SASKATCHEWAN & MANITOBA
This year, the Huggetts stay in Canada at their Niagara-On-The-Lake home to accommodate February and March tours. Their first commitment is to another Jeunesses Musicales sponsored tour on the prairies. They fly to Regina and immeadiatly run out to the small town of Grenfell for a single evening show.
Jennifer: "Our kind sponsor had brought bacon, eggs, and muffins to make us breakfast the following day as the local Motel had no restaurant. But we planned to drive back to Regina that night, so she cooked us a hearty breakfast at midnight!" The following evening the Huggetts play the Regina University Convocation Hall in front of an enthusiastic audience who turn up despite the deadly cold.
Andrew remembers, "After our success in Regina, we played Outlook, Saskatoon, and Saint Peter's Abbey and College in Humboldt. The Abbey is an independent religious community. The priests grow all the food which they store in straw in an impressive stone root cellar under the Abby, and nuns grind the wheat and make fresh bread every morning. The College offers courses in the Catholic Benedictine tradition and is part of the University of Saskatchewan.
Our host is a very enthusiastic monk named Brother Thomas. He sports a perpetual Cheshire cat grin and speaks enthusiastically and knowledgeably on Renaissance topics. At one point, he asks me about Thomas More, who I know now was an influential English Catholic and humanist, and is somewhat bemused when I say I've never heard of him. Dad's not impressed with me either, thinking I should know about Thomas More given all the money we spend going back and forth to England to study!
We offer to play The Leaves Be Green by William Byrd at vespers, which Brother Thomas thinks will be quite "exciting" (the piece itself is actually quite tranquil.) I naively anticipate a roomful of buoyant nuns and monks like Brother Thomas when we turn up at the appointed hour with our instruments. But all assembled strike me as inexplicably grim and sullen, without the slightest trace of his positive energy. The stately Leaves Be Green must have hit some kind of mark, however, as the next day, when my mom and sisters show up for breakfast, one of the nuns exclaimed, "Here come the showgirls!" which proves, I suppose, that in life, all things are relative!"
After Humboldt comes Neepawa, Saint Boniface, and Brandon University, which has an Early Music department and owns an impressive inventory of viols, krumhorns, and other period instruments. The audience, which includes members of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, turns up in their own Renaissance garb. They are particularly taken with the period dances.
From Winnipeg, the Family takes a private charter to the remote northern mining town of Leaf Rapids, Andrew sitting in the co-pilot seat. The Family is anxious about their instruments as they are loaded into the nose of the plane. If it's this cold on the ground, what is it like at 15,000 feet? The plane touches down on a remote snow-covered strip, and the musical instruments, which have survived the cold, are loaded into a warm waiting van. The plane departs for Thompson, where it can plug in for the night to prevent the engines from freezing, and everyone gets in the van for the last leg of the journey.
Margaret remembers: "The entire community of Leaf Rapids is built within a single large enclosure, much like a giant shopping mall. There's no need to go back outside, and it's toasty warm inside. However, there is nowhere to get a meal before the concert. We play to a select audience of 30 people in the library. Without us knowing, our sponsor graciously forgoes the concert and makes us a meal while we are on stage. Her kindness is much appreciated and indicative of the many generous people we met while touring.
The following day we drive back to the airstrip and wait in a small heated cabin for the return of our plane. It's been delayed because it wouldn't start despite being plugged in overnight in Thompson. Finally, the mechanics get it going, and it appears as a speck in the sky. Thirty minutes later, we are on board, heading back to Winnipeg and finally to Toronto and Niagara-On-The-Lake."
Andrew, Jennifer, Ian, Margaret, Brother Thomas, and Fiona. Brother Thomas's unbridled enthusiasm was not a characteristic evidenced by his fellow monks.
En route to vespers. Not as ebullient as Andrew had anticipated.
Delicious bread, home baked from wheat grown by the monks and milled by the nuns of St Peter's Abby
The dances are a big hit with members of the Society for Creative Anachronisms at the University in Brandon, Manitoba.
Leaf Rapids is so cold the plane has to leave as soon as the Huggetts debark, so its engines don't freeze up.
After three weeks at the house in Niagara-On-The-Lake, the Family is off again to Alberta and appearances at both Calgary University and Mount Royal College in Calgary and the Lethbridge Art Centre in Lethbridge.
The Huggetts also play in the beautiful Devonian Gardens, a large under-glass botanical garden located in the downtown core of Calgary. Jennifer recalls, "It was a real treat to perform surrounded by such beautiful tropical plants. But the sudden shift to warm and humid air played havoc with the tuning pegs on all the stringed instruments making it very difficult to tune."
Following Calgary, the Huggetts play the Banff Centre For The Arts. They are in Banff for three days and present both At The Field Of The Cloth Of Gold, and Henry the 8th And His Wives.
There's also time to go skiing. Other than Andrew, none of the Family has skied before. At first, the Family rented cross-country skis. After about 20 minutes of slipping and backsliding up the cross-country trails, they realize that gravity could be their friend if they only switched to downhill skis.
Returning to Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Huggetts do The Bob McClain show, a popular daytime Toronto CBC talk show. They perform Greensleeves and a couple of other songs and chat with Bob about their upcoming summer season. That same month, they perform 12 shows for local school children as artists in residence at the Shaw festival.
Jennifer at Banff, her first time on skis.
Jennifer, Margaret, Bob McClean, Fiona, Ian, and Leslie.
THE SHAW FESTIVAL, NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE
Come summer, the Huggett Family offer two separate programs at the Shaw Festival: Henry The VIII And His Wives with folks songs in the second half and Elizabeth I And Her Suiters, which takes up the whole 2 hours of the show. This is the first time the Huggetts present a show without folk songs in the second half. There is concern about how the audience will react. However, the concern is unwarranted, and both audience and critical response is positive. Having everyone on stage participate in the commentary adds much to the performance.
The Huggett Family was a major attraction at the Shaw Festival in 1979.
The Huggetts offered audiences the choice of two shows: Henry VIII And His Women and Elisabeth I - The Good Queen Bess. The latter being their first show not to include folk songs.
THE NATIONAL ARTS CENTRE, OTTAWA
Margaret: "After the final Shaw Festival show on August 1st, we pack up and move everything back to Ottawa. We very much enjoyed living in Niagara-on-the-Lake with its theatrical ambiance and holiday atmosphere. Our total tenure was almost 18 months. Still, the Peace of the Aylmer Cottage is welcome too.
This year we are self-sponsoring at the NAC. Mainly, our shows are always third-party sponsored. This means we are paid a fee, and the sponsor takes care of advertising, ticket sales, and staging costs and pockets the profits. Being self-sponsored means we assume all costs but keep all the profits. Leslie is more tense than usual because more risk is involved, and Chorus Line is playing down the hall simultaneously."
Leslie was concerned when he realised the Family would be competing with Chrorus Line for August entertainment dollars.
At the NAC 1979. Leslie's need not have worried about sales. All the NAC shows sold out that year.