Twilight Serenaders entertain at Thresher Reunion for over 15 years
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
The Twilight Serenaders have been a staple of the annual reunion of the Huron Pioneer Thresher and Hobby Association for over 15 years and this dedicated group of volunteer musicians has become a must-see attraction for many who attend year after year.
The group has welcomed new members over the years, while others have moved on, but the Serenaders are always present for the reunion, performing as the evening turns into night for those in the tent over the weekend.
The members come from far and wide, but they congregate to bring classic music to the masses every September in Blyth.
Jim Flanagan plays alto saxophone in the group and has been a member for over five years.
The London man has two daughters and five grandchildren and says it’s been a true honour to be part of the group, playing his Selmer saxophone.
Emily Goodchild, a Clinton native, has been playing with the Serenaders since 2016, though her first performance at the reunion was in 2013.
Goodchild plays the piano. She began playing when she was young, performing with her father, uncle and Gladys Van Egmond, a long-time member of the Threshers.
When she was 15, Goodchild began playing with Mary Elliott and her group. A year later, she began playing in a group with Elgin Fisher from Goderich, Jim Pierce from Blyth and Lorne Baird of Brucefield.
Goodchild now performs often in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, giving back to the community she says gave so much to her.
Susan Van Egmond is also a part of the Serenaders and her musical journey began when she was only five years old.
The daughter of Jack and Gladys Van Egmond, music was always destined to be in Susan’s blood.
She wanted to play the saxophone in high school, but was bumped out due to so many other students wanting to play it. She settled on the tuba, but would eventually adopt her father’s saxophone and learn how to play it.
After high school, Van Egmond performed as part of the Goderich Laketown Band and the Bayfield Winds. She received a tenor saxophone for Christmas in her Grade 9 year and she still plays that instrument to this day.
Van Egmond still performs at nursing homes, churches and social gatherings in addition to her time spent with the Twilight Serenaders.
Harvey Kuntz has been playing the accordion with the Twilight Serenaders for the last two years.
He has been playing the accordion since he was eight years old. The RR4, Wingham resident has been married to his wife Dianne for 53 years. They have five children and 10 grandchildren.
Ron McBurney has been a part of the Twilight Serenaders for years, though he can’t recall exactly when he joined.
When he first joined, he played tenor banjo, but has since played a number of stringed instruments for the band, including mandolin and dobro, which is all he plays now.
Ron has been married to his wife Jean for over 40 years. They have three sons and four grandchildren.
Jim Scott of Goderich has been with the Twilight Serenaders for over 16 years. His late wife Elaine had also been with the group for over a decade. She played the piano and the accordion, while Jim plays a four-string banjo and sings. He also used to play the fiddle, but has since retired from that instrument.
John McDowell of RR1, Belgrave has been with the Twilight Serenaders since they first began performing at the reunion, dating back to the “old tents” on the baseball diamond on the grounds.
Growing up in East Wawanosh, McDowell said there were numerous musical instruments always lying around the house and with the help of his father and a local piano teacher he soon learned how to play a few of them.
McDowell would go on to play in a number of Huron County-based groups over the years, but now focuses on playing the keyboard and the jazz electric guitar.
Lynn Lowry lives at RR1, Kincardine and plays both banjo and saxophone for the band.
Lowry has played the saxophone for 62 years, 50 of which have been spent with Boyd’s Orchestra.
Leona Konings of Gowanstown has been with the Twilight Serenaders for four years as a multi-instrumentalist.
Konings can play the accordion, the fiddle, the harmonica, the keyboard and the ukelele. She also performs with two other groups, The Awesome Grandmas and the Serenaders.
She and her husband Bert have four children, 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Cal Gadsby of Durham has been performing with the Twilight Serenaders for eight years, playing a Le Blanc-made clarinet.
He has been playing the classic instrument for 65 years, since he left school.
Jack Falls has played with the Twilight Serenaders for six years, but has performed as part of fiddle classes at the reunion for two decades.
Glenn Boyd has been playing the saxophone for over 10 years with the Twilight Serenaders, adding some fiddle in for good measure when necessary.
He has performed in his own band, Boyd’s Orchestra, for approximately 50 years.
Jim Algie has played fiddle with the Serenaders for over five years. He lives in London and has two daughters and five grandchildren.
Doug Jebb has played saxophone with the Twilight Serenaders for a number of years. There was one year in his career when, for 80 nights, he and his wife Joan and son Barry played with Graham Clowes.
Don Chesher of Brussels has been performing as part of the Twilight Serenaders for 15 years.
He has been playing music since the late 1950s and most recently co-created the Brussels musical group, Sing Sing Sing. Chesher and his wife Dale have been performing locally for decades, though he began with the clarinet.
Keith Wilbee is one of the most distinguished musicians in the Twilight Serenaders, having played the alto and tenor saxophone and drums with his parents’ band, Wilbee’s Orchestra, since he was in Grade 9.
He has been playing music for nearly his whole life, but has only been performing with the Twilight Serenaders for the last two years.
Gladys Van Egmond has been the entertainment chair for the reunion for a number of years, putting her heart and soul into the musical program of the event.
Van Egmond, however, is musically inclined herself, playing piano in a number of groups in years past, and now she plays the bass accordion.
The late F. Stewart Toll spent over a decade as a member of the saxophone section of the group when it was first formed, only taking a step back from the group in 2015.
Over the years, Toll played the piano, violin, guitar, mouth-organ, fife, trumpet, saxophone, clarinet and bagpipes. He had been a member of numerous bands, including the Goderich Bluewater Band, the Seaforth/Dashwood Band and the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Military Band, as well as a number of dance bands.
Toll passed away in October of 2019, in his 87th year.