Avalon Sleeveens still ded­i­cated to char­i­ties

Lip-sync­ing group has raised some $76,000 for many causes

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS

It has been said the Avalon Sleeveens have the abil­ity to cap­ti­vate an au­di­ence, and take people on a trip back in time.

The group, which con­sists of 20 mem­bers ages 11 to 70 from the Trin­ity Bay area, en­ter­tains sev­eral times a year, tak­ing on the iden­ti­ties of fa­mous singers like Dolly Par­ton, Dean Martin, Kitty Wells and many other stars who rose to fame in the 1950s and 60s. Al­though they don’t limit them­selves to any spe­cific decade.

Mem­bers may only be lip-sync­ing and mim­ick­ing the mo­tions of play­ing in­stru­ments, but since form­ing in 2010, they have come a long way.

“There are still some people who think they’re singing,” mem­ber Linda Hal­f­yard told The Com­pass March 18 at her home in Dildo.

The rea­son, she ex­plains, is the per­form­ers are matched up to an artist they re­sem­ble in phys­i­cal size and fa­cial fea­tures. And they put their heart and soul into ev­ery per­for­mance.

“They are not just lip-sync­ing,” Hal­f­yard con­tin­ued. “They are act­ing the parts, get­ting into char­ac­ter.”

Keep­ing busy be­tween sets

And with a name l ike Andy Wil­liams — fa­mous singer and tele­vi­sion show host from the same time­line as the per­for­mances — an­other mem­ber of the Sleeveens takes on nu­mer­ous roles him­self.

“There are times af­ter we do the (open­ing num­ber), I have to run back­stage and change quickly be­cause I’m also in the first per­for­mance,” Wil­liams said.

He also in­ter­acts with the au­di­ence when he can, which has been a big hit with con­cert­go­ers.

As the MC, it is Hal­f­yard’s job to keep the au­di­ence en­ter­tained dur­ing fre­quent wardrobe changes.

“I tell jokes to fill the gaps,” Hal­f­yard ex­plained.

The jokes be­came so pop­u­lar, the group cre­ated a joke book and sold some 900 copies to date. They are work­ing on a sec­ond edi­tion.

Char­i­ta­ble causes

Prof­its from any sales and per­for­mances are in aid of mul­ti­ple char­i­ties.

Con­cert rev­enue has gone to or­ga­ni­za­tions and causes such as the Mul­ti­ple Scle­ro­sis So­ci­ety of Canada, lo­cal school break­fast pro­grams, asthma re­search and Parkin­son’s — only a few on a large list.

“We thought it was bet­ter to help out many char­i­ties than just the one,” Wil­liams ex­plained.

To date, some $76,000 has been raised and do­nated to many causes, none too big or too small.

A new cause has re­cently been brought to the at­ten­tion of the group.

A din­ner theatre in Kel­li­grews has been in dis­cus­sion for some time, and Hal­f­yard hopes it will get off the ground soon.

“We are hop­ing to work with the Kel­li­grews Legion to raise money for equip­ment for soldiers with (Post Trau­matic Stress Dis­or­der),” she ex­plained.

De­tails are not yet avail­able on the event.

Com­pro­mise some­times nec­es­sary

The group is close, like a fam­ily. And just like in a fam­ily, there have var­ied opin­ions.

Of­ten, mem­bers bring songs they are in­ter­ested in per­form­ing to the group, Hal­f­yard said. And some­times, they have to com­pro­mise.

“Ma­jor­ity rules,” Wil­liams added. “If they (sug­gest a song), we’ll look at it and lis­ten to it. If it’s too slow, we’ll ask if there’s a faster song by the same artist.”

The per­for­mance is usu­ally a good mix of up­beat songs and slower tunes. Each song is strate­gi­cally placed so the en­ergy of the au­di­ence doesn’t get lost in the sombre sound of two bal­lads backto-back. “It’s a good bal­ance,” Wil­liams said. But that hasn’t been a prob­lem, since ev­ery mem­ber demon­strates vi­tal­ity and ded­i­ca­tion to their acts.

“We have six decades of people,” Wil­liams con­tin­ued. “Ev­ery­one of them has the same amount of en­ergy.” Up­com­ing per­for­mance The group has sold out ev­ery venue it has ever played, in­clud­ing the 379-seat Sheila NaGeira Theatre in Car­bon­ear last year.

“It was our big­gest show,” Wil­liams said.

The show was so suc­cess­ful, the group will be re­turn­ing April 12 to help raise money for the Car­bon­ear Gen­eral Hospi­tal dial­y­sis unit.

There have been nu­mer­ous changes over the past few years to the con­certs, with more per­form­ers and dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters be­ing added to the mix.

With the ad­di­tion of chil­dren to the group, the per­for­mance now has a touch of Mo­town. One of the four chil­dren has trans­formed him­self into a young Michael Jack­son from the Jack­son 5.

And an­other per­former has taken on the role of a young Brenda Lee.

Al­ways a favourite, the group will fin­ish the con­cert with Rita MacNeil’s hit, Work­ing Man. “Pre­pare to shed some tears,” Hal­f­yard said. Group mem­bers have also set up a Face­book group — Avalon Sleeveens Inc. — for those in­ter­ested in know­ing more about them and the causes they sup­port.

Photo by Melissa Jenk­ins/The Com­pass

Andy Wil­liams (left) and Linda Hal­f­yard read some jokes from the Avalon Sleeveens joke book.

Photo by One Stop Photo

The Avalon Sleeveens formed in 2010, and have been per­form­ing lip-sync con­certs across the Avalon Penin­sula rais­ing money for char­ity since. They are, front row (l-r) — Bai­ley Wil­liams, Chaneal Reid, Michael Wil­liams and Bran­don Wil­liams; mid­dle row — Mar­lene Turner, Ira Hal­f­yard, Carolann Reid, Alf Smith, Shirley Smith, Andy Wil­liams and Tom Smith; back — Wil­lis Ja­cobs, Craig Reid, Linda Hal­f­yard, Andrew Pretty, Marg Hoskins, Melvin Wil­liams, June Wil­liams and Craig Wil­liams. Miss­ing from photo is Elsie Smith.

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