Marge Wagner hits the high notes after a quarter-century of Parkview harmony

Column 136


“No, Diana, that doesn’t go in the dumpster! It’s going to one of the grandchildren!”

“I’m going to try to take this.”

“Let that go for the Goodwill box.”

As pragmatically as she has selected music and played the keyboard, Marge Wagner is dealing with the downsizing of a lifetime of possessions. She’s moving from her two-storey (plus full basement) historic home on Blake St to a single storey, no basement, much smaller home at Sandycove Acres. And, once she deals with all the possessions, she’ll be glad she’s made the move.

A series of breaks and sprains to various body parts has sidelined Marge to a walker for over a year. And, in a house without a main floor bedroom or bathroom, her day-to-day life has been difficult.

But her heart is full of music and that has carried her along.

When the Parkview Singers (between 70 and 80 excellent songsters aged 55+) give their annual Christmas concert at the City Hall Rotunda on Dec 6 at 2 pm, it will be the coming and going for their music director.

For a quarter-century, Marge has led this enthusiastic group and she’ll take them through a few of their favourite songs. Their new choir leader, Christine Boyd, will introduce herself and her new relationship with the Parkview Singers at the same concert.

Marge, a resident of Barrie since 1956, has music in her soul, and looks back on her years with the constant movement of the Canadian Armed Forces. With her husband’s every transfer, Marge was eagerly conscripted, too, as church organist. At age 85 she has a lot to look back on; much of it centres on the achievements of this very capable loyal group of songsters from Parkview Centre.

Marge well remembers the day in 1989 when she was asked to fill in as summer pianist for the small Parkview choir. She had just moved in to the house she’s now leaving, just 5 doors from Parkview. “I said, ‘yes’ of course I’d be their pianist, and met the 20 members who were like a glee club.” Using her background of 45 years of barbershop music, she introduced a ‘tag’, splitting the group into four parts and teaching them the system that creates four part harmony.

“I was playing around with this little group all summer and they couldn’t believe how wonderful they sounded. Before long I had 60, then 80 members all singing four part harmony.” She introduced Christmas concerts several years ago, and held them at Parkview Seniors Centre so people could come somewhere and sing Christmas carols. “That grew so fast that in three years we had to move it to the Rotunda and we’ve been there ever since,” she says.

“We’ve had a wonderful time together. We’ve competed at 14 Kiwanis Music Festivals and won gold medals at 11 of them. We’ve won everything we’ve entered outside of Kiwanis, too.”

She credits her remarkable choir with being willing to take on just about any challenge she throws at them. And she recognizes the huge commmitment of weekly practice as well as performance. She looks back on the big theme shows the Parkview Singers did at Central Collegiate Auditorium during her first five years at the helm.

And so, as she packs up her sheet music, she knows she’ll unpack it in a new seniors community in Innisfil. She’s excited to be able to live near her son, who is wheelchair-bound and eager to spend more time with her.

She expects to get involved in the Sandycove Acres music scene!

But for now, she’s ready to give one more show. You can participate this Saturday, December 6, 2 pm in the Rotunda at City Hall. A collection will be taken for Christmas Cheer. And accolades will be thrown to Marge.

Thanks, Marge!