For those who grew up in the 1980s, the names Sharon, Lois & Bram have special meaning. The trio, who first rose to prominence in their home country of Canada and then later in the United States, created the acclaimed television program The Elephant Show, which featured the three and an anonymous person. inside an elephant costume, playing music and learning life course. Think of Mr. Rogers with more settings and songs. Thanks to the show, which became a hit in US reruns on Nickelodeon after its five seasons airing in the north, the three were later named Members of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor. . (Sadly, Lois Lilienstein passed away in 2015.) Fans of the trio, young and old, can now ride a time machine and enjoy live versions of their greatest hits on the new LP, Sharon, Lois & Bram Best of Best Live, out today (November 19).
âBram likes to say it’s a reflection of pirated recordings,â Sharon Hampson says of the new version. “But we were the pirates.”
Indeed, Sharon is right. All of the songs on the new live album are taken from recordings made from shows the trio performed from 1989 to 1995. At the moment, the trio had no idea they were preparing for a live album some 30 years ago. later, but that’s how the band has always worked. The live songs of the new LP were recorded in real time and saved to tape by the conductor and keyboardist of the trio. Realizing the stock of what they had, Sharon and Bram decided to digitize the songs.
âRight off the bat,â says Bram Morrison.
âThe thing he didn’t have to do was pretty exciting for us,â says Sharon. âHe didn’t make any corrections, he didn’t correct our voices, he didn’t need to. When we got to the final list [of songs], we were excited about the way we sounded.
In total, the new album features 17 different locations and 22 songs. Still, it’s consistent like a live concert is. They are connected, seamless. Perhaps this is a testament to the close bond the trio had together. The kind of honesty-to-kindness bond that has been transmitted on television to thousands of children across North America. But those ties were backed up by a plush pachyderm costume that happened to the three, not by scoring tests and evil planning, instead, the idea came by chance and a bit of luck.
âIt came from a song,â says Sharon. âOne elephant, two elephants. “
This song appeared on the trio’s debut album in 1978 and was the name of the album itself. As such, the trio decided for their very first gig that it would be fun to bring an elephant costume on stage. Nearby, by chance, another troupe was setting up a production of the French children’s story, Babar the elephant. So the trio just borrowed the costume and from that point on, it was part of their show. This is the story of the elephant. But the story of The elephant show is a little more winding.
“We had done specials before The elephant show“Said Sharon.” But a lot of people had come to us saying, ‘Let’s do a TV series. We said,’ Great! Do you have any money? ‘ And they said no and they would go.
Sharon laughs when she tells the story. Eventually, however, two people approached them and, considering the mutual benefit, they collected some money and made a special together. And by the time this special was over, the group had even more backers and the rest just moved on, making history. Since those fateful days, the trio have created five seasons of the show and have done so while learning on the job, a particularly important task when it comes to differentiating between performing on stage and performing in front. a camera.
âWhen you do a live concert, you sing in the back row,â says Sharon. âYou really have to project yourself. When you do a TV show, you sing for a kid in the front row. It was the big learning curve for us. So when we didn’t get it right, he would say to us: ‘You play in Australia.’ “
âAnd we would back down,â said Bram.
One of the most charming aspects of The elephant show was its end credits, which still featured Sharon, Lois & Bram’s song, “Skinnamarink”. It included a dance where children and parents waved each hand, made the shape of the moon with their hands and other charming movements. The song has become synonymous with the group.
âWhen we first planned our recording One Elephant, Deux Elephants in 1978,â says Bram, âwe needed to raise funds. So we went to our family and friends and asked them each to invest between $ 500 and $ 1,000 each. We planned to pay them all back with profits if there were any.
âThey weren’t expecting to receive money,â Sharon laughs. âThey were surprised. “
âLois is originally from Chicago,â says Bram. “So she came back home to Chicago and pitted some of her family there and in doing so she asked her young cousin, Lisa, who was a girl at the time and had been to the summer camp, if she had learned something good to sing at camp? And she sang her ‘Skinnamarink’ and Lois loved it and learned it and brought it back to Toronto.
The song helped solidify the trio’s status as a must-have artist for children. Sharon and Bram both found music for themselves at a young age too. For Sharon, music was always present in childhood. People sang together, she grew up to folk tunes. She idolized Pete Seeger. In college, she was the one called to the kindergarten class to entertain the children if the teacher needed to go out for a moment. For Bram, he loved his parents’ music does not have To listen. The first song he learned on the guitar was “Don’t Be Cruel” by Elvis Presley. But when he found the music, he got hooked. In it, he heard a place for himself to flourish.
âIt was music that I could get involved in,â says Bram. âAnd I did. And it was a wonderful feeling to be able to sing in front of 20 people in a cafe and for them to listen and applaud.
As adults, Sharon and Bram got to know each other casually. Lois, originally from Chicago, moved to Toronto when her husband got a teaching job in the sprawling city. The three, brought together in a school music program, then bonded both through their love of music and performing for children, but also through their mutual appreciation of a diversity of genres, from folk to rock and beyond. The trio’s debut album was a huge success and when their TV show hit the airwaves they became stars for children and families, with parents doing the âSkinnamarinkâ dance with their children.
âWe loved children very much and playing for children,â says Sharon. “But we’ve always believed from the start of our careers that what we do is for the kids and the family.”
âWe even realized that bald fathers like me could let their hair down,â Bram says, adding a laugh.
Today, as Sharon and Bram reflect on their friendship, their music and the history of their trio, they continue to turn to the idea of ââluck. Of course, there was hard work for everyone along the way; in essence, the members followed their instincts and just did what they thought was best for every song, performance, and episode. It worked.
âI feel like a very, very lucky regular guy,â says Bram.
âWe were the right people at the right time with the right answer,â says Sharon. âWe were very lucky, but we are ordinary people, ordinary people. I go home, do the laundry and do the dishes.
âMe too, absolutely! Bram said, before adding, âI like the idea that music is international. And that depending on what you listen to, whether it’s Greek music or Spanish flamenco or Russian Orthodox liturgy, everything is expressive in its own way. But everything is rooted together. It is variety and unity, all at the same time. He represents humanity at its best.
Photo courtesy of Waldmania PR