Victoria-area singer Maria Manna is headlining a pair of concerts staged as tributes to legendary performer Natalie Cole, Oct. 26 in Sidney and Oct. 29 in Victoria. Photo contributed

Upcoming Cole tribute concerts multi-faceted for Langford singer

Kidney Foundation to benefit from Maria Manna’s shows in Sidney, Victoria

Maria Manna remembers well her initial reaction to the news that singer Natalie Cole had died of heart failure, on New Year’s Eve 2015.

The megastar and daughter of legendary crooner Nat King Cole was a much-admired performer to Manna, who has crafted a nice career in entertainment for herself over the years.

“When I got news of Natalie’s death, “I looked to my husband and I said, ‘I don’t know when, but I’m going to do a musical tribute to her,’” she recalled. “She was an idol for me, I had all her jazz albums.”

Manna, who lives on Bear Mountain in Langford, is bringing that inspiration to reality later this month, with concerts set for Oct. 26 (7:30 p.m.) at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney and Oct. 29 (3 p.m.) at the First Metropolitan United Church on Quadra Street in Victoria.

She’ll be backed by the 17-piece Lust Life Big Band, a group Manna calls the “cream of the crop” of local jazz and contemporary musicians in Greater Victoria.

While singing in front of such a large, talented band has long been a dream for her, the shows have other significance for the local singer and philanthropist.

Having done research on Cole’s life, her passions and charitable work, Manna discovered that Cole was a kidney transplant patient who received the organ from a South American donor. Thus the decision to have the concerts double as fundraisers for The Kidney Foundation of Canada’s Victoria chapter.

“The interesting thing [I learned] was that after receiving her kidney she started developing a passion for South American everything: the food, the music, the culture … I’m going to be doing one of her songs from her Spanish album.”

She plans to bring in some guest singers as well during the two shows and promises a lively couple of hours for fans of Cole and live music.

“The show has to be entertaining, so I’ve got it jam packed with high energy, entertainment and surprise guests.”

The concerts also coincide with the release of a new CD, With Love, Manna’s 11-song compilation of jazz numbers, including standards recorded by Cole and her father, such as “Lush Life” and “Almost Like Being in Love.”

Tickets are $35, or $30 for seniors and $28 for students under 18. To pre-purchase tickets for the Sidney show, call 250-656-0275 or for the Victoria show contact 250-514-9927.

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