Beloved Canadian folksinger Rita MacNeil passed away last week and was laid to rest yesterday in her hometown of Big Pond, Nova Scotia. She had no real connection to puppetry, but her music has been a staple in the act of The Famous PEOPLE Players (FPP) for many years.
As a tribute to Rita last week the company posted two of their performances of her song Flying On Your Own on YouTube:
I really enjoyed watching these videos, not only because there is (sadly) very little of FPP’s usually excellent work available online, but also because it brought back memories of when I was lucky enough to perform for Rita many years ago. In the late 1990s when Rita was at the height of her Canadian fame (she hosted a popular TV show called Rita and Friends as well as a long-running series of Christmas specials) I was working as a puppeteer at FPP when they honoured her with a special tribute performance. Although she was arguably one of the biggest stars on Canadian television, she was nothing but absolutely warm and gracious to everyone who was involved in the show.
My fondest memory of that evening came after the show when Rita made a point of coming up to each of the performers to hug us and thank us for our performance. As we were leaving the stage, one of the other puppeteers turned to me and said “That woman has a Godly hug”.
And she really did.
Rest in peace Rita.