Per­form­ing for se­niors nour­ishes this singer’s soul

The Gananoque Reporter - - COMMENT - Cather­ine Reynolds is the markqaaet­ing man­ager for Carveth Care Cen­tre

Mark McDonell loves his job.

Smil­ing over a warm drink in a Kingston cof­fee shop in Novem­ber 2018, the tal­ented fa­ther of two talks with awe about his work as a pro­fes­sional mu­si­cian.

“I don’t take it for granted,” he ad­mits grate­fully. “I’m froma small town and I didn’t have a lot of money grow­ing up. Now, I get to travel to dif­fer­ent coun­tries and per­form. I’m48 years old and I keep won­der­ing when are peo­ple go­ing to find out it’s all smoke and mir­rors.”

A pro­fes­sional singer and gui­tar player since high school, Mark is the face of AM­BUSH, a pop­u­lar On­tario band.

Known for their new coun­try sound, the band has played to sold­out crowds from coast-to-coast.

“We’re very busy as a band,” he ad­mits, ref­er­enc­ing the band’s rise to fame in Canada since he ar­rived in Kingston ap­prox­i­mately 20 years ago. “We’re go­ing to Cana­dian Forces Sta­tion Alert next week to per­form­for the troops. We’ve done some crazy stuff.”

Nowa­days, Mark di­vides his time be­tween per­form­ing for big crowds and singing for smaller groups such as res­i­dents of re­tire­ment and long-term­care homes.

Up­com­ing per­for­mances in­clude New Year’s Eve at Carveth Care Cen­tre in Gananoque and a Fam­ily Christ­mas Party at He­len Hen­der­son Care Cen­tre in Amher­stview.

“It’s kind of in­ter­est­ing,” says Mark about per­form­ing at the homes with just an acous­tic gui­tar and speaker. “The band has had a lot of big shows, per­form­ing in front of thou­sands of peo­ple. My per­for­mances at the re­tire­ment and long-term care homes are smaller and more in­ti­mate which is very re­ward­ing. Mu­sic isa healer.”

Grow­ing up in amu­si­cal fam­ily, Mark be­gan play­ing with his fa­ther for se­niors in Perth when he was just 10 years old. He is now do­ing the same with his son.

“The old folks love the kids. It’s like I’m not even in the room,” he says with a laugh about the re­ac­tion his son re­ceives when he plays the drums.

Low­er­ing his voice, he talks about the plea­sure he de­rived when he played for his mother-in­law, Nancy Langs, when she was bat­tling can­cer.

“A lot of pa­tients would gather out­side her hospi­tal room when I per­formed for her,” he says qui­etly. “A lot of the clas­sic coun­try songs I’m singing now for res­i­dents is what I was singing for Nancy.”

Be­fore her death ear­lier this year, Nancy leaned down and told Mark, “Keep do­ing this.”

Those three words left a last­ing im­pres­sion on him.

“I find it low-key, but I leave the homes feel­ing more ful­filled as a mu­si­cian,” he says with hon­esty. “It’s just giv­ing back re­ally.”

Open­ing with the song, You Are My Sun­shine, Mark talks about his en­joy­ment per­form­ing for res­i­dents & staff while ac­com­pa­nied by Nancy’s 78-yearold hus­band, Garry.

“He’s my roady,” says Mark with a chuckle about his fa­ther-in-law. “He­would pre­fer to be out do­ing some­thing, rather than be­ing home alone. He loves to see the re­ac­tion of the peo­ple. He loves these shows. I have never gone into a home where the re­ac­tion hasn’t been fan­tas­tic.”

Speak­ing on be­half of two re­tire­ment and long-term care homes in South East On­tario, Bret­tGib­son of Gib­son Fam­ily Health Care notes, “Mark and AM­BUSH are a highly rec­og­nized band in this area. They at­tract peo­ple from all over to their con­certs. For them to ap­proach us to want to give back tot he se­nior com­mu­nity shows what type of peo­ple they are. It’s a unique part­ner­ship that has grown and our res­i­dents ea­gerly an­tic­i­pate ev­ery con­cert when they have a chance to be AM­BUSHED.”

Mark grins when he hears the feed­back.

“I try tomake them smile and laugh,” he says kindly about his pop­u­lar show for se­niors. “I truly, truly en­joy it.”

Carveth Care Cen­tre is grate­ful for the time and tal­ent of Mark McDonell and AM­BUSH. To learn more about liv­ing or work­ing in our home, please visit www. gib­son­fam­i­ly­health­

Res­i­dent Garry Langs with mu­si­cian Mark McDonell, from the band AM­BUSH. SUP­PLIED PHOTO

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