Day 6

40 years of Skinnamarink: Sharon and Bram launch their farewell tour

For 40 years, Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison entertained children and adults alike as two-thirds of Sharon, Lois and Bram. Now they're hitting the road one last time for a farewell tour.

'Skinnamarink has always been the perfect goodbye song'

Celebrated children's musicians Sharon Hampson, left, and Bram Morrison have announced that after 40 years they will embark on a farewell tour before they say Skinnamarink to fans. (Jason Vermes/CBC)

Originally published Oct. 5, 2018.

If you want to sing I Am Slowly Going Crazy and Little Rabbit Foo Foo with Sharon and Bram, you'll have one last chance to do it.

The pair — two thirds of Sharon, Lois and Bram — are embarking on a farewell tour. 

Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison first met 40 years ago and, with the late Lois Lilienstein, formed the beloved Canadian children's singing group. Their music touched generations and they were the stars of CBC TV's own Skinnamarink TV.

Hampson and Morrison sat down with Day 6 guest host Rachel Giese to reflect on their career and their hit Skinnamarink.

Here's part of that conversation:

Rachel Giese: Your debut album, which was also your first Juno nomination, One Elephant, Deux Éléphants — that was 40 years ago. Sharon, what were you thinking about at the time? Did it feel like it was the beginning of a long journey?

Sharon Hampson: No. It felt like it was a moment in time. ... We decided to make an album together and we went back to singing individually after that. We had no idea what lay ahead.

Bram Morrison: No plan. No business plan, no artistic plan, no nothing plan. Just do it — hey, isn't that nice? — and continue on doing what we were doing.

RG: And also you were somewhat pioneers in the work that you were doing in that you were doing children's music, but also family music. You were actually kind of inventing the kind of music and the kind of performances in a way.

BM: We always thought that our audience was not just children, as you said. It's families too. Because some people who perform for children aim low, and they may hit for a while, but the parents pull out their hair and run screaming from the room. And we would have none of that.

We wanted it to be really an ensemble experience for the whole family.

RG: And who's tougher? Kids in the audience, or adults in the audience?

SH: The kids are very direct. You know, if they don't like what you're doing, they let you know. But they're also very responsive.

And parents, if they're smart, they participate with their children because they're doing it together and they're setting an example.

BM: Now there's one example years ago about a song that had just finished. I said, 'Boy, that was a great song. I really liked it a lot!' Then a five year old voice from the back came out: 'I hated it!'

Sharon Hampson, left, and Bram Morrison, right, are seen with their late collaborator Lois Lilienstein, centre, in 2002. (The Canadian Press)

RG: That's amazing. So the first album comes out and you think, 'You know, we're going to go off and do our own things — that was fun, that was a lark.' But then came more albums, live concerts, television. Bram, how did that then all come out after that first album?

BM: Well it was kind of stepwise. I guess after we made the recording, and then we did our first concerts at the Young People's Theatre — and that's why we've come back after 40 years — I think the next step after that was our appearance at the Vancouver International Children's Festival in the following spring.

SH: And that was extremely exciting for us. And I must say that CBC was a factor in that, and in our career because, it was really through CBC that people got to know about us.

So in the spring of 1979, we went to Vancouver and they knew us! It was thrilling. So, of course, what followed was a lot of interest from the public and from people who wanted us to perform for them, and another record, and it all unfolded in a kind of surprising way for us, but an exciting way.

BM: One of the things, as we were exiting one of the concerts and greeting people goodbye ... one of the children said to us, 'Okay, you can get back in the record now.'

RG: And speaking of goodbyes, now after this extraordinary 40-year career of recording and touring, this is your farewell tour. I'm thinking about the song Skinnamarink because it feels like kind of a perfect goodbye song. I understand that there may be new lyrics coming for Skinnamarink. Is this true?

SH: Yes, indeed. So first of all, Skinnamarink has always been the perfect goodbye song. We've sung it at the end of everything that we've ever done. It came to us through a cousin of Lois. She brought it back and we recorded it and it has been with us all along.

BM: I didn't even get to sing on it. Lois sang the melody, Sharon sang the harmony and I played the ukulele part on the high string guitar. They didn't let me sing on it until a record or two later.

RG: You had to prove yourself!

BM: Yes!

SH: We had no idea what that song was going to become, and we love it and we never tire of it. And we were approached by Penguin Random House to do a Skinnamarink book.

With the help of my daughter, who wrote a new introduction to the song and new verses for the song — and the new words are delightful and we're thrilled with them. And the illustrator is Qin Leng and it will be released in the fall of 2019.

BM: It's already recorded and we're keeping it secret for right now.

Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison record new music in a Toronto studio in September 2018, in between dates for their 40th anniversary farewell tour. (CBC)

RG: So, if people come to the farewell tour, they will hear the new version of Skinnamarink?

SH: Yes, but they'll also get to sing the parts of Skinnamarink that they're familiar with. We won't deprive them of that.

RG: I feel like that would be a really cruel note to go out on.

BM: That's called a bummer.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity. To hear the full interview with Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.


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