Dreams come true for Murray fans

Christopher Gooding
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Springhill Songbird celebrates four decades of making music

Anne Murray checks a new exhibit at the Anne Murray Centre featuring a stage outfit from her most recent and final Canadian tour. The new exhibits were created by Skyline Atlantic Canada and were opened in conjunction with Sinday's Anne Murray Fan Fair 40th anniversary celebration. Susan Belliveau photo
SPRINGHILL - When Rhonda Mansfield was nine year-old growing up in Rhode Island she convinced the Warwick Musical Theatre to hire her as an usher. Little did they know, Mansfield wanted the job for only one reason: for a chance to see the newest Canadian singing sensation, Anne Murray, when she played the theatre that summer.
Now 49, Mansfield made the drive from Rhode Island to Springhill - and after major surgery to her ankle - to be front and centre at the Anne Murray Fan Fair to celebrate Anne Murray's 40 years in the entertainment industry and hear straight from her idol her views on the music industry, what life has been like in the lime light and her opinion of the music industry today. The allure of the Springhill songstress is as strong as ever, Mansfield says.

Anne Murray checks a new exhibit at the Anne Murray Centre featuring a stage outfit from her most recent and final Canadian tour. The new exhibits were created by Skyline Atlantic Canada and were opened in conjunction with Sinday's Anne Murray Fan Fair 40th anniversary celebration. Susan Belliveau photo
SPRINGHILL - When Rhonda Mansfield was nine year-old growing up in Rhode Island she convinced the Warwick Musical Theatre to hire her as an usher. Little did they know, Mansfield wanted the job for only one reason: for a chance to see the newest Canadian singing sensation, Anne Murray, when she played the theatre that summer.
Now 49, Mansfield made the drive from Rhode Island to Springhill - and after major surgery to her ankle - to be front and centre at the Anne Murray Fan Fair to celebrate Anne Murray's 40 years in the entertainment industry and hear straight from her idol her views on the music industry, what life has been like in the lime light and her opinion of the music industry today. The allure of the Springhill songstress is as strong as ever, Mansfield says.
"She's real. She's not a phony," an elated Mansfield said after talking with Anne and getting the songstress' autograph. "That's what I love about her."
During a candid interview with author and Globe and Mail arts feature writer Michael Posner before a live audience, Anne said it was a struggle to keep things real in the surreal world of the entertainment industry. Hard work and determination, though, let her have her cake and eat it too.
"It was very different for women at that time. It's better now. My manager was a man, everyone around me in the industry was a man and they told me don't have children...but I wanted them."
Becoming a working mother on the road was difficult for everyone, Anne admitted, but constant touring and the rigors of motherhood helped her avoid what Posner called the pitfall of the music industry: sex, drugs and rock and roll.
"I was too busy," Anne mused. "I had a family and a career to juggle."
Life in the industry has changed dramatically, Anne says, and the music business her daughter, Dawn, is experiencing is worlds removed from the template Anne's own career became the model for Canadian entertainers. Nonetheless, she worries about her daughter facing the same trails and tribulations she had to face.
"You have to encourage your children but it would be so much easier if she had no talent. But she's an extraordinary talent and you can't discourage that."
Like her mother, Dawn has relative pitch, giving mother and daughter the uncanny ability to sing on key and dead-on. It's something, Anne says, the industry rewards less and less. The modern era of digital recording, correcting mistakes and even the ability to correct a singers pitch live on stage if they are not lip-syncing their performances are things Anne would never had considered accepted practices by the entertainment industry.
"Now that's cheating. I don't care what you call it."
But it's undeniable Anne has made her mark on the modern industry. With 35 albums under her belt, a world of adoring fans she is already getting pressure to follow up on the industry encouraged album Duets, which saw Anne come out of semi-retirement after announcing she wouldn't do another album following 2004's I'll Be Seeing You.
And soon she'll give advice to celeb-hopefuls on Canadian Idol as a special guest and instructor with this season's contestants later this month. While she might have mixed views on the prefabricated packaging the Idol series generates, it's a task Anne has devoted herself to.
"I have been thinking of nothing but," Anne said. "When somebody lays a job on me I think about it all the time."
Anne had turned down the Canadian Idol invitation three years in a row but industry pressure finally convinced her to take on the challenge.
Fortunately for the contestants, she says, she will not be judging.
"I'm so glad they haven't asked me to judge. I'd be so honest. They'd be gone in a heartbeat."

Organizations: Anne Murray Centre, Skyline Atlantic Canada, Warwick Musical Theatre Globe and Mail

Geographic location: Rhode Island

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