Manitoba

Manitoba musicians rally for concert supporting storm evacuees

More than 15 artists performed pro bono, including top Manitoba talent like Desiree Dorion and JC Campbell.

More than 15 artists performed pro bono

Singer and hand drummer Darryl Buck performs to help raise funds for evacuees displaced by October's destructive storm. (CBC News)

Award-winning singer Rhonda Head was busy travelling all over Canada the past few weeks, but when she heard how people in Manitoba First Nations are still recovering from October's destructive snow storm, she knew she had to help. 

That's why she organized the Winter Storm Benefit Concert at the Pyramid Cabaret in downtown Winnipeg Thursday night. 

"When the storm happened I was in Vancouver," said Head, who's based out of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, just north of The Pas. 

"Then when I came home and had seen all the Facebook posts of how devastating the storm was here in southern Manitoba … I said 'Oh my goodness, I need to help out our people.'"

That was only two weeks ago. 

Singer Rhonda Head jumped to action when she realized how much devastation the storm had caused. (CBC News)

A concert connoisseur

Head said she's no stranger to planning benefit concerts on the fly. Over the years, she's developed a template that helps her whip them together quickly and on the cheap. Her template includes a list of performers and sponsors she can call on a moment's notice. 

More than 15 artists answered her call and performed pro bono, including top Manitoba talent like Desiree Dorion and JC Campbell.

The Pyramid supplied the venue for free and more than 30 organizations and businesses, including Manitoba Hydro, chipped in to put on the event.

All proceeds are going to the Southern Chiefs Organization's 2019 winter storm emergency relief fund, created to help evacuees get back on their feet after losing freezers full of food and incurring other costs from the storm's damage.

Thousands were evacuated from Manitoba First Nations following the storm, which dumped a wet, heavy blanket of snow over the southern half of the province, crippling a large swath of Manitoba Hydro's power grid. 

Singer and hand-drummer Darryl Buck, also from Opaskwayak Cree Nation, was the first artist to perform.

He began with an original song he said was about "honour and life and just being there for each other."

Darryl Buck told the crowd he had friends whose homes were damaged by the storm. (CBC News)

"There was a lot of people that went back home with their homes destroyed," Buck told the crowd.

"And it was really heartbreaking to see some personal friends of mine go through that hard time … so I try and help out as much as I can." 

Head said she didn't set a specific fundraising target. With little to no overhead, she was mostly focused on bringing people together for a good cause. 

"It's been a long two weeks," she said. 

"I'm a little bit tired, but I'm really excited for the evening to play out." 

About the Author

Cory Funk

Associate Producer

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Cory cut his teeth as a business and politics reporter in Halifax before moving home to join CBC Manitoba's current affairs team. He's also lived, worked and studied in Ottawa and St. John's. You can email him at cory.funk@cbc.ca or message him on Twitter @CoryJFunk.