When we talk about Christmas, sleigh bells, angel choirs, sappy carols, Santa kick-lines and trees overflowing with presents come to mind. Some people bury themselves in tinsel while others are turned off by all the glitter.
And then there’s Tom Jackson (North of 60, Star Trek, Law and Order), a national celebrity, whose annual touring show, Huron Carole, has raised awareness and funds for food banks from Old Crow, Yukon, to Maboo, Nova Scotia. As a philanthropist, he has mobilized people and helped feed not just a few hundred hungry souls, but hundreds of thousands.
Not only does Jackson, the actor, charm with his songs and stories, he also comes across as a down-to-earth straight shooter who walks the talk. The singer-songwriter's compassionate message is simple: reach out to people and show you care. And that in its basic form is what Christmas is all about.
A regional favourite, St. Albert eagerly awaits his return with open arms. Jackson and long-time friend and colleague, Tom McKillop, will perform Stories, Songs and Santa Causes on Tuesday, Nov. 23 at the Arden Theatre.
The two Toms have traveled and played together for more than 20 years.
“I first met him when I was in Salmon Arm, and I was doing a musical directed by Phil Hall. Our regular guitar player was not available. Tom was from Vancouver, and he was recommended,” said Jackson.
“It takes a while to get to know someone, but Tom became part of the band. He’s an award-winning producer and was the music director for the CCMA Awards. He’s a highly respected guitar and sax player.”
The Tuesday night concert will be filled with Jackson's and McKillop’s songs, stories of shared experiences on the road, a few corny dad jokes, and causes they are passionate about.
Having once lived on the streets as an addict, Jackson is a champion of the marginalized. His music raises funds and brings awareness. He is also a volunteer member of Alpha House’s downtown outreach addictions partnership (DOAP) team.
Calgary’s Alpha House assists people under the influence of drugs and alcohol who need help navigating available resources such as shelter, detox, medical services, housing, and other programs. The DOAP team is a crisis rescue team for the inner city and outlying communities.
“We respond when people are in crisis. We put them in a safe place. We talk to them. We are a resource for wide-ranging things — whatever they need,” said Jackson, who easily receives crisis calls at home any time during the day or night.
“It invigorates me. We have the responsibility to help others. When we help others, we get rewarded. It feels good. It’s a high and it doesn’t cost a thing. It lasts forever.”
One of Jackson’s 2021 releases is a nod to his Indigenous heritage and a call to all Canadians. Lost Souls is a powerful story song describing the trapped life of 215 Indigenous children found buried in unmarked graves at Kamloops Indian Residential School in May. In his deep bass vocals, he speaks for the “silenced children” and the pain of the cruel realities they faced.
“It makes you think. You have to sit and gather yourself. It’s a call to action on reconciliation and truth. It’s a call for you to call someone and tell them you love them and for them to do the same,” said the long-time activist.
Stories, Songs and Santa Causes starts Nov. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at 5 St. Anne Street. Tickets are $42. They are available at 780-459-1542 or online at https://stalbert.ca/exp/arden/.
Patrons must wear masks and follow health guidelines in place at concert time.