This winter, the Winsloe United Church has taken on something brand new and exciting that is clearly ringing the bells of success.
The idea to host a regular monthly ceilidh as a new church fundraising initiative was originally thought up by Fred Dollar. And when it was decided that the show would go every second Monday of the month and would be hosted by two church choir members, twin sisters Joan and Judy Reeves (also known as Ding and Dong – The Bell Sisters), it soon became clear that this wouldn’t be just a straight ahead “sit in your seat and listen to music” kind of show.
No, it would be a different thing altogether.
“We really want to make people feel at ease here,” said Joan (or, at least I think it was Joan — it’s so hard to tell them apart) when I had a chance to speak with The Bell Sisters at this past Monday night’s ceilidh.
Describing how their goal is to create a very open, off-the-cuff and off-the-wall kind of presentation for the show, Judy (I think it was Judy) added, “If you want to get up and dance in the aisles, feel free.”
(Oh, and by the way, they’re called The Bell Sisters, because they both used to work for the Island Tel offices — one in Summerside and the other in Charlottetown. Joan is Ding because she was born first, and Dong always needs to follow a Ding, said the person that I believe was Judy (Dong) and not Joan (Ding). Ring a bell?
And as I took in just their third show in the series at the Winsloe United Church this past Monday, 7:30-9:30 p.m., it became obvious right away that Ding and Dong, and all who were a part of the concert, were succeeding in making it a distinctly different and highly engaging fundraiser ceilidh.
With The Bell Sisters clad in green from head to toe to celebrate the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day — along with the green-hatted house band, consisting of Brian Knox on drums, Heartz Godkin on bass, Johnny Gallant on guitar/vocals and Judy Lowe on piano — they began the show with duet performances of several tunes, including Jim Reeves’ According to My Heart, which showcased a lovely blend of their bright voices to start the evening off on the right note.
The show moved on to present smoothly-played jigs, waltzes, marches and reels by fiddler Matthew Reid with Carl Curley on guitar, several beautifully-sung and well-received original songs and country classics by singer/guitarist Jolee Patkai, some powerfully-sung oldies-but-goodies (most notably Tom Jones’ Delilah) by singer/guitarist Dave Altass, formerly of The Blue Crystals, and wowing performances of traditional favourites such as Caledonia and Red is the Rose by 15-year-old Mallory McInnis (whose crystal-clear voice just keeps getting more and more impressive all the time).
There was even a fantastic and fitting tribute to our late and great Stompin’ Tom performed by the cowboy-hatted Johnny Gallant (doing Bud the Spud and more) to start off the second half as The Bell Sisters paraded around the sanctuary tossing potatoes to audience members from potato bags slung over their shoulders.
The “free and open” kind of feeling to the show continued through the second half with many an Irish joke told, more shenanigans and some spontaneous crowd-member-step-dancing, as two step dancers from the audience (Eileen Walsh and Carol Callaghan) even jumped up for a step or two on the dancing board in front of the stage near the end of the night.
So, if you are feeling like you need a good dose of laughter, great music, delicious biscuits and jam and a whole barrel full of fun to celebrate the end of winter, head on down to the next Winsloe United Church Ceilidh, set for April 8 at 7:30 p.m.
You may not get a potato thrown at you next time, but it’s a guarantee that Ding and Dong will ring you in a very good time.
Next week: Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’ll be ringing in St. Paddy’s weekend in a very special place.
Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at email@example.com or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.
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