renowned for her singing adaptability, performing country, jazz, blues, gospel and swing.
Along with being a solo artist, she also sings with the group, Quartette, currently made up of Sylvia Tyson, Caitlin Hanford and Gwen Swick. She has also performed many times with Ian Tyson.
She has five solo albums and 13 collaborative albums to her credit.
The Astor Theatre is now open at full capacity with 348 seats to be sold.
A busy fall lineup for the Astor began with Charlie A’Court and Witchitaw Oct. 16, the first full-capacity show since February 2020. On Oct. 23, three comedians from the Halifax ComedyFest will be performing, followed by the Lunch at Allen’s concert Oct. 26.
By the middle of this month, about three-quarters of the available tickets to Lunch at Allen’s had already been sold.
Tickets are available at the Astor Theatre box office Tuesday to Friday between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., or by visiting the Astor’s website and following the links.
Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin