Sharon, Lois and Bram (YouTube screencap)
🎶 Skidamarink a dink a dink,
Skidamarink a doo,
I love you. 🎶
Sharon Hampson, Lois Lilienstein and Bram Morrison popularized this little ditty, “Skidamarink,” which was originally performed (with different lyrics) in Charles Dillingham’s 1910 play, The Echo. It became the signature song for the trio more commonly known as Sharon, Lois and Bram – who maintain a deep, personal connection with many Canadians, both young and old.
Country Living’s Maria Carter wrote in a May 2017 piece that teenage “folkies” Sharon and Bram first met “in a Toronto coffee house in the ‘60s.” They became acquainted with Lois, a classically trained musician, while performing at the Mariposa Folk Festival’s program, “Mariposa in the Schools.” The trio would form in 1978 “after stringing their names together ‘in every possible order.’”
That same year, they pooled together $20,000 from family and friends and recorded their first album, One Elephant, Deux Elephants. It was the start of a musical journey that spanned four decades, 16 albums, 1,500 concerts, two TV shows (The Elephant Show and Skinnamarink TV), and various awards and accolades.
All good things must come to an end, however. The talented children’s group, which has been a duo, Sharon and Bram, since 2000 (Lois retired after her husband’s death, and passed away from cancer in 2015), is on its farewell tour. They have criss-crossed Canada to large, enthusiastic audiences, and are booked straight through to, predictably, Orillia’s Mariposa Folk Festival in July.
Steve Paikin recently interviewed Hampson and Morrison on TVO’s The Agenda. The segment was both enjoyable and, at times, revelatory.
“We made a record in the most unusual way,” Hampson told Paikin on April 24. “Generally, people sing together for some considerable time and then finally figure out that they maybe could make a record. The first time we ever sang together, the three of us, was when we started planning that record.” While they all believed they would then go “right back to our individual careers,” she continued, “the response to the record changed that plan.”
Morrison noted the group’s longevity followed a particular formula. They were all married to other people, “we were family people, and we weren’t kids. And we knew how to deal with other people with very important things, and we had learned those lessons before we had ever got together.”
Hampson also pointed out the trio’s “shared fundamental values about music and about life.” As she said on The Agenda, “Lois and I were involved in the United Farmworkers, picketing…telling people not to buy grapes and lettuce years, years before. So, we shared fundamental values about how you treat people, about the kind of music we wanted to create for children and their families, and that was a very solid foundation that one could build on.”
While I obviously disagree with their left-wing beliefs, there’s no doubt the trio succeeded because of this shared worldview. Without these similarities, the creative and artistic differences they occasionally faced wouldn’t have been overcome so easily.
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What are my own memories of Sharon, Lois and Bram? Pretty limited, truth be told.
I remember listening to their first album as a young child. I was in my teens during The Elephant Show’s run, so I didn’t grow up with them. And my son was born more than nine years after Skinnamarink TV.
Nevertheless, I do have one amusing anecdote.
Some people were approached to be original investors in The Elephant Show. They would’ve been mentioned in the end credits, and thanked for their contributions. One of them happened to be my father, who passed on the opportunity.
It’s probably for the best. We had nothing in common with left-wing picketing musical folkies, anyway!
All kidding aside, best wishes to Sharon and Bram on a great career. May we cherish the dancing elephants, enjoy their music, and sing “Skidamarink” until the end of time.