Zoe Chilco was without doubt the most fascinating, talented person I’ve ever known. Her talents covered many areas: she was a French Language Teacher, Registered Massage Therapist, Radio Show Host, Linguist, Expert Skater, Swimmer, Singer, Songwriter, Pianist, and Women’s Rights Activist.
However it is her musical talent I would like to focus on. I first met Zoe some twenty years ago when she came into a club I was playing in and the bandleader invited her up to sing. She sang one of her own songs which was quite good and she became a regular guest there. We became good friends and she hired me to play on a CD that she was producing consisting of all her own compositions.
I became one of her steady musicians and was fortunate enough to be on several of the CDs that she produced. She started booking her own engagements around Toronto and later in Cottage country. She was a good piano player and her songs covered a wide range from Folk, Country, Blues and Jazz; and with her linguistic skills she sang in fluent French and Italian, in fact, one of her steady gigs for a number of years was in a French restaurant in Whitby (Nice-Bistro) where she often performed the entire evening in French to the delight of the owner and the audience.
As a self-promoter she managed to obtain engagements in some of Toronto’s best music venues such as Hugh’s Room and the prestigious Home Smith Jazz Bar in the Old Mill where she still holds the record for the most appearances there as a visiting artist. She also received an invitation to spend a week at the World Famous Banff Arts Center in Alberta.
Zoe became somewhat of an international star appearing annually at the San Pancho Music Festival in Mexico and other music events in Paris and Italy. She even sang at the Jazz Festival in my hometown of Derry Northern Ireland and the prestigious Cork Jazz Festival where she was invited to return in 2020.
Playing in Zoe’s band was always challenging and interesting but always fun. The musicians and audiences loved her.
Zoe was a longtime supporter and volunteer Fundraiser for the Toronto Blues Society and Toronto’s JAZZ 91 FM Radio Station. Her passing has left a huge void in the Toronto music scene which she loved so much and was such a part of. To say that she will be missed is a gross understatement.
Recently becoming an octogenarian and because of this pandemic crippling the music scene, I fear that my performing days have also drawn to a close; however, I am so very happy that my final years and indeed my very last gig was with Zoe. I will always think of her ”In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” one of her favorite songs.