A who’s who of Maritime musicians assembled on Thursday September 14th at Sydney Nova Scotia’s Centre 2000 to pay tribute to Bruce Guthro who passed away on Wednesday September 5th in Halifax.
A private funeral service was staged earlier in the day at St Joseph’s Church in North Sydney.
Local comedienne Bette MacDonald and comedic husband Maynard Morrison hosted a four-and-a-half-hour free concert which attracted a capacity crowd of more than 4,000 fans. A lineup of some 50 musicians which included the likes of Alan Doyle, Matt Minglewood, Gordie Sampson, J.P Cormier, Lenny Gallant, Jimmy and Heather Rankin, members of The Barra MacNeil’s, Ashley MacIsaac and Men Of The Deeps participated in the concert.. Also performing were Calum and Rory Macdonald, members of Scottish Gaelic band, Runrig with whom Guthro fronted for over 20 years before the band staged their final concert in August 2018 in front of a two-show attendance of over 50,000 fans in Stirling Scotland.
Guthro, who was born August 31st, 1961, at Sydney Mines, Cape Breton, established himself as a major regional performer whose debut single; “Walk This Road” topped the Canadian Country Music charts, winning him two Canadian Country Music awards in the Rising Star and Solo Artist categories. He also won nine East Coast Music Awards for his seven studio albums, the last one; ‘Bound For Bethlehem’ which was released in 2012.
“Bruce was like the Yoda of performance,” noted Sampson. “He just had the force.”
“He was so incredibly proactive and positive, but it was impossible to stop it and that’s what inspired all of us,” said fellow musician J.P Cormier, who had known Guthro for some 30 years. “He saw the universality in of us writers but also the things that made us different which made us stronger, and he was compelled for some reason, to demonstrate that to the world over and over and over again. And that’s what the Circles were.”
Cormier was referring to the Songwriter Circles which Guthro established where a group of musicians would sit around a circle in front of an audience and trade stories about their songs while composing new material. These Circles attracted the likes of Jim Cuddy, Colin James and Alan Doyle and was featured at the Tribute Concert with a circle of chairs set up on stage with a vacant seat set up for Guthro featuring his guitar, hat and a glass of Scotch Whiskey. His guitar was later auctioned off for $30,000 with proceeds plus a 50/50 draw being donated to the Cape Breton Cancer Centre for a total of $75,000.
Guthro is survived by his wife Kim and two children; Dylan and Jodi, both of whom are talented musicians in their own right and performed at their father’s tribute concert. It had become a tradition for Guthro and his kids to appear at the Stan Rodgers’ Folk Festival in Canso Cape Breton so when he had to pass on this August’s event, Guthro released a video on his Facebook as a stand in for his absence. The video depicted him and his two children sitting around his kitchen table, drink in hand. He then launched into a new song which included the line “Can I Get An Amen”.