How a happy, clappy Geminis keeps cool in a crisis

Show producer Barry Avrich tells Playback about bringing The Late Show's Gospel Choir to town and washing away past sins.
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The Canadian TV industry has found religion, insists Barry Avrich, who’s producing this year’s Gemini Awards.

On Tuesday night at the Metro Convention Centre in Toronto, after the thumping techno rock intro to the first night of prize-giving, the reel of Canadian TV shows unspooling on the big screens, the Geminis suddenly became a cross between a revival and a pep rally.

On stage came The Late Show’s Gospel Choir, direct from New York City, for a raise-the-roof performance of “Oh Happy Day!”

“We wanted the Geminis to be a bit less scripted this year, open up the shows,” Avrich told Playback Daily.

So he rang the choir and told its leader, Lady Peachena, that he wanted them to come up to Toronto to perform at the Geminis.

“I don’t know what that is, but I’m there for you,” Avrich recalls Lady Peachena telling him at the other end of the phone.

Oh Happy Day!

The 700 industryites in the Geminis audience Tuesday night were there for Avrich too, clapping and chanting and rejoicing in all things new.

“It’s a hip hop night. It’s a lot of fun,” he said from the wings.

Fitting because, as most everyone knows by now, the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, which organizes the Geminis, is on a crusade to wash away a host of past sins.

The organization just unveiled a new board of directors, which includes Avrich, who is president of Endeavour Marketing, and is shoring up its finances and looking to bring back some oomph into the Canadian prize-giving events it hosts.

There’s a lot of award-giving to be done. The Academy will stage six awards shows in English and French-speaking Canada by Sept. 19.

After that, there will be a review process in place to judge how much progress the Academy is making on its road back from the brink.