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The Soda Shoppe Gang raises its voice to raise money for good causes

by Angela Walker

Members of Halifax's Soda Shoppe Gang including PEI native Heather Arsenault (front left) and her daughter Nicole (front centre)

Some of Heather Arsenault's fondest memories revolve around trips to the family cottage with her dad, Loman MacAulay. As a broadcaster with CFCY radio for 46 years, he knew and loved all the old songs. It's a love he shared with his family. "We'd just sit in the car and sing the whole way to the cottage," Arsenault recalls. "When the kids came along, they just joined in and learned the parts and the songs."

That love of music is very much a part of Arsenault's life today. Arsenault, and her daughter Nicole, are both members of the popular Soda Shoppe Gang in Halifax. It's an incredibly talented group of musicians who sing and play songs from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Arsenault was one of the founding members. The group began when a few friends from church got together to sing some of the old classic rock and roll songs. It grew to include many accomplished musicians.

For example, the horn player used to be the director of the Stadacona band. However, he wasn't one of the original recruits. Heather notes he came to the group after their first year, wondering why they hadn't asked him. "We told him we thought he would be way out of our league," she said. "However, he said he would love to be part of the group."

All Soda Shoppe Gang performances raise money for charities. In Halifax, they do an annual show for Dalhousie Medical Research. Here on PEI, their shows raise money for projects of the Lady Holland Chapter of the IODE and the Schizophrenia Society of P.E.I. The IODE has used the money to refurbish the Upper Room Soup Kitchen and a bedroom at Anderson House. The Schizophrenia Society has used its funds to place literature on Schizophrenia in Island schools.

Heather says picking out the music for the shows is an interesting process. "Every singer is supposed to bring four songs that they want to do, and then we work that out and see how the harmonies are going to work," she explained. "For this show we decided to do a name segment…like Oh Donna and Corina-Corina and some songs like that, that were name songs from that era."

The Soda Shoppe gang will be back at the Confederation Centre of the Arts on April 5 with a brand new show called "Rockin at the Hop." And Arsenault says there are few things she enjoys as much as returning to the Island to play at the Confederation Centre. "Oh, My gosh yes. It's such a big high," she says. "I kept telling everybody here, if we could just get to the Island you would love it there-- our first show we did there, they absolutely loved it. They said that was their favorite show and their favorite audience was on the Island because they're just so into it and so responsive."

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