Manitoulin Community Choir plays to a full house: Song and Cider

The Manitoulin Community Choir celebrates eleven years of performing secular and sacred songs.  photos by Sharon Jackson

KAGAWONG—Twenty-three voices sang strong to a full house at the Kagawong Park Centre as they presented Song and Cider. Led by Jane Best, the Manitoulin Community Choir has been entertaining audiences for the past eleven years.

Dressed in their traditional white shirts and blue jeans, choir veterans and newcomers alike walked in single file and took their places on the risers at the front of the room. Accompanied by Joan Eichner on keyboards (who just happens to be Ms. Best’s mother), the choir sang a variety arrangements; many of which were written and performed by Canadians such as Gordon Lightfoot.

Ms. Best welcomed the audience by saying “thank you for coming, I hope you enjoy all our songs: some secular and others sacred.”

Followed by opening songs ‘Make A Joyful Noise’ with a lovely solo by Janelle Addison and ‘The Lord is My Light’ (written by Ms. Best), she introduced the next song, ‘People Get Ready,’ by stating “we had a slight switcheroo” in that during final rehearsal held Tuesday evening, veteran Choir member Johnny Fletcher sang the lead. This writer attended (final rehearsal) and part way through the song, Mr. Fletcher stopped and announced it just didn’t feel right and asked Peter Gordon take his place for the duet with Janice Frame. Ms. Best went with the flow and as the saying goes “the show must go on.”

She shared at rehearsal that the members are all “really good” and learn everything so it was not difficult for Mr. Gordon to step in at the last moment.

‘Here Comes the Sun’ by George Harrison was a clearly a choir favourite as they sang The Beatles tune which was written before many of its members were born.

Newcomer Debbie Graham introduced ‘A Choral Portrait,’ a medley of Hoagy Carmichael songs including ‘Heart and Soul’ and ‘Star Dust.’ John Robertson, who has been with the choir for several years, had a solo part in ‘The Nearness of You.’

Peter Gordon blows the whistle during “All Aboard!”

Stan Rogers, ‘The Mary Ellen Carter,’ has almost become an anthem, shared Ms. Best, “and it has helped people through some hard times.” With Paul Best on guitar and Mr. Gordon on solo, this song was the perfect choice before taking a break for a cup of hot cider and home baked cookies supplied by Chris and Ken McCartney of Ice Lake Cottage Bakery.

“The Mary Ellen Carter,” as the ballad goes, “went down last October in a pouring driving rain, the skipper he’d been drinking and the Mate he felt no pain, too close to Three Mile Rock and she was dealt her mortal blow, and the Mary Ellen Carter settled low…and the groan she gave as she went down, it caused us to proclaim that the Mary Ellen Carter would rise again. The owners did not want to repair the boat, however, the men aboard patched her rents, stopped her vents, dogged hatched and porthole down, put cables to her ‘fore and aft and birded her around and watched The Mary Ellen Carter Rise Again. Rise again, rise again rise again, though your heart it be broken and life about to end, no matter what you’ve lost, be it a home, a love, a friend, like the Mary Ellen Carter, Rise Again.”

Following the break, the choir took on several more songs including two Newfoundland folksongs, a Gordon Lightfoot tune and the ‘Friendship Pledge’ written by Gore Bay’s own Blaine Armstrong.

Mr. Gordon blew the train whistle to welcome patrons ‘All Aboard,’ a song from a 1940s movie ‘Chatanooga Choo Choo.’

“The ‘Friendship Pledge’,” shared Ms. Best, was written by Mr. Armstrong back in 1990 following her move to Gore Bay, along with Mr. Best. She overheard a ceremony at the Arena which was next door to their home. It prompted the writing of the song intended to bring people together through friendship and understanding.

Ms. Best invited the ladies of the choir to take a seat while the men performed three love songs. “It’s still Canada’s 150,” stated Mr. Best who, with guitar in hand, took centre stage, “and there is nothing more Canadian than winter, love and Gordon Lightfoot,” who proceeded to sing ‘Song for a Winter’s Night.’

Mr. Fletcher took the lead in Newfoundland folksong ‘Sarah’ and Mr. Gordon with ‘Me Old Rigadoo.’

Both songs with a common theme of a love between a man of limited means and the woman he loves.

The ladies joined their male counterparts for the remaining two songs: ‘Fare Thee Well Love’ and ‘Walk In Peace.’

Ms. Best thanked everyone for coming to share the evening with them saying “we have a lot of fun in rehearsal: lots of jokes and mistakes.” She asked members of the choir to raise their hand if they had been with the ensemble since its inception eleven years ago. Several raised their hands. When asked how many were new this year: three raised their hands.

Mary Buie, who has been with the choir for many years, took the opportunity to thank Jane and also her mother Joan Eichner as they “wouldn’t be able to do it without her.” Some of the songs they choose are “quite difficult,” however she makes it look effortless.

The Manitoulin Community Choir is: Janelle Addison, Paul Best, Heather Bryant, Mary Buie, Kyle Burt, Sandy Cook, Susie DeKuyper, Lori Evans, Johnny Fletcher, Janice Frame, Susan Garlock, Vanessa Glasby, Peter Gordon, Debbie Graham, Stephanie Hillyard, Judith Jones, Judy Land, Diane Laroque, Patricia Mader, Sharon Meeker, John Robertson, Dan Thompson, Terry Thompson, Mary-Jo Tracy, Theresa Web, Chuc Willson, Linda Willson and Mark Wilson.

Anyone interested in joining Manitoulin Community Choir is invited to contact Ms. Best. The next concert will be April 28.