About 100 people gathered at The Forks on Sunday afternoon to pay tribute to a beloved member of Manitoba’s music community who passed away recently.
Juno-Award-winning guitarist Vince Fontaine died last Tuesday following a heart attack. A member of Sagkeeng First Nation, Fontaine was the co-founder of the band Eagle & Hawk and a former frontman of folk-rock group Indian City. He was 60.
Fontaine’s niece, Manitoba NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine, says her uncle is deeply missed.
“I’m incredibly honoured that so many people came out in celebration of my uncle Vince Fontaine. Really, if you look around, it’s a testament to the impact that he made in people’s lives and that commitment to community,” she said.
One memory of her uncle she’ll never forget is seeing him perform in Europe on tour with Eagle & Hawk.
“Here they are, across the ocean, sharing Indigenous realities and experiences and people loved it. I’ll always hold onto those memories.”
Numerous musicians performed outdoors at Oodena Celebration Circle at The Forks in downtown Winnipeg during Sunday’s tribute event.
“Vince Fontaine was a trailblazer in Manitoba and just really talented and a really nice person,” said Holly Vezina, who sang Amazing Grace.
“It’s a great loss. The music community has suffered a great loss as well.”
Vezina said she also came to Sunday’s event to honour her brother, Norman Vezina, who played in the band the Why Knotts. He died last week, she said.
Singer-songwriter Jeremy Koz performed “Star People,” a song that he had recorded with Fontaine a day before Fontaine died.
The song was recorded for Jacquie Black, an Indigenous storyteller and respected figure in Manitoba’s music industry, while she was in hospital. Black died on Wednesday, a day after Fontaine died.
Koz said Fontaine, his bandmate, was passionate about his music and Indigenous culture.
“Anytime I’d been with him, whatever project or whatever he’s working on, no matter who he was, he’d be talking about this song or what the impact that song has, or had a way of bringing them in and getting them interested, you know, because he was so passionate,” he said.