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Walk Off the Earth band honours Mike ‘Beard Guy’ Taylor at massive memorial concert

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As they’ve done time and time again through the years, Walk Off the Earth performed to an adoring crowd in Burlington, Ont., Sunday night — but this time, one member’s absence weighed heavy in the air. 

The band was there as part of a concert to honour the life of keyboardist Mike “Beard Guy” Taylor, who died of natural causes in his sleep on Dec. 29.

Thousands of people packed Burlington’s Civic Square to pay their respects, and catch a glimpse of the band performing for the first time without the 51-year-old father of two.

“Music heals,” vocalist Sarah Blackwood said. “We’re hoping that eventually, over time, it will help us keep his memory alive and bring him with us on the road, and bring him with us in all the music that we continue to make.”

It was an emotional night, with tears staining the cheeks of the band and audience members alike, as they huddled together in frigid temperatures.

The band said Taylor died ‘peacefully from natural causes … in his sleep.’ (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

The indie pop group was joined onstage by several juggernauts of Canadian music, including members of Arkells, Barenaked Ladies, Monster Truck, Saint Alvia, Scott Helman, USS and The Dare Nots.

Many spoke of Taylor’s passion for music and community, and thanked the crowd for being there to support the band and his family.

Shawn Kelly and his family came to Burlington from Niagara to catch the show, and have seen the band several times.

“They’ve just been like a really big part of our family, and the fans are like a big family themselves,” Kelly said.

“So when you lose one of your own, you want to come out and pay your respects.”

Walk Off the Earth exploded on YouTube with a cover of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know back in 2012. It featured all the band’s members playing the track on one acoustic guitar, and has since been viewed more than 185 million times.

The band has also released several singles and EPs, with the most recent being Subscribe to the Holidays, which came out last November.

Many in the crowd at Sunday’s show held candles. (Peter Power/Canadian Press)

The band won a Juno in 2016 for group of the year, and has also won a CASBY Award, Canadian Radio Music Award, and a Streamy Award.

As the band’s star rose, Walk Off The Earth never forgot the city where it got its start, said Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward. She told the crowd that Taylor, who was a hockey coach and ran a freight company, will be the honourary recipient of the first “key to the city” program in Burlington’s history.

Members of Walk Off the Earth watch a video of Taylor at the tribute concert in his honour held in Burlington, Ont., on Sunday. (Adam Carter/CBC)

“Walk Off The Earth and Mike never forgot us, and never forgot their roots,” she said.

“We will never forget the legacy he left.”

Next month, the band is embarking on the first leg of a world tour that was planned before Taylor died. The first show is scheduled for Truro, N.S., on Feb. 9.

Arkells frontman Max Kerman joined The Barenaked Ladies for a rendition of the band’s hit, ‘Lovers in a Dangerous Time.’ (Adam Carter/CBC)

The band said it isn’t planning on immediately replacing Taylor. His keyboards stood untouched on stage throughout the show Sunday night, covered in candles to mark the man who was on everyone’s minds.

“I think we’ve all taken a moment to slow down and think about what means most to us. Think about family, think about what we’ve done, and what legacy we’re going to leave,” said Joel Cassidy, the band’s drummer.

The candle-lit keyboards of Mike ‘Beard Guy’ Taylor during a Walk Off The Earth Memorial & Tribute Concert in Burlington, Ont., on Sunday. (Peter Power/The Canadian Press)

“The one bit of comfort I’ve found in this is he lived life to the absolute max. He really did live life like every day was his last, and he left an incredible legacy.”

adam.carter@cbc.ca

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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