“From two to 92” my mom would say when anyone asked the ages of the players in her musical group.
“We have something for everyone” she said and, when it came to a show, no one could put it together like my mom!
The group was called the Maple Ridge Merrymakers and I was five years old when mom took it over from a friend and made it into a variety group with regular local shows in our home town and also special travelling shows.
There were skits, musical ensembles, solo numbers, group numbers, comedy, tearjerkers, family fun and lots of audience participation.
Mom wrote the skits (and one spooky full-length play called “Malady Manor”), put together each show (on leftover cardboard from nylon packages), arranged all the music and played the piano throughout every show.
As my sister gained experience in dance, she started choreographing the dance numbers.
The sets and costumes were all done by parents of kids in the group and volunteers.
Merrymakers did a regular May show that was a huge production — lights, camera, action — and a big Christmas production that were both very much anticipated in our town.
They were sort of a small town version of a big-time production and prepared for with all the energy and enthusiasm any big show ever had.
The group also performed around B.C. at various celebrations where a small bit of entertainment suited — community events and the like.
There were regular small shows at several local seniors’ centres at Christmas time and the young performers really learned to project for those who were hard-of-hearing.
We learned about the details of the productions as well as the backstage flurry of quick costume changes.
No one cared who was around when there was a split second change and the actors would literally be stripping as they came off the stage, or how to manage everyone’s nervousness.
Of course, there were divas — those who seemed to feel the show was being put on to highlight their talent exclusively — and we learned how to gently control those ideas of grandeur and still feel we were an important part of the show.
We learned about set design, lighting, sound, period costuming and, mainly, “the show must go on.”
There were people performing with minor illnesses, broken legs and all manner of scrapes and bruises but we all knew how important it was to get out on the stage and present what the audience has paid for.
It was a good lesson in “suck it up, Princess,” believe me, because everyone had to pull together to make it all work.
Most of all, we learned how to deal with stress because, no matter what went on backstage before and during the production, we were a “family” once again when the curtain came down to “thunderous” applause.
It was exhilarating and humbling, at the same time!
And, it was with pride that my mom would tell people she had the joy of working in music (her passion) with people of all ages, abilities and awesomeness — “from two to 92.”
When mom passed away, there was a lot of talk about the group and whether it could/should continue without her.
It was decided to honour her memory and let the group go, as well.
No one felt able to fill those remarkable shoes!
Colleen Crossley is a freelance columnist with the Tribune/Weekend Advisor.