Sing along with Sharon and Bram

Danette Dooley
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Veteran children's performers on stage Friday

There's one big reason why children's entertainer Bram Morrison loves performing in this province. xxx It gives him a chance to "tip his hat" to people who know the importance of family sing-a-longs.

"That tradition is so strong in Newfoundland and we love to carry it all over the rest of Canada," Morrison says during a recent telephone interview from his home in Ontario.

Bram Morrison and Sharon Hampson want family groups to sing along when they take the stage at Holy Heart Theatre Friday. Submitted photo

There's one big reason why children's entertainer Bram Morrison loves performing in this province. xxx It gives him a chance to "tip his hat" to people who know the importance of family sing-a-longs.

"That tradition is so strong in Newfoundland and we love to carry it all over the rest of Canada," Morrison says during a recent telephone interview from his home in Ontario.

Morrison and Sharon Hampson (Sharon and Bram) will do just that when they perform at the Holy Heart Theatre Friday before moving across the country for concerts in Halifax, New Brunswick and British Columbia this month.

Sharon and Bram have been captivating audiences throughout North America for three decades.

Formerly known as Sharon, Lois and Bram, Lois Lilienstein retired from the group in 2000, after her husband died.

By that time, the trio had accepted three Juno awards for best children's album.

They are fondly remembered for "The Elephant Show" in the 1980s and "Skinnamarink" television show in the 1990s.

The group also performed many one-hour television specials including its live 25th anniversary celebration concert shot in Ontario.

Sharon and Bram concerts include songs that are as familiar as they are loveable.

The duo's repertoire includes "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain," "Five Little Monkeys," "The Eensy Weensy Spider,' "One Elephant," and its legendary "Skinnamarink."

The success of Sharon and Bram's concerts has always been engaging the audience in their performances, Morrison says.

That tradition will continue in St. John's when toddlers to great-grandparents will be encouraged to sing along from beginning to end.

"It really is a family concert and we would love the children and parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles to come along and just be part of the whole family scene. That, to us, is the important part," Morrison says.

Since taking to the stage in 1978, Sharon and Bram have attracted the dedicated, multi-generational fan base he's confident will turn out for the Holy Heart Theatre concert.

"We do a little survey from the stage and we're well into our second generation now and that really is very, very heartwarming," Morrison says.

Morrison's first trip to Newfoundland came many years ago when he toured with folksinger-songwriter Alan Mills.

"I played the guitar for him and he was the first one to take me out to the Atlantic Provinces. He opened my eyes up to a whole new culture and way of life that was so different and so wonderful for a Jewish kid from Toronto," Morrison says.

Two years' after Lilienstein retired, all three musicians were made members of the Order of Canada for their contribution to children's musical development as well as their work as goodwill ambassadors for UNICEF and their involvement with the musical educational family-based program Mariposa.

The Order of Canada is normally reserved for Canadians.

However, Lilienstein who was born in Chicago and continues to hold American citizenship, received an honorary Order of Canada, Morrison says.

The award was presented by then governor general Adrienne Clarkson.

Morrison describes the event as "a thrilling day."

"All of our families were there. It was very touching, very emotional, very humbling, and very powerful. ... It was a day that we wished our parents could be around, but none of them were, of course," he says.

Since the trio was presented with the Order of Canada, Hampson's spouse has also passed away.

The loss made her all the more determined to keep putting smiles on children's faces.

"She took the opposite action from Lois," Morrison says.

"Sharon said, 'Well, I lost one thing that I really love and I don't want to lose another thing that I really love.'"

Like his two fellow musicians, Morrison has also faced some challenges in his life.

Three years ago he was left totally deaf in one ear due to a tumour.

The good news is that the growth is benign.

The bad news is that it's still present and getting bigger.

"We want to stop it from growing because it pushes up against other stuff in the neighbourhood."

While annoying, he says, it does not affect his overall health.

"I'm just fine," Morrison says.

An avid reader, when he's not making a living on stage, Morrison likes to spend time with his wife, Ruth, and their six grandchildren.

"They're all grown now and going away to college. So, we don't have any babies left. The youngest grandchild is 17," he says.

Morrison cautions that those who buy tickets for the St. John's concert won't hear fancy fiddling; nor will there be elephants frolicking about the stage.

"It's just Sharon and me and my guitar. It's really direct; just us and the audience and the music."

The concert at Holy Heart Theatre starts at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at the theatre's box office, by phoning 1-888-311-9090 or by visiting www.ticketpro.ca

danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: Holy Heart Theatre, UNICEF

Geographic location: Canada, Newfoundland, Ontario St. John's Halifax New Brunswick British Columbia North America Atlantic Provinces Toronto Chicago

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