May 7, 2011

CANADA: Seniors talent show performers no slouches

VANCOUVER, British Columbia / Vancouver Sun / Entertainment / May 7, 2011

'They're never idle while they're idle'

By Pamela DiPinto, Postmedia News

Yodeler George Morin, performs onstage during the
Canadian Senior Idle showcase of senior talent.
Photograph by: Walter Tychnowicz,

EDMONTON -- George Morin, 65, released his first yodel nearly seven years ago on his way to a Calgary horse show. He was with his dog, who had started to yelp. So, naturally, he joined in.

“The more she howled, the more I yodelled,” Morin said. “Then, it came out really good.”

This self-taught yodeller and his partner Jim Bennett, a 72-year-old blind piano man, hit the stage Saturday morning along with 12 other performers at the Southeast Edmonton Seniors Association in the first Canadian Senior Idle — a non-competitive talent show for seniors who never stay “idle.”

“They’re never idle while they’re idle,” said Anna Der, executive director of the Seniors Assisted Transportation Society, which put on the event. All of the money raised will go toward the non-profit society, which has volunteer drivers take older seniors to and from medical appointments, physiotherapy, the grocery store — anywhere they need to go.

Mayor Stephen Mandel kicked off the show Saturday alongside emcee and president of the society, Paul Hnytka.

“The crowd is small, but it has a big heart,” Mandel told the roughly 20 people who gathered for the show.

Amanda Tarnawski, 80, gets into the music.
Photograph by: Walter Tychnowicz

The performers ranged from 65 to 80 years of age. Amanda Tarnawski, 80, started off the morning with a speech. A caricature artist set up to the right of the stage and a volunteer taped the action from the left.

Tarnawski was followed by a musical comedy duo, a poetry reading from a longtime volunteer and a number of singing guitar players, all backed by the in-house band.

“They’re doing an awesome job,” said Penny McClung, a volunteer driver who was in the audience.

Morin and Bennett hit the stage near the end in their first performance together since they disbanded last year. They used to play shows to seniors at nursing homes and hospitals as “The Running Boards” — a duo that started five years ago in a garage in West Edmonton, where they still live as neighbours.

Music runs deep in both their lives. Morin has been singing and playing guitar for over 50 years and Bennett got his start playing the accordion when he was just 10.

When “the accordion was getting too heavy to carry around,” Bennett switched over to the piano. He played three songs for the first part of their act, including an original he wrote 25 years ago when his eldest daughter got married.

Morin closed their performance on the guitar — with Bennett still in the back — with two songs and one yodelling number.

“The dog is better than him, but they wouldn’t let a dog in here,” said Bennett with a laugh after the show.

Saturday morning’s show was the first of four put on by the society this weekend.

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal