An intimate evening with David Foster

An intimate evening with David Foster
MAY 6, 2013

Piers Morgan wasn’t at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel Saturday night, but you could say he was there in spirit, says David Foster.

The colourful British CNN talk show host’s reputation as a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants personality inadvertently inspired Foster to be able to pull off his impromptu David Foster Foundation fundraiser, his Victoria-born friend said.

“I just thought of Piers and how impressed I am with how he can do those interviews on the fly,” said Foster, whose ritzy black-tie dinner and concert that also opened the David Foster Foundation Theatre brought to $284,000 the amount raised for the foundation by the hotel since its $52-million makeover.

Owners Kevin and Shawna Walker have pledged $2 million over 10 years.

The Grammy Award-winning musician hastily enlisted Fernando Varela, the Puerto Rican tenor he discovered on YouTube; classical crossover sensation William Joseph; and Los Angeles singer and longtime collaborator Nita Whitaker for the loosest concert yet in the 26-year history of the foundation that assists families with children who need organ transplants.

The anything-goes “intimate evening” was full of surprises as Foster, 63, breezed along on a wing and The Prayer, his pop-opera hit sung by Whitaker and Varela, whose high notes almost shattered wine glasses.

After Foster predicted he had Pavarotti potential, Varela thanked him for his support.

“Yeah, five years from now when I call him it’ll be like, ‘How’d you get this number?’ ” Foster joked.

Georgia Murray, the Victoria-based singer there with father Craig, owner of Nimmo Bay Resort, was cajoled onstage to deliver an impassioned take on Summertime.

“You’re a lot hotter than your brother,” Foster quipped, referring to The Tenors’ Clifton Murray.

“And he wears more makeup than me!” she replied.

Offstage, Murray recalled Kevin Walker gave her her first job when she was 18, singing on the hotel’s dinner cruises.

She also recalled her childhood at Nimmo Bay, where dad played guitar and she and Clifton sang for guests, adding with a laugh: “I learned The Little Mermaid when I was five and, unannounced to my parents, I sang it for the guests.”

Guest services attendant Daniela Jackson got her 15 minutes of fame, wowing guests with Bonnie Raitt’s Something to Talk About. Walker has been singing her praises since hearing Jackson sing Happy Birthday to guests.

Kathleen Burton, Victoria Hospice director of development, also got an ovation after singing Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.

Other highlights included Whitaker’s soaring versions of It’s Got to Be Real and I Will Always Love You; Varela’s rendition of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma; and Phoenix-based Joseph’s wizardry on the grand piano starting with Led Zeppelin’s Cashmere.

“The best way to describe my music is that it sounds like soundtracks to films that haven’t been written,” said the genial musician who has performed here four times since Foster discovered him 10 years ago.

This visit was more relaxing than his last, he said.

“We drove to the wrong side of the Island the day of the show, three hours in the wrong direction,” he recalled.

Foster was relaxed and self-deprecating, even acknowledging his blunders.

“If you do that song, it’ll ruin your career,” he said, recalling his reaction when Celine Dion said she wanted to do My Heart Will Go On.

“I hated that song then, and I still hate that song,” deadpanned Foster, whose musical flashback included passages from Chicago’s Hard to Say I’m Sorry and You’re the Inspiration; the Earth Wind and Fire hit After the Love Is Gone; and Wildflower, the 1970s Skylark hit he wrote with David Richardson, the retired Saanich cop who used his proceeds to feed the homeless in Israel.

Foster also elicited laughter recalling his years playing at the old Century Inn and Red Lion.

“I couldn’t play in the bar because I was only 16, so they cut a hole in the wall and I played on a platform beside the bar on the restaurant side.”

Foster didn’t even mind being overshadowed by his wife Yolanda Foster, one of the stars of the reality TV show Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

“I’m just a girl from Holland,” she said, smiling. “I’m not really from Beverly Hills. I just try to fit in.”

© Copyright 2013

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