Frank Mills returns to Summerside stage

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Nancy MacPhee
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Mills brings ‘Music Box Christmas Tour’ to the Harbourfront Theatre

SUMMERSIDE — Christmas comes early to Harbourfront Theatre Sunday as internationally renowned pianist Frank Mills brings his “Music Box Christmas Tour” to the city.

Frank Mills will perform at Summerside's Harbourfront Theatre Sunday at 7 p.m.

The award-winning composer said the holiday season is his favourite time to tour.

“I enjoy doing them but for some reason Christmas, I suppose for personal reasons, has always been very special. I like the music and it was a big part of our family life at home,” Mills said in an interview on the eve of the start of his tour. “If there is going to be one tour that I am going to continue doing, it would have been the Christmas tour. And here I am.”

His Christmas show, he noted, will be an intimate musical journey of stories, memories and music featuring just the man and his piano. Mills will tell the story behind “Music Box Dancer,” a song that almost didn’t get released but, once it did, propelled him onto the international stage.

“There is going to be a wide variety of music, everything from my own songs to the Beatles to some of the classics and a lot of Christmas music,” he added. “I am going to play songs that I enjoy doing.”

And no Christmas tour — or any tour by Mills, for that matter — would be complete without the song that has become synonymous with his name

“Music Box Dancer” is one of the most recognizable pieces of music ever played, having, after its release in 1976, reached No. 1 in 26 countries.

It still remains one of Mills’ favourite pieces to perform, but, he added, there’s a wide range of musical styles he likes to bring to the fans.

“I am just as comfortable with Beethoven and Rachmaninoff as I am with Paul McCartney and some of the greats like Eric Clapton who, to me, is one of the finest guitar players,” said Mills. “Groups like Supertramp and the Eagles, I love them. In fact, I play some of their music in my concerts.”

The veteran performer, several years ago, did opt for retirement for a brief time due to a health issue, but the call of the road, the love of performing and, surprisingly, the late Rita McNeill beckoned.

“She brought me out of it. She said ‘come on, let’s go and do a concert together’ and we got together in Halifax one night,” explained Mills. “I must say I sincerely miss her. She was one of the most lovely people I have ever met.”

When he first set out on his musical career, touring was in the back of his mind.

“I considered myself nothing but a songwriter and not a pianist, that came very hard for me,” which is a surprising revelation from one of the most beloved pianists in North America. “I enjoyed playing the piano but usually played it by ear. I did study piano for about 12 years or more.

“The touring thing was almost sort of like, wow, people like to listen to me. I thought if they do, I’d play for them.”

Summerside is always a favourite stop for Mills.

He calls the Harbourfront an intimate venue and the crowd warm and welcoming.

“You Maritimers are so kind. It is just a down home sort of feeling,” said Mills. “You are there by the sea. In fact, there’s a little place that sells oysters just around the corner. I always hit that when I’m there. It was fun. I love the seashore.”

For more about Mills, visit www.frankmills.com

Tickets for the Dec. 8 show are still available by contacting the theatre box office at or online at www.harbourfronttheatre.com. Showtime is 7 p.m.

 

nmacphee@journalpioneer.com

Organizations: Music Box, Harbourfront Theatre, Beatles

Geographic location: Summerside, Halifax, North America

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