Family thrilled song their mother sang basis for festival play

Frank
Frank Gale
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Figgy Duff band members, Noel Dinn, left, Pamela Morgan, second from left, are seen in this photo from the 1980’s with Jack and Ellen (Nell) Carroll.

Joan Carroll-French can’t remember there ever being any taped music played in her home while she was growing up, or throughout her adult life.

“That’s because we always made our own music,” she said.

At the helm of those family members were her mom and dad, Ellen (Nell) and Jack Carroll, who both loved singing, with her dad no stranger to jumping up and doing a stepdance from time to time.

The family members are now thrilled that the subject of a play at Stephenville Theatre Festival this summer, “The Nobleman’s Wedding” stems from a song Carroll-French’s mom taught Pamela Morgan, when she was part of the band Figgy Duff.

Morgan’s musical play is based on a story she first heard during a visit to the Stephenville area in the 1970s.

Carroll-French said back in the 1970s, with their children all adults by that time, her mom and dad would go the Lorelei Lounge where their son, Phonse Carroll, was manager. Phonse would have a special table set aside for them while they listened to the band and would usually stay around afterwards and get into some singing themselves.

Carroll-French said one night after Figgy Duff performed, Morgan and other members of the band came out and joined her parents at the table. That was the night her mother taught Morgan “The Nobleman’s Wedding”  and was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between Morgan, Figgy Duff and Jack and Nell.

“Any time that Figgy Duff would come into town after that, they’d show up at mom and dad’s doorstep,” she said.

Carroll-French said she remembers her dad teaching them the “Ten Commandments,” more commonly known as “Come and I Will Sing You,” which he liked to sing and stepdance to. She said even her father couldn’t remember where it came from, but she believes it was an old song, since he was born in 1908 and passed away just four months short of his 100th birthday in 2008.

Her mom passed away on July 7, 1997, and Carroll-French is sure if both her parents were still around they’d be honoured by this play that Morgan has created.

“I can’t even explain the emotions since I learned about this taking place,” she said. “I get goose bumps just thinking about it. It makes our family members feel like stars.”  

Carroll-French, who lives in Bangor, Maine, will join her sisters —  Flo Smith, who lives in Toronto, and Bernie Polzin who lives in California — to go and see the play in Stephenville. Adrian, their brother in Toronto, will be home too and they have four other siblings that should also be attending.

She said many of her brothers are musical, including Billy, who passed away some years ago, John, Paul and Adrian — who were involved in bands over the years. Joan’s involvement in singing was with the local Glee Club growing up and as an adult.

“I cannot wait to see ‘The Nobleman’s Wedding’ and to see Pamela Morgan,” Carroll-French said. “There was nobody like Pam to my mom and dad. They both loved her.”

“The Nobleman’s Wedding” is headlining the season and opens the festival Friday evening.

The show is about lovers Thomas and Nancy. Nancy is a nobleman’s daughter and Thomas is a lowly sailor, so her father is opposed to the match. He wants Nancy to marry a squire as part of a mutually advantageous business deal and to keep his money in the right place.

The production is an entirely new draft that has not yet been produced, and Morgan will not only be on hand for opening night, but also acts as the season’s musical director.

In addition to “The Nobleman’s Wedding,” the festival also features a performance by the Benoit Family, a CD release party for musician Dave Panting and a one-night-only performance by Morgan.

“Music From Home,” a collection of Newfoundland music and storytelling, joins “The Country Show,” a returning favourite, to round out the Newfoundland and Labrador themed performances.

The Newfoundland theme carries through to the season’s theatrical productions, which include the family show “Jack Meets the Cat,” written by Sheila's Brush Theatre Troupe and adapted from the original folk tale by Pius Power. “Two Horse Tales” is a mother and son show by Ruth and Luke Lawrence.

This year’s “Nights With” series includes performances by Kevin and Donnie Dunphy and comedic puppeteer Tara Manuel.

“The Birthday Party,” a comedy about a birthday celebration gone awry, opens on July 29.

Organizations: Stephenville Theatre, Glee Club, Brush Theatre Troupe Birthday Party

Geographic location: California, Stephenville, Toronto Newfoundland and Labrador Bangor, Maine

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