As 2022 unfolded, entertainment venues began to reopen following the very dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through all the pandemic uncertainty of the past year, there were many memorable moments on the Surrey entertainment beat, as chronicled below (in no particular order).
• A Surrey-based sitar virtuoso was deemed the first person to ever play the instrument so close to the peak of Mt. Everest. In May, Sharanjeet Singh Mand made the trip to Nepal with a group of 11 people, and carried his delicate sitar up the famous mountain to its base camp, where he played the instrument for others on the trek. Sadly, the instrument was later damaged during a domestic flight to Montreal, and Mand was not happy with the airline.
• Nickelback’s Surrey-raised drummer, Daniel Adair, flew high in an episode of Radio Chatter, an “airborne talkshow experience” that features interviews with prominent people while seated in a Cessna 172 aircraft, with Youtube show host/pilot Mat Mosveen. The Adair episode, debuted in May, involved a clear-skies flight above the lakes and snow-capped mountains of Garibaldi Provincial Park, northeast of Squamish.
• In Newton’s town centre in June, Surrey’s very first Car Free Day event featured a wide range of music and dance performers including Ashleigh Ball, daysormay, DESTINEAK and others, plus vendors, food trucks, a beer garden and more. It was a big hit, as people filled 137 Street during the Newton BIA-hosted gathering, presented by TransLink and planned by MRG Events.
• In May, at age 91, cancer claimed Surrey’s “Diamond” Jim Trimble, who loved to entertain crowds later in his life. Known for his booming voice, great head of hair and gentle manner, Trimble helped launch The Vaudevillians seniors entertainment troupe and, more recently, the Naked Stage theatre company that presents script readings at Newton Cultural Centre.
• It was great to see Newton’s fledgling Pivot Theatre pick up steam with an increasing number of plays and fundraising events (including one involving drag queens that sparked controversy when pictured on the front page of this newspaper). My introduction to the company’s work was “A Late Snow,” the stormy story of five gay women trapped in a cabin overnight, at Bethany-Newton United Church in November.
• They weren’t staged in Surrey, but I need to mention two Arts Club Theatre Company plays that stood out this year — the slapstick, ultra-physical comedy “Peter Pan Goes Wrong” at Vancouver’s Stanley theatre, and Farren Timoteo’s hilarious “Made in Italy” at the company’s Granville Island stage. So good, so funny, so worth seeing if they ever come back (hopefully somewhere in Surrey).
• Planners of Surrey’s FVDED in the Park music festival scrambled to find new headliners (Excision, Rick Ross) after Grammy-winning American rapper Young Thug was arrested on gang-related charges south of the border. For the first time in a couple of years, the two-day July event filled Holland Park with ticket-buyers who love hip-hop, R&B and electronic music.
• For the first time in three years, Surrey Fusion Festival attracted thousands to Holland Park on the weekend of July 23-24. It was the festival’s largest turnout in 15 years, according to the City of Surrey, although exact attendance is not recorded at the free-admission event. Headliners included Surrey-raised, rising-star R&B duo Manila Grey, notable for a Juno nomination for Breakthrough Group of the Year. Back in 2018, the duo were finalists in the festival’s “Play Surrey” band contest, but lost to winner Sleepy Gonzales.
• In the year’s biggest boondoggle, some people who bought tickets for Jurassic Fest Surrey wanted their money back, with no luck. City officials eventually pulled the plug on permits for the dinosaur-themed exhibit, first scheduled for April 1-3 at Cloverdale Fairgrounds’ Agriplex, postponed to Aug. 12-14, then scrubbed altogether. South Africa-based event producer David Huni made excuses for the runaround, but ticket-buyers were less than impressed (rightly so).
• At Surrey Arts Centre’s Main Stage in June, the rock show “Queen: It’s a Kinda Magic” was a crowning achievement for a four-piece band fronted by South Africa’s Dominic Warren, who sings Freddie Mercury’s difficult vocals with near-perfection. Good news: The tribute is back at the same venue next spring, June 6 (check tickets.surrey.ca for info and seats).
• In July, seeing Baz Luhrmann’s fine “Elvis” movie at Guildford’s Landmark Cinemas made for a cozy couple of hours in the theatre’s new “Premiere Seating” — heated recliner seats with power adjustable headrests, side table and coat hook in “a personal privacy enclosure,” as the company said, for groups of two or three people. Yes, please.
• Over the spring and summer, drummer John Cody had the huge job of moving his 200,000-item record and DVD collection from one house to another in South Surrey. Among his nearly 200 band gigs over the years is the current one led by his wife, rock singer Lee Aaron. “She gets overwhelmed by all of this, and she’s not a collector at all,” Cody revealed.
• On Nov. 12, it was fun to hear the Rogers Arena-rocking Bryan Adams talk about his brief time living in Surrey. During the homecoming concert, before he played an acoustic “Straight From the Heart,” Adams saluted his mother Jane in the crowd and told the story of “getting the shit kicked outta me a couple of times” while living in the Guildford area in the late-1970s.
• July was a magical month for lifelong Surrey resident Billy Hsueh, who became president of the International Brotherhood of Magicians at a convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded 100 years ago, the Missouri-based IBM is considered the world’s largest organization dedicated to the art of magic, with nearly 15,000 members in 88 countries. “It just feels really good to represent an organization that I’ve been part of since I was, like, 11, and being able to give back, as much as I can, for everything this organization has done for me.”
• Still showing at The Museum of Surrey is the “Surrey on Screen” exhibit, opened Aug. 18 for a closer look at the city’s filming history. Costumes, photos, props and other film-related objects feature Surrey-shot shows including Smallville, Supernatural, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Superman & Lois, IZombie and more. Curator Colleen Sharpe and museum staff assembled the exhibit with the help of an archives team with Warner Bros. Discovery, the City of Surrey’s film office and Cloverdale BIA. The exhibit is worth a look before it closes in April.
• In Phoenix, it was a winning September performance for Surrey-based Westcoast Harmony Chorus, which earned a sixth-place medal at the prestigious Sweet Adelines International contest. The Anne Downton-led chorus’ achievement was celebrated after more than two years of Zoom rehearsals, followed by outdoor rehearsals, indoor rehearsals in hula hoops, masking and COVID cancellations. Bravo!