Standing outside Living Hope Church last November, a sombre Bruce Francis predicted that his friend Jan Schoute’s name “will come up and he won’t be there but he will be thought of many, many times over.”
That will certainly be the case Tuesday, November 6th at the Historic Red Dog (189 Hunter Street West, 705-750-1710) as friends and family gather to remember the late singer, guitarist, and songwriter. And that has definitely been the case since Schoute’s sudden death from a heart attack on November 5, 2017 at age 54.
Francis, who with Schoute was a member of long-time local cover band Jericho’s Wall, is still coming to grips with the loss of his friend. He’s hopeful the November 6th gathering won’t be too structured but rather provide an opportunity for anyone who wants to share reminisces of Schoute, be they musical or spoken.
Terry Guiel, former front man of Jericho’s Wall and current Peterborough DBIA executive director, concurs.
“This is to remember Jan,” says Guiel, noting Schoute’s family — wife Allison Mallory and children Isaac and Olivia — will be in attendance.
“We’re not going to be stringent in terms of making it a night of great entertainment. That’s going to happen, but we don’t want to feel that pressure.”
That said, there will be great entertainment, including performances by The Weber Brothers, Rick and Gailie Young, Dylan Ireland and, of course, a reunited Jericho’s Wall featuring Guiel (lead vocals and guitar), Francis (bass), Brent Bailey (keyboards), and Derek McKendrick (drums). In addition, says Gueil, there’ll be a “surprise” performer.
Billed as A Night To Remember, the event begins at 8 p.m. but collected donations will go towards the cost of a dedicated park bench with a plaque to be placed atop Armour Hill — one of Schoute’s favourite places to visit.
“I’ve made arrangements with Public Works to go up there, and hopefully take (Schoute’s daughter) Olivia with me, and walk around and find a good spot for it,” says Guiel.
“We’ll talk to the family and come up with the wording (for the plaque). I see a line from a Pink Floyd song or a Zeppelin tune. I’ll leave that up to Olivia. It (the bench) will give people a chance to go up there and overlook Peterborough, a place that Jan rocked for many years.”
Guiel notes that right after Schoute’s funeral service, plans were made to hold a remembrance on or near the first anniversary of his passing. The Black Horse was originally booked for a Saturday night but more musicians would be available to play a weeknight event. Also, based on the expected turnout, a larger venue was deemed necessary — hence the Red Dog.
“I knew that a year after, it would be important for us, friends and family and fans, to gather … that we’re still here and we still care about him,” says Guiel.
Known affectionately as Jano, with his bear-like hugs as much a trademark as the bandanna perched atop his head, Schoute was known for his willingness — sheer exuberance, actually — to play anywhere at any time for any cause.
That, says Guiel, made him stand out amongst his music brethren.
“And he would play with anybody; he wouldn’t judge you … he was kind of like the safe space of musicians,” says Guiel.
“I think everybody wishes that when they go there’s that much residual love left behind. And respect. He was deeply admired, not so much for his musicality but his personality. He had a really nice spirit about him. He didn’t solve cancer or get Citizen of the Year but he had an impact daily in little ways for many people.”
Close to a year after his passing, Francis says rarely a day passes when he doesn’t think of Schoute and the special bond they had.
“Memories can come from anywhere,” says Francis.
“You find yourself halfway through a song thinking, ‘Wow, I never thought I’d see this day, doing this without him.’ But not every single thing reminds you of him. It’s generally those intimate things. His laugh. I still haven’t heard that laugh from anybody. That boisterous thing where he’d actually say ‘Stop, I’m gonna pee my pants!’
“I remember having a conversation with (musician) Matt Diamond. Matt said, ‘I talk to him every day.’ Little remembrances, like how much he would have got a kick out of something.”
Guiel, too, still feels the loss of his friend and former band mate.
“He would have been front and centre … that’s been the strange thing over the past year for me, for Brent, for Bruce … all the different little events and fundraisers that happened and you look around and Jan’s not there,” says Gueil.
“I’m blessed to be doing a New Year’s Eve gig with Barry Haggerty and Terry Finn at the Holiday Inn. That’s something I did for many years with Jan. Little things like that. That has been difficult. I miss his visits, popping into the (DBIA) office.
“I’ll be driving the car and what we call a Jan tune will pop up. One of those guitar solo, on-and-on things, whether it’s Eric Clapton or David Wilcox or Jimmy Page. But guys like Jan, they leave something bigger than musicality behind. They leave very humble and an example of how to carry one’s self. Jan had his ups and downs in his life but when he plugged in that guitar, he lit the room up. He was on and he was in his happy place and you knew it.”
Over the year since Schoute’s passing, Peterborough has lost more than its share of bigger-than-life personalities.
On June 10th, Don Skuce, guitar guru and the longtime owner of Ed’s Music Workshop, died following a lengthy battle with cancer, and on July 6th, singer and guitarist Buzz Thompson, a member of The Hawks, died following a heart attack and stroke.
Outside of the music realm, Peterborough also lost legendary local sportscaster Gary Dalliday and former Peterborough MP Peter Adams, both succumbing to cancer.
And while he’s doing well now, Rick Young and Rick and Gailie fame dealt with his own cancer scare. To say more than a few people are anxious for the shade to be drawn on 2018 would be an understatement.
VIDEO: “Mull Of Kintyre” performed by Getting Better with Jan Schoute
“To coin the Don McLean tune, it almost seems like the year the music died,” says Guiel.
“It was a tough year. A lot of great guitarists and singers were silenced. I know there are lots of memories of them but you also wonder about the effect on up and coming musicians. I wish there was a museum or some place they could visit and say, ‘So this is how well Buzz sang.’ I know their legacies won’t be lost in people’s hearts but something tangible. Buzz was one of the best singers in Canada. We were lucky to have him here.”
Francis notes that many “have special memories” of those lost but refutes the notion that Schoute was “a musician first … he was a good soul first. That’s why we really loved his company.
“I’m a much better person one on one than I am with a crowd. For Jan, it was the more, the better. He never had a fear of there being too many people. His big thing was ‘I’m not getting through to enough people.’ He’d be all over this event.”