Sunday 29 March 2020

January 1990: Bye Bye Blues Gala Premiere

In January of 1990, Mom and I attended what was probably the world gala premiere of the wonderful made-in-Alberta film Bye Bye Blues,written and directed by Edmonton-born Anne Wheeler and starring Innisfail-born Rebecca Jenkins. The fact that the premiere was held at Edmonton's iconic Princess Theatre, on the city's historic (and still-thriving) Whyte Avenue made it all the more special.

Mom and I bundled up in coats, scarves, touqes and boots that bitterly cold January night. Even as late as 1990, winter was winter in Edmonton. We took a cab to the Princess from our apartment in the Bonnie Doon area. It took us a while to get there. Because when it gets bitterly cold and snowy in Edmonton, the roads do tend to be a trial.

When we got there, the atmosphere was unlike anything we had ever seen.


News crews.

Speeches from Wheeler and Jenkins.

All this hoopla for a movie made in Edmonton and Alberta?

It was my first notion that a very vibrant arts scene existed in our city and province.

And the movie, based on the experiences of Wheeler's mother, features Jenkins as Daisy Cooper, a '40s wife and mother raising her son and following her dream by becoming a singer in a dance band while her husband Teddy (Michael Ontkean) is away at war, thereby providing an income for her and her son. The band is run by travelling American musician Max Gramley (Luke Reilly). Naturally, complications ensue.

As well as the movie is written by Wheeler and scored by the late, great Alberta musician George Blondheim, for me it was a perfect opportunity to quiz Mom about stories she may have heard from that era as she was growing up. She told me about my great-uncle Adrien, who proudly served in WWII. And it was wonderful for us to be able to bring my grandmother and Mom's mom Lucille to the Princess a few months later when Bye Bye Blues played again. She confirmed to us that the spirit of togetherness and pulling together in tough times was accurate, though she was uncomfortable with what she considered one or two of the movie's "racier" elements.

But I certainly enjoyed the time we all spent together listening to and swapping stories, and being able to be brought back to a time, via the silver screen, to a time when people pulled together and sacrificed because it was the right thing to do.

Does that sound familiar in these times?

Some months later I was able to attend Bye Bye Blues: The Concert, which featured Ms. Jenkins, Mr. Blondheim and several renowned and outstanding Alberta musicians playing and singing songs from the film, as well as a few standards with our world-renowned Edmonton Symphony Orchestra  It was the first time I heard '40s-era torchy songs live, and will forever remember Mr. Blondheim's heartfelt quip from the stage that he was grateful to be up there, after he first saw the ESO with Procol Harum from the balcony back in 1971.

This one's for you Mom.

I love you.



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