Music has always been a big part of my life. I can still remember sitting on the arm of my dad’s chair, listening to the radio and singing along to anything that had lyrics. Even though I was a very shy child, I never missed an opportunity to sing – no matter who might be listening. Every ride on the streetcar was a chance for me to sing “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window” (don’t ask me why), and one of the highlights of my younger years was being singled out by my Grade 2 teacher to sing “Silent Night” for the rest of the class. What a little diva I was!
While still in public school, I sang with the school choir and performed many duets with pretty much anyone I could convince to sing with me. I also took accordion lessons for a while, before I moved on to studying piano. Even though I did enjoy playing, I was easily bored and became frustrated by my teacher’s insistence on moving through the Conservatory books at what I considered to be a snail’s pace. Needless to say, by the time I had finished Conservatory Grade 6 and two years of music theory, I had had enough. Of course, hindsight being 20-20, I now wish I had persevered so that I could play keyboards with my current group.
Although I do enjoy instrumental music, singing has always been my favourite form of musical expression. I joined the choir at our local Presbyterian church in my early teens – the youngest member ever – where I was afforded the opportunity to sing “O Holy Night” during one of our Christmas services. My parents belonged to the United Church, as did a number of our neighbours, many of whom also sang in their church choir. On a whim, I decided to tag along with my parents one Sunday and was mesmerized by the vocal quality of the choir. Shortly thereafter, I changed choirs and never looked back!
All through high school, and beyond, I sang with both the church choir and its secular counterpart, the Melodante Singers. I am not a particularly religious person, although I have always enjoyed the beauty of sacred music. With the addition of the Melodante Singers, I now had the best of both worlds – I could sing hymns on Tuesday and Sunday and do show tunes on Thursday. Life was good.
High school also gave me an opportunity to meet others who enjoyed the same type of music as I did. One of these, Mike Wood, became a good friend and singing partner in a folk duo we cleverly named Mike & Marilynn. Mike played guitar, I played some tambourine, and we both contributed vocally. Every Melodante performance was also an opportunity for us to strut our stuff for a live audience, as opposed to singing for the gulls down on the boardwalk! Life was still good.
Once school was finished and I made my decision to join the workforce rather than go on to university, things became more problematic with regard to my music. Mike and I lost touch, and trying to balance work, home and night school classes made it difficult to keep up with rehearsals. I eventually gave up the church choir when our director left to take a position at a church in the Beaches. Though I did try to hang in with the Melodantes, I finally had to call it quits when the commute became too much of a time commitment. In an attempt to partially fill the musical void, I did study voice at the Royal Conservatory of Music for a while in the early 80’s. Once again, life intruded and I had to leave my studies behind.
Fast forward a number of years, to the mid-nineties. I had now been living in Uxbridge since 1979 and the only vocalizing I had done was singing along with the radio. While glancing through the local paper one day in September, I noticed an advertisement for Pineridge Chorus, a part of Sweet Adeline’s International, promoting a guest night for the following evening. On a whim, I decided to go and see what it was all about. I knew absolutely nothing about barbershop singing and, while I had done a lot of a cappella singing, it was not my first choice. Having said all that, I decided to audition anyway and was offered a place in the chorus – my choice of parts. Having always sung melody, I opted to sing Lead, and was promptly handed a fist full of music and told to get ready for an upcoming November show.
While a member of Sweet Adeline’s, I belonged to two choruses – Pineridge and York Highlands – and also sang as lead in a quartet called “Moonlight Express”. Although I eventually “fell out of love” with the musical style, I did learn a lot and formed a number of lasting friendships with a few chorus members. In 2003 I decided to part ways with my chorus and explore other musical options.
One of the friendships I had forged was with Margaret Wilson and, by extension, with her husband Reid. At the time I left Sweet Adeline’s, Reid had also split from his latest musical group, FullCircle, and was looking for another singing partner. We decided to get together and see what happened. This was the birth of AfterGlow.
Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, Reid and I were both exposed to the same types of music, namely folk and rock. While we did diverge somewhat in our adult years – Reid leaning toward folk and country, while I lived for pop and rock – we still had more than enough common ground to ensure that we were never at a loss to choose music that we could both enjoy.
Reid and I sang together as a duet from 2003 until 2008, when Margaret also left Sweet Adeline’s and came to join us as the third member of AfterGlow. The addition of her voice has allowed us to expand our arrangements and has added beautiful new dimensions to our performances.
My biggest challenge with AfterGlow has been learning to sing harmony. All my life I have always sung melody – it’s what I hear and what comes naturally to me. Of course, as part of a trio, I can’t expect to always have the melody, although both Reid and Margaret very generously do allow me to have it the majority of the time. When it’s my turn to harmonize, I’m like a fish out of water! Thank goodness Reid is excellent at creating a harmony for me to sing – I’d be lost without him. Most of the harmony parts I sing on “Reflections” are courtesy of Reid, with assistance from Margaret and Dave, our producer.
“Reflections” is the culmination of more than 60 years worth of wishes and dreams. I have always wanted to sing with a band, and this CD gave me the opportunity to sing with not one but two amazing groups of musicians. The days spent in the studio, while at times exhausting and frustrating, were also fulfilling, exciting and rewarding. There were times when I thought there was no light at the end of the tunnel, but now that we have almost reached the end of the journey, all I want to do is go back and do it all over again! Maybe in my next life, I’ll get an earlier start!
Live, Love, Sing