HMS Raz­za­ma­jazz ready to make an­other splash

The Beacon Herald - - FRONT PAGE - TERRY BRIDGE STAFF RE­PORTER

Nor­mally the HMS Raz­za­ma­jazz’s route be­gins and ends at the Tom Pat­ter­son Theatre, but with a con­struc­tion zone tak­ing the place of an au­di­ence ar­riv­ing at, or leav­ing, shows it’ll be a lit­tle dif­fer­ent this sum­mer.

“We’ll go off and try to find the peo­ple up there,” Robert Pa­ton said Thurs­day while look­ing east along the Avon River.

No mat­ter the lo­ca­tion, it’ll still cast a spell. Pa­ton, who’s done every­thing from man­ning to main­tain­ing the float­ing stage for the past two-plus decades, said it’s fas­ci­nat­ing to see the en­chant­ing ef­fect the mu­sic has on peo­ple as they pass by.

“Magic, it’s ab­so­lute magic,” Pa­ton said. “These guys have an enor­mous amount of power be­cause they make peo­ple do odd things like dance on the side­walk, tap their feet while they’re rest­ing.”

An­other al­ter­ation this year is the Raz­za­ma­jazz’s sched­ule – it’ll fi­nally have a reg­u­lar ro­ta­tion. Mu­si­cians will be on board Wed­nes­days, Fri­days and Satur­days un­til early Septem­ber, weather-per­mit­ting.

“Other years, it’s been when­ever,” Pa­ton said. “When­ever the theatre’s run­ning we come out, the lo­cals didn’t know. They’d ask, ‘When are you go­ing?’ (I’d say) ‘I don’t know.’”

He does now. Now that the boat’s back in the wa­ter – it was low­ered in Thurs­day af­ter­noon – Conn Smythe, a one-man show from Strat­ford, will be the first per­former on its deck. He’s one of about eight acts booked by Pa­ton’s part­ner, Flona Hilden­brand.

Pa­ton and the Strat­ford Power and Sail Squadron be­came in­volved with the mu­si­cal barge in the early 2000s. Af­ter com­ing up with the con­cept in the 1980s, Dave Sher­wood and the late Jack Hayter, a mem­ber of Strat­ford’s Casino Band, built it. The lo­cal Li­ons Club ran it for a few years, but it’s been the squadron’s re­spon­si­bil­ity for the past few sea­sons.

They’ve taken pride in the 25-foot-by-10-foot ves­sel.

“Over the years, we’ve to­tally re­built the top: new deck, new rail­ings, new steer­ing wheel,” Pa­ton said.

Stored and trans­ported by city staff, it has a so­lar-pow­ered bat­tery sup­ply­ing power to the am­pli­fiers. There is a gen­er­a­tor, but it’s rarely used.

Al­though it’s been Pa­ton’s pet pro­ject for the past 20-or-so years, this will be his last be­hind the wheel. In 2019, the 80-year-old Mil­ver­ton res­i­dent will be hand­ing it over to Dan Scar­bor­ough. “I’m re­tir­ing in the new year, so that will work out,” Scar­bor­ough said. tbridge@post­media.com

PHO­TOS BY TERRY BRIDGE/THE BEA­CON HER­ALD

The HMS Raz­za­ma­jazz was re­turned to the Avon River on Thurs­day.

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