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Whistler kids add excitement to Foote show

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Entertainer helping out primary music programs to offset cutbacks in schools

WHO: Norman Foote

WHERE: Chateau Whistler

WHEN: April 5, 7 p.m.

Excitement is building among a large group of young people in Whistler. They are singing their hearts out, getting ready to join internationally acclaimed entertainer Norman Foote on stage at the Macdonald Ballroom at the Chateau Whistler on April 5.

Foote is known for his clever songs, catchy melodies and offbeat props. He returns to the mountain community with his latest show, Large, Live and Interactive, a fund-raiser for the music program at Myrtle Philip Elementary. The children, under the direction of Whistler music teacher Sadie Culliford, will be well rehearsed. But neither the young singers nor the audience can be fully prepared for some of the impromptu shenanigans Foote promises to throw their way.

"I call the show Live, Large and Interactive because for sure it’s live music and comedy, it has a very large group of highly motivated kids, and it is extremely interactive," said Foote, who always tailors his shows for adults as well as kids.

"Whether your child is in the show or not is irrelevant," said Foote. It is still my show. The kids are an animated wall of enthusiastic young faces. They are not just a choir or chorus, they are integrated into the show, but there’s always an element of surprise. I like to improvise and do stuff they haven’t seen in rehearsal."

At his annual show in the same venue last year, Foote drew 700 people to the ballroom, which holds 1,000. This year he hopes to pack the room, and raise even more money for the music program.

"To get that many people out to one of my shows on a week night in Whistler shows tremendous support from the community," he said. "I joined up with the primary music programs because there have been so many cutbacks to music and arts in schools I want to help raise money for the programs, whether it is for instruments, trips, whatever."

Foote says these shows are always successful and a "win-win situation for all."

As an added bonus, the young Whistler singers will have a chance to perform again with Foote at the Vancouver Children’s Festival on May 29 and June 3 in the big music tent. They will be joined by similar young singers from Maple Ridge, Surrey and other Lower Mainland communities where Foote is helping the music programs through his shows.

Born in North Vancouver some 46 years ago, Foote lived in Whonnock and Squamish before returning to the North Shore several years ago with his wife Monique, son James and daughter Maria. He performs frequently at Thor Froslev’s Brackendale Art Gallery.

"Like most musicians, I wanted to be a genuine contemporary artist, but children’s music attracted me. All the material I naturally wrote seemed to be for kids and families," said Foote.

Even though he wanted to spend his life as a musician, Foote became a puppeteer to make his living, creating a zany cast of characters for Expo 86. While he is now better known by kids and adults alike for his wacky songs and off-beat humour, Foote’s puppets are never far away, and are incorporated into many shows.

As soon as he recorded his first CD for children, his whole life changed.

Footprints was reviewed by the Los Angeles Times , which said: "Foote notes are a mixture of genuine feeling and sophisticated wackiness."

He did some work for the Disney Corporation, and when that was over the highly successful CDs Shake A Leg and If The Shoe Fits followed, along with other projects including the Scoop and Doozie national CBC television show. His most recent CD, Step To It , was nominated this year for a Juno award. But while the awards show was broadcast on national TV, Foote wasa performing in Saskatoon that night.

And while he is also preparing for shows in Austin, Texas, at a youth cultural festival in Jackson, Mississippi in April, and recently performed an extremely successful show with the Vancouver Symphony, Foote says all his shows are equally important.

"The little shows are just as important as the big shows. I always try to entertain the adults as well as the kids in a show. If you see Bill Cosby, he is funny for the kids but he’s also funny for the adults, because we always remember being kids. That’s always been my philosophy… there is appeal for all ages."

Tickets for the Norman Foote concert are available through Myrtle Philip Elementary at 932-5321, or at Armchair Books.

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