Continuing a decades-old treasured Christmas tradition, Maureen, Karen and Teresa Ennis take their highly-acclaimed sister harmonies on the road
Karen Ennis has no trouble speaking for her sisters when she says they are all “really excited” about this year’s Ennis Sisters Christmas family show. “It’s just around the corner, and that just adds so much excitement to the Christmas season for all three of us,” she opens.
Heart of the season
The award-winning trio embrace everything there is to love about Christmas, from Santa Claus himself to enthusiastic extended family sit-downs, however, for these sisters, music is always at the heart of season.
“As we prepare to hit the road for our tenth year, it really feels like that Christmas feeling for us, that excitement you get when you know Santa is gonna come. That’s the feeling we get as we start out to do these show. Knowing that we get to go out and play these beautiful venues around the country and that we get to see all the wonderful people that we get to see each year kicks Christmas off for us in a very special way,” she shares sincerely.
Maureen, Karen and Teresa have been delighting audiences with their songwriting and tightly-woven harmonies for years. When you add in a little step-dancing and the sister’s own style of tease-your-sibling humour, audiences are guaranteed to have an evening that will leave them over-flowing in Christmas spirit.
“It’s incredible to think that it’s been ten years, and amazing to see how this show has grown over the years,” she says.
At first, shows were in small venues across the island, but that quickly expanded into an almost country-wide tour held in larger and larger locales.
Still, the Newfoundland shows are near and dear to their hearts, and it’s where the shows conclude.
“We finish up in Newfoundland, making our way back to St. John’s for the final shows December 21st and 22nd.”
The sisters, who have released three Christmas albums over the years, never run out of material to share with enthusiastic crowds.
“We always try to make sure the show is different, performing new songs and new recitations, plus there’s stories we’ve never shared, new dances we haven’t done before. We we always try to keep it fresh for people while trying to keep in the songs that people really want to hear, so no one is disappointed.”
Maureen has written about ten original Christmas songs – one for every decade they’ve been hitting the road each December.
“I guess that separates our show from other Christmas shows, the original material. These are songs that are unique to us, and this year, Maureen has written a couple of new Christmas songs, which we will have in the show as well.”
Does she have a favourite? Oh yes!
“My favourite will always be Christmas on Ennis Road. That was written about a very special place for us, about our cabin in Cape Broyle. It just kind of reminds us of all the good times we had as children growing up at Christmas.”
It’s where their fondest memories are.
”In the song it says the door is always open. And it was. People were coming and going and there just seemed to be that special magic in the air that you feel at Christmas when people are coming and everyone is in a good mood and there’s just a different feeling. And so that’s why I love that song.”
John Ennis, their dad, passed in March 2018. So many memories, so much to be grateful for.
“Last year was a hard year for us because that was our first without Dad but Mom was determined to see that traditions remained and she cooked the big jigs dinner. And we invited over Dad’s sister and her family. The tradition for Christmas Day and Christmas Eve was mass together, and so that’s pretty much what we do. We spend time visiting other relatives and other friends and then we try to go to the cabin. We used to go up there from Boxing Day right until we’d go back to school. We don’t do that anymore, but now we will go up and look around, maybe spend the day or something up there, which is important, especially now since Dad has passed.”
There’s someone else the sisters think about with fondness each and every Christmas, and that’s the late great Ron Hynes, who passed November 19, 2015. Karen remembers hearing he had died.
“We had just started our Christmas tour early that year. We started November 16th. And so we had landed in Sudbury, Ontario, and as soon as we landed, we started getting the texts and the phone calls about Ron. And I remember Billy Sutton was with us. And, of course, Billy Sutton played in Ron’s band and was very close to Ron and we just all had this moment of; this can’t be, you know? You’re just kind of in shock and that night we sang I’ll Be There Christmas Eve. And it was the most powerful time we ever sang that song. It was a beautiful moment.”
The sisters met Ron back in 1999 as they were preparing for their first Christmas special. Their father had heard Ron Hynes sing his original version of I’ll Be There Christmas Eve on the radio.
“He loved it. He loved the melody, he loved the sentiment in it. But of course, Ron’s version is about sailors and drinking and Dad thought that might be a little inappropriate for his three young girls. So he called Ron up and he asked if he would change the lyrics.”
Thinking back on that now makes her chuckle.
‘Very special gift’
“Think about somebody asking a songwriter like Ron Hynes to change their lyrics. I don’t know where Dad got the nerve to do it, but Ron Hynes agreed to it and he came over to our house and he sat in the living room with all of us and we just kind of talked a little bit about maybe where the song could go or how we saw it going. And within a couple of hours he had rewritten this entire song just for us. So we feel like we have this very special gift that Ron left us and we get to sing it every single year at Christmas. And we feel so blessed about that.”
Something else they feel blessed about is how many have embraced their music over the years.
The sisters put a call out for a community choir made up of singers between the ages of nine and 17 to mark their tenth anniversary. The response was overwhelming.
A part of Christmas
“We were told how these kids all know our songs and how our songs have become a part of their Christmas. It was really emotional. It just filled our hearts. Our hearts were bursting, honestly. To know that our music marks the holidays for other families and that these kids have sort of grown up to our music is very special.”
Karen hopes to be able to continue the Ennis family tradition, taking their music around the country, especially around the province, each and every Christmas for many more decades.
“It’s quite overwhelming to think we are touching so many lives in a positive, uplifting way. And you know, I guess in a way it’s why you do what you do. You’re trying to create music that means something to people and that registers and resonates with people. And so we feel really, really good about that.”
For more information on the Ennis Sisters, visit: theennissisters.com