Why does a young woman want to sing songs that were popular in World Wars I and II, decades before she was born? Kelda Mikalson says the songs are beautiful in melody and lyrics, and filled with feeling.
“People wonder how a concert of wartime songs could be fun,” Kelda laughs. “But the songs make you think about how people - on the front and back home - worked, joked, and cried together and supported each other. That is how they survived.”
Kelda moved to Owen Sound in 2009 after earning her music degree to help run a local food market and build a community kitchen. Just after the first cooking class was held, the store burned down, and Kelda had to decide whether to stay in the community. By then she was singing in the ACapella choir in Port Elgin, and had friends who had helped her mount a vaudeville show to raise money for the kitchen, so she chose to build her life, musical and otherwise, here in Grey-Bruce.
This is the fourth year of Hope and Longing: Songs of the World Wars, with the show mounted near Remembrance Day, and the songs Kelda has chosen are inspiring, like White Cliffs of Dover; encouraging, Rosie the Riveter; romantic – Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree – amusing, reassuring, silly, and comforting.
Bethany Matthews is back as accompanist, but she won't have to carry her piano in the back of a truck like Vera Lynn did in Burma. And May Ip and Rebecca (Morelli) Ironmonger will join Kelda to give the show a flavour of the Andrews Sisters.
There are a few anecdotes and stories in the mix too, to put the songs in context, including some local touches. Some of the songs may be familiar, and they'll all speak to audiences of any age.
"Today life is often scary and unpredictable. But even in the most desperate places, people will be joking and singing. It is still how we survive," Kelda says.
This year the shows will be Saturday, November 4 at 7 p.m. in Thornbury at the L.E.Shore Memorial Library and Sunday, November 5 at 2 p.m. at First United Church in Owen Sound. Both shows are 'pay what you can' - everyone is warmly welcome.