Christmas has long been a special time of year for the Ennis Sisters, and one they’ve always celebrated with music, from the time they were little girls.
Memories of being at the cabin, sliding and skating on the pond, the smell of turkey dinner and new Christmas pyjamas are all peppered with the sounds of singing for the three women.
“My favourite memory of Christmas that stands out above all else, is that Christmas Eve that we sang,” said Maureen, Karen and Teresa nodding. Nearly 20 years ago, the sisters sang together in public for the first time at Sacred Heart Church in Cape Broyle, their mom’s hometown.
“Nobody even knew we could sing. My father thought it would be cool if the three girls got up and sang, and there was no music even, really, in the church at that time. We got up and did a half an hour before Mass and four hymns during the service. By the end of it, the reaction to our singing and the harmonies and the work we had put into it … it was just a special moment of recognition of what we do and the possibility that we could continue on in that moment.”
The holidays became even more special for the sisters after that. In 1998 they taped a holiday special for CBC-TV, and a year later they released their first Christmas CD, “Christmas on Ennis Road.”
They’ve just released their second: “It’s Christmas,” and will leave next week on a tour of community churches across the island, giving themselves just one day off between this weekend and Dec. 22.
The ladies released six CDs together — and won a JUNO award — as the Ennis Sisters, and, when Teresa left the group after 2007’s “Be Here for a While” to focus on her solo music career and PR work, Karen and Maureen continued on as simply Ennis, releasing “Lesson Learned” in 2009 and “The Fortunate Ones” this summer. The three sisters reunited for the new CD and tour.
“About five years ago we decided to take a break from the Ennis sisters and focus on our individual projects, and the last few years we’ve been doing a Christmas show across the province. We decided, through that, to make a CD,” Teresa explained. “I still record music and still write songs and stuff like that, but I’m really excited to be back performing on stage with my sisters.
“It was amazing to go back in the studio and hear the voices together again, and to go back out on the road together. This project right now is our main focus. Who knows what might happen down the road?” Teresa added, when asked if she might rejoin her sisters for other recordings.
“It’s Christmas” is a collection of traditional songs as well as five original tunes written by Maureen and her partner, Mark Murphy.
The traditional pieces are unique arrangements of songs that haven’t been “done to death” by other artists, Maureen said, as well as songs that hold meaning for the sisters, including Dermot O’Reilly’s “A Children’s Winter” — a song the ladies said made them quite emotional, reminding them of when they were children.
Maureen, who produced the album, and Murphy have been working on the record since the summer.
“Even though I’ve been doing this since July in the hottest summer on record, it still brings out that inner child in me and that inner excitement and I’m hoping that that translates through this music,” she said. “I’m hoping that this project will make you feel sad, it’ll make you feel happy, it’ll make you feel excited.”
For the Ennis Sisters, the writing and recording was all part of the process leading up to the fun stuff: getting out on the road and touring. Being up on stage, getting a reaction from and interacting with the crowd is the best part for them, and they want to make their shows as interactive as possible.
“Our shows, they’re a lot of fun. There are jokes, dancing, recitations, music. The feeling that everyone’s coming together in the community to celebrate and just have some fun,” Karen said.
The sisters will perform in Stephenville on Sunday, and will cover all areas of the island, ending up in Ferryland Dec. 22. A portion of the revenue from each of their shows will stay in the community, to be donated wherever the need is the greatest. The ladies also like to hand out gift bags to contest winners, including their CDs, recipes and other personal surprises.
Maureen is hoping people will be able to leave the stress and pressures of the holiday season behind for the couple of hours they spend at the show.
“We’ve worked really hard on the show to make sure that for that time, every element of Christmas is brought out, from the emotional part, music, stories, and especially Newfoundland.”
More information on locations and tickets for the Ennis Sisters’ “It’s Christmas” tour is available online at www.ennismusic.com, and in today’s Etcetera listings. The “It’s Christmas” CD is available at Fred’s Records, O’Brien’s Music, Costco and online.
To see a video of the Ennis Sisters performing their new song “My First Christmas” in The Telegram studio, visit http://bit.ly/TtyVzW.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @tara_bradbury