10:42:02 pm on
Sunday 14 Jul 2024

Adult Entertainment
David Simmonds

Jennifer Gasoi with fans. Source: jennifergasoi.com.

I recently saw advertisement for the “Sharon and Bram 40th Anniversary Farewell Concert.” Hard to believe the children’s entertainers have been at it, together, for forty years. It’s equally hard to believe they’ve lasted forty years.

Forty years but not intact.

Well, they haven’t lasted, intact, for forty years. They were originally Sharon, Lois and Bram. Sadly, Lois died in 2015.

The forty-year saga takes me back to the years when our children were young and my wife and I became consumers of children’s music. By the middle 1980s, Sharon, Lois and Bram established themselves as top of the heap with their impeccably produced, infectious songs that adults could enjoy as much as children could. Long playing records, LPs, were still the thing in those days and our turntable was loaded with the best of them. There was, just to name the first ones that come to mind, Raffi (“Baby Beluga”), Fred Penner (“The Cat Came Back”) and the Junior Jug Band, which is the Whiteley Brothers and their children singing “Turkey in the Straw” and other classics.

It’s tempting to think of that era, the middle 1980s, as a magic time in children’s music and that nothing comparable is produced today; that, of course, because I am out of touch. Besides, I’m like a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. I remember a bygone era and think sentimental thoughts such as, “if only they could put the 1967 Leafs back on the ice, they’d blow away the competition and bring back the Stanley Cup.”

Thus, it was thus with a shrug of the shoulders and a ‘what have we got to lose’ attitude that my wife and I took in the free concert by children’s entertainer Jennifer Gasoi, with pianist John Sadowy. This performance was part of the inaugural Wellington Water Week festivities held at the end of August 2018. Gasoi excelled during the mid-morning show.

The Gasoi resume is not shabby. Her album, “Throw a Penny in the Wishing Well,” won the 2014 Grammy Award for best children’s album. Still, my wife and I were unsure how real children would react. I might as well admit I was worried Gasoi might require shenanigans, of the adults, that would not befit my status as the lead columnist for a publications as prestigious as the Wellington Times and Grub Street.

Gasoi is a polished performer.

I needn’t have worried. Despite a technical hitch in the sound system, Jennifer Gasoi quickly established her credibility, with the children, inducing them to come forward and stand up, thus ensuring something physical for them to do in every song, whether it be to make motions, wave props, feign sleep or shout out suggestions to her.

To experience the uninhibited behaviour of the children was a delight. They didn’t seem to have any room for entertaining thoughts of how other people might perceive them. They were in the world of Jennifer Gasoi for a solid hour.

I must add that the adults, who were encouraged, but not forced, to join in the action, responded well. I even waved a paw or two. There’s nothing so raucous as to show up on some viral video, called “Old guy making a fool of himself at children’s concert,” but enough to be able to claim my own inhibitions got a bit looser. My hat is off to Ms. Gasoi.

The Gasoi concert was only one event during the inaugural Wellington Water Week event. My wife and I took in three additional concerts. “The Mosaic Project” from the Ensemble Made in Canada; tango music from Payadora Tango; a combined reading and musical evening featuring Graham Abbey, from Wellington, reading water themed excerpts from Shakespeare, with bass singer Alain Coulombe and violinist Alissa Lee, and pianist, as well as festival artistic director, Johannes Debus.

The standard of performance, as well as the pedigree of the performers, was amazing. I talked with others that attended concerts we missed and the response was uniform: this was a stunningly high quality series of concerts. The concerts were only a part of the festivities: there were talks, art displays, play readings and interactive exhibits at several public and private venues.

Our hats are off to festival co-coordinator Maria Gacesa and all the participants, sponsors, hosts and volunteers. If you are still humming and hawing about whether to do it next year, you have my vote. Do it.

Children’s music for adults?

Maybe next year someone could convince Ms Gasoi to return and put on a special ‘adults only’ children’s music concert for those of us who are prepared to consider further loosening our inhibitions. I use those three words deliberately, although I could have used the single word “shed.” Maybe I could convince the remaining 1967 Leafs to join us, too.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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