A tribute to Doug Fleming

When devoting time for anything to do with communities, one appreciates the work and dedication of amazing volunteers.

The true rewards too, are those lasting relationships we forge when working together. For those involved in the music sector, we all share the common bond for the love of live music, and the continued goal of presenting music and performance experiences to appreciative audiences.

Then too, there are the special ones – those who make those extra contributions that make a difference. And yes, as lifetimes go, we lose good people.

Doug Fleming was one of these. The Ontario Festival of Small Halls, held in some 40 communities across Eastern Ontario will greatly miss him in 2019. At age 87, we learned he passed away earlier this month. His funeral on May 25th is being held in one of the Small Halls festival’s most beautiful of venues – St Andrew’s United Church in Pakenham. 

I met Doug through staging concerts in the acoustically wonderful Almonte Old Town Hall for events such as Almonte Celtfest and other community fund-raisers. Doug took me to task one night for a band he deemed too loud for the space, and wrote a scathing review in the local papers – and we became friends thereafter.

He was right!

Doug was a regular patron of Small Halls from the festival’s inception. He went beyond though, by organizing a host committee for the Tatlock Hall — a former one room school house located in the highlands of Lanark County. that has been lovingly restored.  He applied to host a F.O.S.H concert in 2017 (Old Man Luedecke) and again in 2018 (James Keelaghan) and for these successful concerts, Doug was at the door as greeter and seller of tickets for an amazing gift basket of local artisan foods. He was really proud of these shows, and their association with the broader Small Halls festival. 

But he went beyond just hosting. With the exception of those of us who have been involved in organizing the 100+ concerts these past five Septembers/Decembers,  Doug has been a huge fan and regular attendee of probably a quarter of them all. In his latter 80’s, he would show up by himself and take a preferred seat in each front row. You could see his enjoyment level was absolutely high with every act that hit each stage. Festival manager Kelly Symes, myself and other crew members would keep an eye out for him and make a point of making him feel a part of that night’s offering. He always gave a verbal review at the end of the night and we listened!

The last time I saw him was at our Christmas concerts. A cold, snowy,  dark night and a sold-out show in Lombardy along the Rideau — Doug was there early and one of the last to go. He definitely felt part of our broader musical family.

Yep… 2019 Festival of Small Halls will definitely miss his presence and energy.

We’ll keep a chair for him.

Our thoughts go to Doug’s family and those close to him.

Jim Mountain for the Festival of Small Halls Board, staff, and volunteers