"'Largo al factotum' is how I refer to him", commented Ben Heppner of his personal assistant, Eldon McBride. The term is taken from the famous baritone aria of the same name in The Barber of Seville. 'Factotum' is Latin for general servant, or literally, "do everything". And that is what Eldon McBride did for over eleven years as far as it concerned Ben's career. On any given day, McBride found himself answering correspondance, researching music, planning itineraries, organizing interviews, or acting as Ben's personal rehearsal accompanist. His very first task, as Ben recalls, was to catch up on years of neglect of fan requests for pictures. "I think it took him four months!" divulged Heppner.
Only an organized, efficient and patient man could handle this kind of task load. And that he is.
After a couple of hours of hacking away at a perilous recital program at Ben's home in Toronto, Eldon would sit down with a pile of orderly file folders and concisely and systematically summarize the tasks at hand. If you wrote to Eldon, you were sure to get a response at his earliest convenience. If you requested something, you would soon receive something detailed and thorough.
Ben was always impressed with Eldon's ability to constantly remind him about his to-do list without being overbearing or impatient. Eldon was also spectacular when he came on tour with Ben. After traveling with Eldon, armed with a meticulous itinerary and every map printed out, Heppner wryly remarked "I expect to be lost a lot from now on."
But to only speak of what he did would be a mere scratching of the surface.
Eldon McBride is man whose reputation precedes him. Ben recalls several times when he arrived at his first rehearsal of a contract and greeted with "Hi Ben - where's Eldon?" As Ben Heppner's personal assistant, McBride regularly corresponded with hundreds of fans, artist liaisons, publicity directors, reviewers. But Eldon's was no cold correspondance. No matter the recipient, Eldon always exuded a personal warmth over the phone and across the internet. Generous and personable, he made friends with a wide assortment of people he had never met.
As all good things do, Eldon's position with Ben came to an end this past November. Feeling a need for change and new horizons, Eldon has taken a position with World Vision Canada as Classical and Jazz Consultant, Artist Associates. As his last bit of correspondence on the job, Eldon said this: "Thank you for your patience and support as I have been in touch with you over the years. It has been an outstanding privilege for me to work with an artist of Ben's calibre and we expect to remain close friends in the future. I have also greatly enjoyed getting to know the many friends and supporters - like yourself - who surround him". There is not a soul who has crossed Eldon's path that wouldn't respond resoundingly, "Likewise!"
Thank you Eldon. It has been a pleasure.
by Ashleigh Moore