Preserved Stories Blog


Stay Awhile – April 24, 2015 Toronto premiere of documentary about The Bells

Update

The documentary film Stay Awhile is now available on Netflix.

[End of update]

 

Jacki Ralph and Bob Carswell, April 24, 2015. Jaan Pill photo

Jacki Ralph-Jamieson and Bob Carswell, April 24, 2015 after the screening of the documentary, and after a Reunion Performance by The Bells. I make a point of not using a direct flash when taking such a picture, in such a circumstance, unless I have a flash unit that can reflect light off the ceiling. Instead, I’ve depended in this case upon available light for the photo that you see. Jaan Pill photo

As I was driving over to pick up Bob Carswell in New Toronto, I saw a 1960s-era Ford, of which I see quite a few along the streets of Long Branch (Toronto not New Jersey) where I live. Jaan Pill photo

As I was driving over to pick up Bob Carswell in New Toronto, I saw a 1960s-era Ford, of which I see quite a few along the streets of Long Branch (Toronto not New Jersey) where I live. Jaan Pill photo

Image from online Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (see link at this page).

Image from online Bloor Hot Docs Cinema Profile of The Bells documentary (see link at this page). Left to right: Ann Edwards, Cliff Edwards, Jacki Ralph.

The Bells performed three songs at the conclusion of the April 24, 2015 Toronto premiere of the documentary. Jaan Pill photo

The Bells performed three songs – (1) Manitoba Morning, (2) Fly Little White Dove Fly, and (3) Stay Awhile – at the conclusion of the April 24, 2015 Toronto premiere of the documentary. Jaan Pill photo

With thanks to arrangements that Bob Carswell made some time back, I recently had the opportunity – and the eminently good fortune – to see the Stay Awhile documentary about The Bells.

Click here to see the Hot Docs Profile – including the Hot Docs Trailer 2015 – of the doc >

Jessica Edwards, daughter of Ann Edwards and Cliff Edwards, directed the film

I’ve described the back story for the documentary at an earlier post:

Stay Awhile: daughter makes doc about family band the Bells – Toronto Star, Nov. 26, 2014

The film was made by Jessica Edwards, the daughter of Ann Edwards and Cliff Edwards and the niece of Jacki Ralph-Jamieson, Ann’s sister.

The opening paragraphs of a Nov. 26, 2014 Toronto Star article, discussed in a post referred to above, read:

“The documentary Stay Awhile covers familiar pop band mythology in its story of the rise of early 1970s Canadian supergroup [T]he Bells: the unexpected rush to fame, pressures, jealousy and breakups — both professional and personal.

“Except Stay Awhile, which has its world premiere at the Whistler Film Festival Dec. 6, is also the story of Toronto filmmaker Jessica Edwards’ childhood.

“Her father, Cliff Edwards, mom Ann Edwards and aunt Jacki Ralph-Jamieson, Ann’s sister, all of whom take part in the documentary, were the group’s three lead singers.

“It’s a nostalgic look at a simpler time in pop music, told through the story of the soft-rock band whose most famous hit, the bedroom ballad ‘Stay Awhile,’ featured a tremulous Jacki Ralph half-whispering, ‘how he makes me quiver . . .'”

[End of excerpt]

To say it was a “simpler time” strikes me as a statement subject to debate. I’m not aware of evidence that would back up such a generalization. If evidence for such a statement, and a suitable conceptual framework for examination of the evidence, exists, I would like to see it.

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema at 506 Bloor Street West in Toronto was packed for the event. There were lots of family members of The Bells – including children and grandchildren – in attendance along with many friends. The venue is, according to an online description, a restored 1913 movie theatre that screens documentaries and independent film festival fare.

Doc available on iTunes

I thought it was a great documentary. Bob Carswell felt the same.

The length – 71 minutes – is apt. The structure and content give a person a sense of lives that have been lived, and that continue in the present moment, and choices that have been made. The film serves as a starting point for reflection.

I spoke to Jacki Ralph-Jamieson for the first time ever, after the screening. I knew who she was, at Malcolm Campbell High School, and recall that she was an active and enthusiastic member of the student body, but had never before spoken with her. She’s a warm person. The warmth is what I sensed at once. It was a delight to meet her. I’m pleased that Bob Carswell introduced me to her.

The doc will be available for downloading from iTunes. We are planning to have it playing on a screen all through the evening at the MCHS ’60s Reunion and Celebration of the ’60s on October 17, 2015 at Old Mill Toronto. I strongly recommend that you download the doc from iTunes so you can see it yourself. I strongly recommend that you attend a screening at a Cineplex theatre, when it’s available there. Seeing the film in a theatre is a particularly enjoyable experience, especially when you are sharing the experience in a comfortable and enjoyable space, such as at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema on the north side of Bloor east of Bathurst.

Seeing the doc was very different from reading an account of it in the Toronto Star, or reading an online review of the film. Being in the same theatre, in the presence of all of the subjects of the doc (except for the manager, who passed away recently and who comes across in the film as a warm, astute, and thoughtful person) was quite an experience – poignant and exhilarating.

Jacki Ralph (MCHS ’62). The photo is from the 1961-62 MCHS yearbook.

What comes across to me most strongly is the story of the passage of the years. They go quickly. Each person will have their own response – to the passage of the years, and to this particular account of the personal lives of each of The Bells, and of The Bells as a unity.

Many ways of seeing

What I especially remember is the thought that a story has many ways of being told, and the story has many ways of being seen, depending on which person is doing the telling and the seeing.

