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Tribute concert will celebrate David King’s winsome wit

Well-known Coast playwright and songwriter died in Jan. 2021
A.The Foolish Man band prepares
Boyd Norman (left), Ken Dalgleish, Wanda Nowicki, Tim Enns and Peter Hill rehearse the music of David King in preparation for the Foolish Man show on May 1.

Preparations are under way by admirers and interpreters of David King to mount a tribute concert in honour of the late playwright and songwriter. 

Foolish Man: The Songs of David King will be staged at the Gibsons Heritage Playhouse on May 1, featuring a full band and singers who will present more than 20 of King’s characteristically witty, catchy, poignant songs. 

King died at his home in Granthams Landing in Jan. 2021 after contracting pancreatic cancer. Originally from Winnipeg, King was a nationally-acclaimed writer for theatre, television, radio and film whose creativity continued to flourish after his retirement in 2007 to the Sunshine Coast. Tongue-in-cheek, he referred to his West Howe Sound community as the “National Theatre School of Gibsons,” owing to the town’s abundance of artists and actors. 

His plays Garage Sale and Life Skills both received Jessie Richardson Theatre awards for best original play in 1984 and 1986. In 1975 he won a Genie for his short film For Gentlemen Only. His play Life Skills played to enthusiastic audiences in Gibsons in 2017. 

Wanda Nowicki, who is producing Foolish Man and will be singing several numbers, met King after he relocated to the West Coast. “He was still writing plays,” she recalled, “but he’d really gotten a lot more into his music, into his songs.”  

Their first encounter occurred at an open mic event that Nowicki was coordinating at the Cafe Montmartre on Vancouver’s Main Street. King shuffled into the venue, exuding eccentricity. “He got up and he did this amazing piece that was set to music,” Nowicki said. “But it was spoken word, and then he sang a little bit in it. So here’s this guy in this big coat with his muttering voice—he gets up on stage and he was electrifying. It was brilliant.” 

King’s performance at the Cafe Montmartre led to years of friendship and creative collaboration with Nowicki. She recorded several of his songs, both as a lead and backup vocalist. 

For Peter Hill, who will be playing guitar in Foolish Man, his first reaction to King’s musicianship was a skeptical one: King was playing his guitar too loudly and drowning out the words. “But then I sort of leaned in,” Hill said, “because I could hear all these great lyrics coming out.” The two ended up forming a duo called Foolish Man. During years of regular performances they also recorded two albums.  

“I was always amazed at what David came up with,” said Hill. “He was always writing, always coming up with new songs, sending me songs, sending me chords. As much as the lyrics are great, the music is quite complex too. We’re working together with a band now and it takes some rehearsal to get those songs down. They’re not easy songs to learn.” 

Joining Nowicki and Hill onstage for Foolish Man will be pianist Ken Dalgleish, bassist Boyd Norman and drummer Tim Enns. 

King’s songbook includes tunes written in tribute to his adoptive landscape of the Sunshine Coast, as well as contemporary issues like refugees, gay weddings, and the environment—serious subjects tempered with ironic twists. “It’s not like he had an overwhelming personality,” said Hill. “He was the opposite. And the subtlety came out in his writing. These lines would come out of nowhere and you wouldn’t expect it because they were so funny and so underplayed.” 

Members of King’s family are traveling from Winnipeg and Victoria to attend the show.  

Near the end of his life, King sent each of his nieces a song with a request to record them so he could listen as he lay looking out to sea. One of those songs, My Valley Road, whose melody was written by Vancouver songwriter Hilary Grist, will be performed on May 1. 

Tickets ($25) for Foolish Man are available at One Flower One Leaf Gallery in Lower Gibsons and Gibsons Florist at Sunnycrest Mall. Exact cash is required. Online tickets are also available; browse to