Sharon, Lois & Bram

Sharon, Lois & Bram. Children's performers - the singer Sharon Hampson (b Toronto 31 Mar 1943), singer and pianist Lois Lilienstein (b Chicago, 10 Jul 1936; B MUS [Michigan] 1958), and singer and guitarist Bram Morrison (b Toronto 18 Dec 1940). All three singers performed individually for the Mariposa in the Schools program during the mid-1970s and the Mariposa Folk Festival. They teamed up in 1978 to record One Elephant, Deux Éléphants for their own Elephant label. The album eventually sold more than 400,000 copies in Canada and the US, and the elephant became a character (played in costume by Paula Gallivan, then Line Roberge) in their concerts and TV shows. Due to the popularity of their show and their albums, Sharon, Lois & Bram emerged during the 1980s as one of the most successful children's acts in North America.

The trio's repertoire has been eclectic from the outset, comprising folk songs, schoolyard chants, pop tunes, camp songs, singing games, rounds and nonsense rhymes, performed variously in jazz, calypso, rock 'n' roll, country and folk styles. The group's recordings and the participatory nature of its concerts are designed to allow children and their parents to share the experience of making music.

With the success of One Elephant, Deux Éléphants, Sharon, Lois & Bram travelled across Canada as part of the Greatest Little Touring Supershow for Young People in 1979 and made their US debut at the Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors Festival in New York in 1980. By the mid-1980s Sharon, Lois & Bram toured regularly and extensively throughout Canada and the US, appearing in major concert halls and at summer music festivals. They made their 'pops' debut with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in 1980 and subsequently performed with many symphony orchestras in Canada and the US. Initially they were accompanied in concert by the percussionist Bill Usher (producer of their early recordings). In 1982 they introduced the Mammoth Band, led until 1988 by Ray Parker and thereafter by Grant Slater, both keyboard players. Over the years, an extensive cast of Toronto folk and jazz musicians assisted the trio on their recordings.

After making several CBC and CTV specials and the 1982 film Sharon, Lois & Bram at Young People's Theatre, they developed, with Cambium Productions of Toronto, the TV series Sharon, Lois & Bram's Elephant Show. First broadcast by the CBC in 1984, it also has been seen in Canada on TV Ontario, Youth TV, educational networks in the US and other countries and the Nickelodeon cable channel starting in 1987. In 1993 the show was ranked second on the US TV Guide list of the top ten children's programs. Given the turnover in its young audience every few years, the 65-episode series continued to enjoy great success in syndication. Production ceased in 1988; however, several episodes from the series have been released on video.

Skinnamarink TV was created by Twist Productions in association with Craftsman & Scribes Creative Workshop, The Learning Channel, and CBC for Skinnamarink Entertainment. Each of the 26 episodes incorporated songs and educational comedy skits for their young viewers, and like the Elephant Show, the programs continue to be broadcast on The Learning Channel, and CBC.

Sharon, Lois & Bram won Juno awards for best children's album in 1980 (Smorgasbord), 1981 (Singing 'n' Swinging) and 1999 (Skinnamarink TV Singalong). All sold more than 100,000 copies in Canada, as did Mainly Mother Goose, In the Schoolyard, and Sharon, Lois & Bram's Elephant Show Record. By 1991 total international sales exceeded 2.5 million. The trio also has published the song and games books Elephant Jam (Toronto 1980, revised 1989), Sharon, Lois & Bram's Mother Goose (Vancouver 1985), and Sharon, Lois & Bram Sing A to Z (Vancouver 1991). Booklets of lyrics and music have been included with most of their albums. The trio's most-requested songs included 'Skinnamarink,' 'One Elephant,' 'Five Little Monkeys,' 'She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain,' 'Eensy Weensy Spider,' and 'Peanut Butter'.

Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison continue to tour and perform as Sharon, Bram and Friends. Lois Lilienstein stopped touring in 2000. In addition to their entertainment careers, Sharon, Lois and Bram have been Canadian ambassadors for UNICEF since 1988, and all became members of the Order of Canada in 2002.

Elephant Records, distributed by A & M, also has issued albums by Eric Nagler and the Travellers.

See Children's concerts.