All posts in November 2017

Westjet turns Gate 28 into jazz club

About 110 passengers heading for Toronto got a Christmas surprise when they reached Gate 28 at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Sunday.

WestJet had turned the departure lounge into a jazz club, complete with a performance by Juno-nominated singer Matt Dusk, a visit from “Mrs. Claus” and a buffet of food and drinks.

Oh, and five people also won gift cards for a return flight to anywhere WestJet flies.

The event was Day 9 of the WestJet Christmas Miracle: 12 Flights of Christmas project.

Quinn Clancy was one of those who won a big prize, given out as a reward for being willing to step up and dance with Mrs. Claus while Dusk sang traditional Christmas carols.

“It’s pretty cool,” Clancy said. “Amazing. Totally caught us off-guard but it’s pretty cool.”

Clancy and his wife Brandi were on their way home to Barrie, Ont., on Sunday, and were tickled pink to encounter the WestJet-blue-clad Mrs. Claus. Volunteers wearing Christmas hats of the same shade were abundant, as were glasses filled with similar-hued drinks from the buffet table. White leather sofas were arranged in rows in front of an intimate stage setting where Dusk performed in a trio with Stephen MacDonald on saxophone and and Martin Anderson on piano.

Clancy said he travels fairly often. Although he now lives in Ontario, he was born in Halifax.

“My family’s here, so I’m here quite often,” Clancy said.

The electrician said they were in Halifax for his brother-in-law’s surprise 60th birthday party. It was a quick visit, coming in Thursday, but the airport festivities topped it off nicely.

“Awesome,” Clancy said of his return-flight gift. “(I) might have to put it to good use New Year’s Eve.

“We were talking about going to Vegas over the holidays because the Maple Leafs are playing the Las Vegas Knights New Year’s afternoon. So, that’s probably going to be a destination for us.”

The other passengers weren’t left out. They all got Christmas stockings with copies of Dusk’s Christmas CD and noise-cancelling headphones.

Leslie Duffy and her daughter Madeline were on their way back to Guelph after visiting Halifax to check out Dalhousie University as a possible school for the teen.

“This is amazing,” Leslie said. “It’s absolutely wonderful. You’d never expect to come to the airport and have something like this happening.

“It’s my daughter’s 17th birthday so it just kind of makes the morning extra-special.”

She said if they weren’t fully in the Christmas spirit before, they are now.

“Just coming to Halifax this weekend started to get us into the spirit but this really kicks it off.”

It also helped Madeline anticipate making Halifax her home.

“It’s really cool,” the high school senior said. “I really wasn’t expecting it.”

Dusk appreciated how much the passengers got into the spirit of things with him.

“As a performer, it’s like a conversation with someone. If you’re in a bar and you go up and say ‘hi,’ they give you information and you give it back, you can have good dialogue and this audience was giving me a lot of dialogue,” Dusk said. “In my opinion, Christmas music and holiday music is all about a collective. As a kid we used to go door-to-door carolling. So this is kind of like bringing me back to those moments as a kid.”

It’s the sixth year for WestJet’s Christmas Miracles promotion. The videos have been viewed millions of times around the world. This year, the company is hosting 12 such events over 12 days at different locations across the country with different special guests and prizes. Halifax was the ninth location. Previous events this year have already been held in Montreal, Calgary, Toronto, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Edmonton, Ottawa and Vancouver.

WestJet spokeswoman Lauren Stewart said the Halifax leg turned out to be a fantastic event.

“Everybody was truly surprised to see Matt Dusk appear on the stage and I think the one thing I’ve seen in the past nine days is it’s been fantastic that people are slowing down, getting off their phone and just taking some time to just enjoy the moment. I think that’s really part of what we’re trying to do is surprise people but also get everyone in the Christmas spirit and it definitely happened today.”

Each event is posted online through Facebook Live and video is later available at the Christmas Miracle portal on the WestJet website.

Matt Dusk: “My Daughter is really my litmus test for music”

I’m not one of those guys who is like, “Here’s a picture of my daughter! And here’s a picture of her on a horse!” Every parent thinks his or her kid is the most blessed child in the world and the cutest, and when they see other cute babies, they get jealous.

My kid, she’s great. We keep her on our schedule, so she is up really late and goes to bed around 1 a.m. She is always around adults. The issue is, when you want to go out, it becomes a little more stressful because I don’t want to go to a restaurant and have her crying and throwing crap all over the place. We want to be courteous to other people. We don’t want to be those parents that are like, “This is natural!” There are a lot of things that are natural that we don’t want to share with everybody.

It makes me want to stay home more. Friday and Saturday nights were always for having people over, but now I don’t want anybody over on Saturday nights. I just want to sit and take a breather. Maybe I’m just getting old and lazy.

She is very animated. Her facial expressions are like a mime. When she gets a gift, her eyes open wide and it’s over the top. Usually, when I give someone a gift, they’re like, “Oh, thanks.” She is like, “Woahhh! A ball!”

What’s really cool is that she loves music, so she is really my litmus test for music. If I start writing a song and she starts dancing and trying to sing, then I know I’m onto something.

When I had Kaia, I wanted to relive the Christmas traditions I grew up with, and a big part of that was music. I can remember going to my grandpa and grandma’s house. I was five or six years old and the first thing I would do is rush over to the record player and pull out Bing Crosby’s White Christmas record. I would put it on and the thing would just loop ad nauseam for the whole night.

Eventually, somebody would play piano and we would sing carols. Now we just say screw it and go straight to YouTube and do karaoke, and whatever comes out comes out.

I feel that, especially as you get older, you can’t choose your family. You really are stuck with them, so you have to make the best of it. When you start to give people a chance, you just develop better bonds with them over time.

Matt Dusk’s collection of holiday standards, Old School Yule!, is out now on CD and vinyl and available on all streaming services. His Old School Yule! Holiday Tour plays across Canada through Christmas Day.

Hello! The Last Word

Christmas is coming and Matt Dusk is READY!  One of Canada’s best belters of standards (not to mention one of its spiffiest) the recoring artist, 38, is getting into the spirit of the holidays with Old School Yule!