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Nancy White is the guest performer with the PEI Symphony Orchestra

by Anne Bergstrom

Nancy White

Nancy White first made a national name for herself writing and singing zany songs for CBC Radio’s program Sunday Morning, from the late seventies to the early nineties. As a journalist she had followed the news, but she found she preferred poking fun at current events to reporting them. Many of us tuned in to that show mostly to hear which of that week’s happenings her latest zinger would be about.

Locals, however, may also remember Nancy growing up in Charlottetown on North River Road, attending West Kent School and Queen Charlotte High School. She took piano lessons and sang in choirs, while her dad played the banjo and the clarinet. She listened to Broadway shows, Spike Jones, and maybe a bit of Tom Lehrer, all of which probably had a later influence. At Dalhousie she majored in English, then worked for The Guardian, writing the first review of the musical Anne of Green Gables.

Nancy says that “playing with a big band is a thrill.” In fact she has appeared with the PEI Symphony before, quite a few years ago, and is about to do it again, on Sunday, February 15 at 2:30 pm. James Mark wrote the arrangements then, and he is doing some more for this concert. She has selected songs from her most recent CD, Stickers on Fruit, as well as from Momnipotent: Songs for Weary Parents, and Homely for the Holidays, which is about PEI. She’ll also do a song from a show called Anne and Gilbert, a sequel to Anne which has never been produced. The song will be a lament by Marilla for a lost love.

Satirical numbers have been Nancy’s specialty, but without a regular venue for them she is no longer writing so many. In the last few years she has written a quite a few songs on commission, for example about World War One for CBC TV’s The History Project. I asked her if these were funny and she said no: they were about the Spanish flu epidemic.

She does a lot of touring, to folk festivals and comedy festivals, and has made appearances on other CBC Radio programs, as well as her own special on CBC TV’s Comics. Over the years Nancy has released a total of ten topical song collections.

About her life’s work Nancy comments, “What I do is hard for people to categorize. It’s journalism and theatre, comedy and music, satire and sometimes serious balladry—it doesn’t fit into any niche.”

The Symphony will also perform Tchaikovsky’s Overture to Romeo and Juliet, a medley of John Williams’ tunes from Star Wars (arranged by Burden), and selections from Carousel by Richard Rogers (arranged by Paul).

The Symphony’s annual Citrus Sale will offer fruit at intermission— without stickers.

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