In our city, people are often afraid to go above themselves. We Winnipeggers are always putting ourselves down. But you know what? We can do this.
—Jason Pankratz, bassist/vocalist in Quinzy
After nine magical years, Winnipeg pop/rock act Quinzy will put on Quinzmas, its much-loved annual holiday show, for the last time.
It's a bittersweet moment for the band, to be sure, but also for Winnipeggers for whom Quinzmas has become a tradition.
"The expectations have gotten much bigger -- at least in our own heads," says guitarist/vocalist Sandy Taronno, who's joined in the band by his brother James Taronno (piano/keyboard/vocals), as well as their cousins David Pankratz (drums/vocals) and Jason Pankratz (bass, vocals), also brothers. "You don't want to be the last one at a party. It's important to leave on a high. People's memories are too important."
Indeed, Quinzmas has certainly created its share of memorable moments. Whether it's the famed Bing Crosby/David Bowie duet or The Santa Tenors, people still talk about highlights from Quinzmasses past.
The band fuels up for the big show (courtesy Quinzy)
Winnipeg's quirkiest holiday tradition began as a lark at a neighbourhood watering hole. The guys played a couple Christmas songs and Santa came bearing thrift-store presents for all. The band had such a blast it decided to do it again, this time at the West End Cultural Centre.
"When we brought it to the West End Cultural Centre in 2006, we brought some ambition to the show," Sandy says.
"We realized the power of a Christmas show," James adds. "We got people out that don't go to shows." In fact, many people braved a snowstorm to see the show; some even skied in. "It was this strange miracle," James says.
Quinzmas quickly swelled into a full-blown musical spectacular spanning two sold-out nights. In 2008, the shows were recorded for national broadcast on CBC Radio Two's Canada Live
. By 2011, the show was ready to move to its current home at The Burton Cummings Theatre.
Ticket demand aside, the production warranted bigger digs; while the show has never lost its sense of humour -- nor its nostalgic feeling of an elementary-school Christmas pageant writ large -- the band takes Quinzmas very seriously.
"People are spending an evening of their time during a very busy time of year," Sandy says. "A lot of respect has to go to the audience."
Quinzy has also recorded a new, original Christmas song every year, another proud Quinzmas tradition. Two final songs -- "Goodnight" and Jason's crowd-pleasing "Someone Else's Christmas: -- are available for download.
And while Friday's show will be an emotional one, the band is proud of what they've accomplished.
"In our city, people are often afraid to go above themselves," Jason says. "We Winnipeggers are always putting ourselves down. But you know what? We can do this. I'm not saying we invented Christmas, but..."
"People are thinking bigger with their Christmas shows," Sandy finishes, pointing to their pal JP Hoe and his long-running JP Hoe Hoe Hoe Holiday Show has a prime example. This year's event stretched out over three nights, all of which sold out.
"That's a legacy we're proud to be a part of."The Last Quinzmas is December 21 at The Burton Cummings Theatre.