By John Swartz
The thing about farewell tours is somewhere has to be the last stop. It’s the place fans of beloved acts will remember for years and Saturday at 5 p.m. Tudhope Park will be the place Sharon and Bram will take the stage for the last show they will ever do on tour.
“It feels really good for us because we love Mariposa, we love our history with it, we love what they’ve accomplished over so many years and to be back there, it’s significant for us,” said Sharon Hampson.
With Bram Morrison being 78 years old and Sharon 76, who could blame them for deciding packing the bags and travelling across the country doesn’t have the appeal it once did.
“We’re not going to hit the road. The life on the road is challenging, we’re older and travel is so much harder than it was 20 years ago. I for one will miss the experience with the audience,” said Sharon.
Of course, there’s the plan and then there’s the change in plan.
“One extra show has been added on after Mariposa, but Mariposa is our last big hurrah,” said Sharon.
“Call it the last,” said Bram.
But is it? They have a new book and recording coming out in the fall.
“We have some recordings we’ve done and others that are coming up, so they will need promotion,” said Bram, so people can expect to enjoy a live performance here and there, it just won’t be a guessing game for them if they are waking up in Regina or Toronto from day to day.
It’s fitting the Mariposa Folk Festival is the place they originally planned to make the end of an era because in a way Mariposa brought them together. There is some lore they met each other and Lois Lilienstein at a Mariposa Folk Festival. That’s not true. But they all were working for Mariposa in the Schools when they met.
“We did make that first recording, One Elephant, Deux Éléphants while we were all three of us members of Mariposa in the Schools,” said Bram. That was in 1978, but Bram can trace his Mariposa history further back.
“I’ve been at every one since it started in 1961,” said Bram. Sharon laughs. ”I missed a couple,” he adds. Sharon thinks her first festival was in 1964. They knew each other for quite a while before forming the group..
“Sharon and I knew each other in the days earlier than that, in the folk music scene and the coffee houses – and the Mariposa Folk Festival. I didn’t meet Lois until we were all in deep together at Mariposa in the Schools,” said Bram. Sharon was introduced to Lois by a friend who thought they should know each other. Even so, making a record did not mean a grand visionary conquest of children’s attention laid out for decades to come.
“We thought when we made the record we would go back to our individual careers and continue going into the schools, and indeed we did, but not for long because we started getting calls to perform as a trio,” said Sharon. “Things changed, unexpectedly.”
Being asked questions about how it all came about is one thing, tying things to dates quite another.
“When you are starting a career, you don’t know you should be keeping track of stuff like that because you don’t know you are starting a career. We made a record together. We didn’t know that 40 years later we’d be talking about it,” said Sharon.
Or continuing to create. People buying their new book and music are in for a surprise, Their flagship song, Skinnamarink, has been re-recorded and it’s going to sound familiar, but different. They thought with the book coming out it was time to update, if you will.
“It’s like a little one chorus song, which we sang for 41 years at everything we’ve ever done,” said Sharon. Her daughter, Randi Hampson, wrote additional verses.
“We will sing it at Mariposa and it will include the new words, which they (audience) won’t know, but the old words are still there and they certainly know those,” said Sharon.
And there probably won’t be a dry eye in the park, and no it won’t be the children. Many of their original audience are approaching 50, and the parents of those (young)adults have their own memories tied to the what Sharon (and Lois) and Bram meant for their kids.
“It’s intergenerational and that’s the important thing to us. Children and their parents and their grandparents have been connected to us for years and they share it across all of those generations, and that, to us, is fantastic,” said Bram. He is firm though, that what they did wasn’t a marketing gimmick like so many things aimed at children today are.
“We’re not just recording songs for the children. We’re recording songs for us because we like the music and we hope the children will like it, and also that the adults will find it musical and interesting and challenging,” said Bram.
It is the good news for many they’ll still be working on new things, even if they may not be putting on the miles anymore after this weekend.
“I won’t miss the travelling, but I’ll miss the relationship with the audience when we get on stage,” said Sharon.