The jury is still out on whether the first thing I noticed when I met Tom Jackson was his strong presence or how tall he was. I don’t know if presence is an acquired thing or innate, but when we began that first exchange, I felt compelled to listen to what he had to say. As the conversation continued, the third thing I noticed about Tom was that he felt, looked and sounded like an elder, someone with wisdom to share, but what he had to share could easily take the form of a call to action. His poignant music video Lost Souls, released on Canada’s inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, is one such call to action. He asks you to watch the video, reflect on its message, then call someone and tell them you love them and suggest they do the same.
Celebrated actor, recording artist, author, philanthropist and activist Tom Jackson is extraordinarily passionate about creating change. His acting career includes countless marquee TV roles on hit shows such as North of 60, Shining Time Station, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Law & Order, Outlander and Cardinal. Movie roles include Cold Pursuit, Deadfall, Mee-Shee: The Water Giant and Grizzly Falls. A bass-baritone voice for food banks, the disenfranchised and the traumatized and an Ambassador for the Canadian Red Cross, he is Canada’s go-to ‘minstrel with a mission’ and Renaissance man. As a Companion of the Order of Canada, both a Juno and Gemini Humanitarian Award-winner, 11-time honorary degree recipient, and a proud bearer of the 2014 Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Tom humbly marches into boardrooms or shelters ready to dispense a hug and mobilize others into action.
But what was his first step on a journey that has drawn so much recognition and changed so many lives?
Once upon a time, Tom was living in a crawlspace in downtown Toronto, addicted to drugs; a time he refers to as his “crazies.” One day he received a visit from a stranger. The stranger said to him, “I’m going to send you an angel and if you help that angel, I’m going to help you.”
Tom asked, “Is it going to have wings?”
“Nope. And that angel is going to be worse off than you.”
And that was the beginning of Tom Jackson’s annual Huron Carole (HC) concert, a seasonal music tradition that has toured from coast-to-coast-to-coast.
Now in its 34th year, The Huron Carole has raised $230 million in funds and in-kind value for food banks, women’s shelters, mental health programs and many other initiatives and it continues to be a profound catalyst for creating community and bringing family together.
This year’s theme, Angels Without Wings, pays tribute to all the angels around us. “Sometimes they’re invisible – just like you and me when we need help. So, if you’re down and out and need help, find someone who needs it more than you. You’ll feel much better.”
Enjoy Christmas classics, road stories, fables, original music, and dad jokes that can only be told by Tom Jackson. Tom McKillip leads the band again as we welcome HC alumni musicians Phil Hall, John Thiel and Keith Floen. Keeping everyone in time is drummer Joe McIntyre and be ready for blues vocalist Samantha King to take things up a notch.
Check out the trailer and get your first dose of the magic for this year’s holiday season.
One of the beneficiaries of this year’s Huron Carole is CSARN (Canadian Senior Artists Resource Network).
CSARN is a worthy, under-utilized organization with so much to offer our senior ACTRA Members who desire to keep creating; to continue developing the skills and talents we have spent a lifetime perfecting. Of ACTRA’s nearly 28,000 Members, over one-quarter of us are over age 55. Apart from being professional performers, many are artists in other disciplines, be it writing, dance, music, sculpture, painting, directing, etc., so the value of CSARN is evident.
It is not surprising over the years many ACTRA Members and Permittees have been integral to the growth of CSARN: its first Artistic Advisor, Martha Henry; Honorary Board Member, Gordon Pinsent; current Advisory Council Members Peggy Baker, Laurie Brown, Rita Shelton Deverell, Douglas Gibson, Evelyn Hart, Brenda Hoffert, Paul Hoffert, Jani Lauzon, Ranee Lee, Guy Maddin, Sheila McCarthy, R.H. Thomson and Mary Walsh; Special Advisor, David Ferry; and Board Members Tom Jackson, dTaborah Johnson and Dan Lyon. Also on the Board are Garry Neil, former National Executive Director of ACTRA, David Hope, Executive Director of The AFC (formerly the Actors’ Fund of Canada), and Bob Underwood, Past President and CEO of AFBS.
So, what does CSARN have to offer? I think that’s best summed up in the phrase, “Maintaining Creativity,” the name of their annual conference. This year’s conference wraps on November 1 with a discussion on Ageism and the Other-isms in the Arts with videographer Richard Fung, author and journalist Elizabeth Renzetti, poet/playwright/essayist Charles C. Smith, and actor Mary Walsh. If you are quick, you might be able to take it in.
I encourage you to read CSARN’s Vision Statement and for more information visit csarn.ca. By booking a ticket to this year’s Huron Carole “Angels Without Wings”, you will be helping support CSARN, a worthy organization there for the benefit of the over 7,100 ACTRA Members who are 55 plus.
Consider making The Huron Carole a part of your holiday festivities this winter or give it as a gift to family and friends. You will get more out of it than you can imagine.
Footnote:  Council Fire (Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre) is an Indigenous agency serving the downtown Toronto community and is committed to their health, safety and well-being.
Recording artist to some, celebrated actor and author to others, philanthropist to most – Tom Jackson is extraordinarily passionate about creating change. A bass-baritone voice for food banks, the disenfranchised, the traumatized, and an Ambassador for the Canadian Red Cross, he is Canada’s go-to ‘minstrel with a mission’ and renaissance man. As a Companion of the Order of Canada, Juno and Gemini Humanitarian Award winner, eleven-time honorary degree recipient, and a proud bearer of the 2014 Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, he humbly marches into boardrooms or shelters ready to dispense a hug and mobilize others into action. Twitter: @tomjacksonca; Facebook: @tomjacksononline; Instagram: @tomjacksononline; website: tomjackson.ca