Steamboat Springs Norman Foote got his musical start on a guitar from the Sears catalog. He got his sense of humor from the fate of his given name: Norman Mervyn Barrington-Foote. Born with a name like that, Foote said, he was forced to develop a sense of humor at an early age -- and by the time he turned 20, he was pursuing comic theater full time.
Eventually, the Canadian singer, songwriter, comedian and puppeteer brought his varied performance talents together in an act the Los Angeles Times calls "in a category of his own ... the new Foote path."
Foote performs today at Strings in the Mountains, accompanied by the Steamboat Youth Chorus, or as he likes to call the group of 25 local children, his "Animated Wall of Sound."
Foote uses giant stuffed puppets and humorous songs to create an interactive, highly participatory program for children and adults. The young singers in the chorus were organized by music teacher Christel Houston.
"Norman was just so wonderful to work with. We really are an animated wall of sound," Houston said. "They're all over the place and they are so enthusiastic and spontaneous as well."
Houston, who also leads the Columbine Chorale, pulled together a chorus of children from throughout the Yampa Valley specifically for this performance. It is an idea that grew out of listening to Foote's lively, entertaining music last winter and learning about his past participation in educational entertainment in Canadian schools, Strings in the Mountains Executive Director Betse Grassby said. Grassby said Foote was thrilled by the idea of this collaborative new show, but found "youth chorus" too daunting a name for his lighthearted act. That's when he renamed the youth chorus his more playful "Animated Wall of Sound."
"Within the medium of music, we're just going to play," Houston said.
Expect to see lots of surprises, and maybe even a spontaneous on-stage trick or two, she said.
The young singers have been rehearsing with Houston since receiving Foote's songbook and directions six weeks ago.
Known for lighthearted songs that incorporate such diverse musical styles as pop, zydeco, Celtic, Latin and lounge, Foote sings of such memorable childhood events as loose teeth, kindergarten graduation and the joys of a good "snuggle up."
An artful combination of skilled musicianship and animated storytelling has earned Foote such prestigious awards as the Parents Choice Award, the Society of Composers and Authors' 2001 top children's music writer and the West Coast Music Award for best children's recording.
Foote has been nominated three times for the Junos, Canada's version of the Grammies. He has written songs and music for the National Film Board, Shari Lewis and Walt Disney.
Foote performs during a sold-out youth concert at 11 a.m. and a family concert 6:30 p.m. today, for which tickets are available.
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