By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Spending fifteen minutes with Lee and Sandy Paley before their afternoon performance, one is left with the certainty that the couple, best-known for their long-running children’s program Ballooner Landing, truly love performing for children.
The Calgary couple, who have been writing and performing children’s songs for a quarter century, gave two area performances July 14, one in Gibbons and one in Morinville, both concerts part of a 75-library tour the couple is doing this summer. More than half of those library dates are at Northern Lights Library System locations, libraries that are taking part in the TD Summer Reading Program’s Destination Jungle theme. To that end, the Paleys wrote several jungle-themed songs for the tour.
But writing a special song for a special occasion was nothing too taxing for a couple that has written and recorded more than 200 songs over the past 25 years. Sandy Paley said she and her husband recorded their first album in 1982 and have been writing and recording ever since.
With such an extensive recording and performing history, it is not uncommon for the couple to see parents enjoying the music along with their children.
“Often we have three generations there because the mom who brought the child, and the child who is now grown who’s bringing their child,” Sandy said, adding it is enjoyable to sometimes see three generations in an audience.
But the Paleys have only begun touring again this year after a 10-year hiatus that began when their television show wrapped up. Sandy said that during the program’s television run they expanded from two albums to ten and decided to take a bit of a break to spend some time with their six grandchildren. Now that the grandchildren are older (the youngest two are 12 and 13) the Paleys decided to pick up the guitar and microphone and take to the road.
“It’s been fun,” Sandy said. “We just decided we still have energy, we still have our health, thank God for that. So we want to sing for kids for a while.”
The singer said she and her husband prefer smaller concerts like the two local libraries, venues where they can make eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart contact with their audience.
“After we did the [television] show we could have put a big show together and toured, but we really like the intimate concerts,” she said. But no matter where or when they’ve performed, one two things haven’t changed; the couple’s philosophy of making the audience part of the show and the desire of children to be children.
“Kids are still kids inside,” Lee said, adding that he had thought that after ten years perhaps a more technology-savvy audience might not be as receptive to their show, particularly older children. “They have the utmost respect for us – Grade 6, Grade 7. They join in and they’re very polite. They recognize it’s for kids and they become kids again. None of that’s changed.”
But just as their audiences have remained the same, so too has the Paleys’ desire to teach children the values of friendship and caring about others through song. But whatever the venue, the emphasis is always on having fun.
“When you give them the opportunity, they still like to jump up and down,” Sandy said, adding that their signature song One Green Jellybean tends to get the audience moving.
The Paleys’ library tour continues until the end of August, after which time the couple will head to the east coast to begin a tour that will run until December and take them to a number of schools and libraries between Halifax and home.