What stays in mind as well is that choices have consequences, which reveal themselves years later.

Fly Little White Dove Fly

We owe thanks to Gina (Davis) Cayer, a member of the MCHS ’60s Reunion Event Committee, for sharing with us the following YouTube link:

Fly Little White Dove Fly

Click here to access the lyrics to the song >

Fifty years ago this month, the elements of what became The Bells came together

During the Reunion Performance, by The Bells, on the occasion of the Toronto premiere of Stay Awhile, the group sang once more, sang three of their songs of note, and also shared their thoughts about many topics, with part of the sharing taking place through a Q & A with the audience.

I was struck by the comment, by a band member, that it was fifty years ago this month that the group that became known as The Bells first came together, by way of initial rehearsals, and the initial assembly of the members that made up the group. I thought that was significant – in May 1965, the constituent elements of the group came together. History was in the making then, as it is today, as it is on each day of our lives.

The story of how The Bells were launched, highlighted at the beginning of the film, was of much interest for me. The launching of a successful career or project is a source of inspiration and joy for many people – including the key players and every person who has a relationship to the career, or to the project.

As I work on this post, on the day after the April 24, 2015 screening, a thought that emerges concerns the structure of the film. The story is told in chronological order. That’s not always an easy way to structure a documentary, by way of maintaining the interest of the audience, yet in this case it works beautifully. The narrative moves forward at a quick and steady pace. It strongly held my interest, and strongly held the interest of other people in the theatre. The length of 71 minutes is a perfect length for the content at hand.

Being there, and seeing the film, is so much different from the prior reading of the texts, the texts that I had read related to the story

A second thought is more challenging to formulate, but equally of relevance. The experience of seeing the film differs vastly from my prior experience of the story.

My prior experience of the story was primarily through the reading of texts.

The texts include a Toronto Star article referred to earlier, a few online reviews and details, of which there have been many, that Bob Carswell has shared with me through email messages, including updates from his recent email conversations with Jacki Ralph-Jamieson.

Actually being at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, and being immersed in the the energy and enthusiasm of the audience, and then seeing the film, brought to life for me the story in a way that I cannot imagine being brought to life in any other way. What I sense is that the narrative that is shared in the documentary is a new one, a new one to a great extent for all of the subjects of the film. It features a revealing of personal experiences, on the part of the members of The Bells, that otherwise would likely not have come to light.

The material was handled with care and respect, by the director. The material has been packaged well. It’s a well-structured, well-edited film. As well, what resonates for me is the sense that the film is not the final word, nor does it claim to be. Instead, it serves to widen one’s perspective.

I’m strongly aware that a film is like the proverbial finger pointing at the moon. The finger that points at the moon is not the moon, yet there is purpose in looking at the moon. The film about The Bells is not The Bells, and yet there is purpose in turning one’s eye, including the eye of one’s imagination, toward The Bells, and their music, and all else that matters in the world.

I also note – and I think this is a big plus – that Jessica Edwards, as she underlines in an interview at the Cineplex website, is very much aware of the malleability of memory.

Kaisa Pitsi edited the film

This is a well-edited film. Clearly, Kaisa Pitsi played a key role in making the film work so well – great pacing, always interesting, and the narrative moves along steadily and clearly.

Recorded on the first take

I was impressed to learn, from a comment by a member of The Bells, during the discussion after the screening, that Stay Awhile was recorded in one take.

What also stays in mind with me is the concept that music has a quality of magic to it. That’s a point that Ann Edwards articulates, eloquently and with strong emotion, in the film.

As well, the concept that the performer while performing wears a mask, stays in mind, from my viewing of Stay Awhile. Jacki Ralph-Jamieson speaks of this concept in the documentary. It’s a thought that brings to mind a comment from Elvis Presley who is quoted as remarking: “The image is one thing and the human being is another.”

I am delighted that I saw the documentary. I’m delighted as well that I have met Jacki Ralph-Jamieson. I owe thanks to Bob Carswell for making the introduction. See the doc, if you can.

MCHS 2015 website at www.mchs2015.com

By way of an additional update, I am currently focusing on adding content to, and re-arranging content, at the MCHS 2015 website.

Click here to access the current version of the site >

I’m using the content of our April 1, 2015 reunion organizing committee meeting, held in Kitchener, Ontario, to structure key parts of the content. This is the first time that I have worked on the content for the static pages of a website. The Preserved Stories website has had minimal focus on static pages; instead it serves (and serves well) as a platform for blog posts.

When the arranging and re-arranging of the content is completed, we will officially launch the site. In the meantime, we are very pleased that MCHS alumni continue to contact us, through the existing Preserved Stories site. The most recent person to contact us through the website is Harvey Silverstone (MCHS 64); I have sent an email to Diane Redden and Howard Hight, who will in turn contact Harvey with details about the reunion.

We trust that the new website, which we have put together over the past few months in response to requests from MCHS alumni for a convenient place to find registration and other details, will attract additional alumni who have not yet heard about the reunion.

The reunion has all of the elements of a great conversation and will, I believe, be an experience that has echoes of what I experienced, with thanks to the work of Bob Carswell, when I saw Stay Awhile and had a conversation with a fellow MCHS student of over fifty years back, namely Jacki Ralph-Jamieson, for the first time.

There is tremendous value in the conversations that are at the heart of high school reunions. That most definitely includes speaking with fellow students that we may not actually have spoken with, during our years at Malcolm Campbell High School. We have so much to learn from each other’s experiences, no matter what our graduation year may have been – or even if we attended in the 1960s and then went on to some other school.

 

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