funny how even bruising lone- liness -- when properly channelled -- can result in something positive. Toronto-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Tamara Williamson is a case in point.As the expatriate Englishwoman recalls with a laugh, her way-fun, celeb-studded annual fundraisers -- the next is set for December 22 at the Riv, this time in support of Amnesty International and Richmond Hill street kid drop-in centre Home Base -- are the product of her homesickness.
"The catalyst for this was family," Williamson explains. "Or rather, a lack of family, since I don't really have much family here.
"A few years ago I was walking around at Christmas feeling a bit depressed because, in the absence of real people, it was all just about money and sending presents home. And I noticed at that time of year there wasn't that much good stuff going on."
So she set out to fix that. Now in its fifth year, Williamson's Christmas event is among the hottest seasonal tickets in town. In addition to a backing band that includes guitarists Kurt Swinghammer and Maury LaFoy, drummer Jean Martin and violinist Karen Graves, Williamson has rounded up some of the best and most diverse singer/songwriters in the city.
Mia Sheard, Howie Beck, Dan Bryk, Rheostatic Tim Vesely, Ron Sexsmith, Sarah Slean and Starling bassist Danny Michel are committed to the Riv show, which is also a funder for the Daily Bread Food Bank. Williamson stresses, however, that this is a variety show, so poetry and comedy will also be part of the package.
"I love doing Tamara's show," says Sheard, who's performed twice before. "It's one of those intangibles. You get artists at different levels of their careers. Last year, for example, there were (Barenaked Lady) Tyler Stewart and Ron Sexsmith plus people who were just starting out.
"And since people aren't necessarily singing their own stuff, they're not there to advance their careers so much as to celebrate the season. I know, I know, gag me. But it really is a great equalizer."
Given how well her fundraisers consistently turn out, Williamson would probably be more bummed to find herself spending the holidays in the old country than on Queen West.
"The other wonderful thing about this benefit," Williamson adds, "is that a lot of Toronto-based musicians come off the road for the holidays. So even if they don't play, they'll often come to the Rivoli just to hang out. It's almost like an office party for Toronto musicians.
"The good thing about that is, if the show is falling a bit short, I can just run around through the audience and beg people to come up onstage. I got a message from Howie Beck the other day asking if the show was happening this year. He said it just wouldn't be Christmas without it."TAMARA WILLIAMSON'S FIFTH CHRISTMAS, at the Rivoli (334 Queen West), Friday (December 22). $10. 596-1908.