Paulette Bassett remembers the brown velvet dresses accented with gold brocade that were made for members of the St. Malachys Parish Girls Choir when they were invited to perform at a gala concert for the Canadian Music Educators Association in London, Ont. in 1967.
The dresses were beautiful, but when one of the boxes went missing in London, the panic was on, especially for the older girls, says the former choir member.
Luckily, two of the chaperones Elaine Smith and the late Gladys Mulligan were able to slip out in London and buy skirts and blouses to replace the ones that were lost so the show was able to go on, says Bassett, who is looking forward to hearing plenty of stories like these when former members of St. Malachys Parish Girls Choir hold their 40th anniversary reunion in Kinkora on Sunday, Aug. 26.
For many of the group, it was our first trip off-Island. I remember seeing an escalator for the first time and calling it moving stairs, says Bassett, who kept a journal of the trip.
The experience also brings back a flood of memories for their choir director Sister Joan Doyle.
One of the most exciting things about the London concert was that composer Sir Ernest MacMillan was there. And we had to learn a piece for him.
I remember him saying, That Kinkora choir has it. It was thrilling for us to hear Sir Ernest MacMillan appreciate our work, says Doyle.
She also recalls her surprise a year before when adjudicator Lloyd Queen asked if she would bring her choir to London as part of a centennial project after hearing their perfect performance at the P.E.I. Music Festival.
I kind of looked at him and said, yes. At the time, Kinkora was a small farming village of 60 families, so we certainly needed a lot of lot of outside financial support. So we got busy at the typewriter and wrote of our plan and our need to many business firms. The response was encouraging, she says.
And with the help of the community, money started to flow in.
It was quite an undertaking to take 35 girls, their chaperones and an accompanist from P.E.I. to London, Ontario, by train. But we did it, thanks to the villagers who were putting on suppers, sales and lotteries for us, says Doyle, adding the group stayed at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Josephs in London.
Four decades later, she was excited when choir members approached her with reunion plans.
It was thrilling. We had our first practice in Kinkora a few weeks ago. At first, we thought we would have to sing in unison but the altos and sopranos remembered their parts, their tuning was impeccable and they sang just like they always sang. It was hard to believe that 40 years had passed since they had been together, says Doyle.
Her accompanist of 40 years ago was also surprised with how quickly the choir jelled.
It was like riding a bike. Once they had learned how to sing they never forgot it, says Sister Bethany Doyle.
The choir trip also brings back a flood of memories for Judy MacKenzie.
Most of my impressions were around practice time. When we practise, the way we were taught to articulate in singing was incredible. Sister Joan was such a perfectionist, and she conveyed to us that nothing is worth doing unless youre going to do it very well. Just the approach she used to teach us to think about music has stayed with us over the years as well as the phrasing, says MacKenzie, who is currently a member of the Stratford Choir.
Marion Clorey is keenly aware of how the choir experience inspired her. And shes very thankful.
I think the contribution that Sister Joan made to the community is phenomenal. You can really see how she influenced us with her love for music, she says.
A reason to celebrate
n Directed by Sister Joan Doyle and accompanied by Sister Bethany Doyle, the music will include performance pieces from 40 years ago, including Somewhere a Child is Singing and Earth Rejoices. After mass, choir members will take part in a tour of the old St. Stanislaus convent, (now Chez Sheas Bed and Breakfast). Immediately following, a dinner/social time will be held at OSheas Pub and Eatery.
n Former choir members:?Beth Williams, Krystyna Terebenec, Brenda Milligan Forrester, Linda Blanchard Carty, Helena Terebenec MacKinnon, Mary Lawless LeBoeuf, Anne LeBlanc, Mary Morris Stewart, Marlene Johnston Zalewski, Donna Jay Beck, Dianne Morris Heart, Maureen Jay Campbell, Lorna Jay (deceased), Marion Keefe Clorey, Patricia Keefe Taylor, Paulette Mulligan Bassett, Judy Clow MacKenzie, Doreen Sherry Mulligan, Rose Marie Keefe Noonan, Catherine Berrigan Stanley, Linda Marie Kelly McClumpha, Anna Terebenec Dunphy, Ina McKenna Cheverie, Carol Richards Smith, Charlene Mulligan, Joan McKenna, Helena Johnston Gauthier, Mary Lynn Shea Arsenault, Kathy McCarville Corazza, Joanne Lawless MacAulay, Jean McKenna, Karen Lanigan, Ann McIver Meek, Edith Keefe and Carol Ann Connolly Rossiter.