Fringe Preview: More Power to Your Knitting, Nell!
Melanie Gall hates knitting. So how did she come to tour the world with her one-woman musical called More Power to Your Knitting, Nell? – currently playing at the Calgary Fringe Festival? “My sister Deborah is a big knitter, and together we started a podcast about knitting which became a big thing. People started writing in and telling us about all these humorous knitting songs from World War I and II,” she explained. “I started looking into them, and became a bit of a collector. Once I got over a hundred, I decided to put them together to form a show.”
Melanie is a New York- based classical singer, originally from Edmonton. She sings with opera companies all over the world, and has just come from a tour of the Czech Republic and performances for the Canadian Embassy in Luxembourg, and 4th of July ceremonies in Milan and Bratislava. “I even got a chance to perform this show at the National Museum of Military History in Luxembourg where the Battle of the Bulge was fought,” says Melanie. “It gave me shivers.”
This summer, Melanie is also performing at the Winnipeg and Edmonton Fringe Festivals and The Swift Current Chautauqua. “ I first performed at the Edmonton Fringe four years ago and now consider the Fringe circuit my summer vacation,” she explains. “It’s a break from my usual repertoire and a chance for me to perform my own work.” She didn’t make it into the Calgary Fringe Festival lottery this year and wasn’t planning to come, until she was offered a Bring-Your-Own Venue spot at the Stash Needle Art Lounge. “I’ve never done the show in a knitting store,” she said, “so I couldn’t resist the opportunity.”
More Power to Your Knitting Nell! is the story of Sadie Goldstein, an aspiring singer who lands a dream job job singing on the radio during World War II in support of the war effort. The only problem is … she hates knitting!
“The story of wartime knitting music in the US is fascinating,” says Melanie. “It started with a Red Cross campaign in World War I to get women to “Knit Your Bit” to replenish their stock of knit goods for soldiers. Tin Pan Alley composers started writing songs about knitting as a way to cash in on this trend. Then in World War II, the government offered composers military deferments to composers who wrote songs about war, in order to promote patriotism and knitting songs really took off.”
Melanie says the songs are from the 1916-1945 period, and are mostly American with some Canadian, British, French and Australian songs thrown in. “They are basically propaganda songs,” she says, “and there a lot of marches!” She says the songs are cute and still quite funny – even if you’re not into knitting (although if you are, apparently knitting humour hasn’t changed much over the years, and there are lots of in-jokes only knitters will appreciate). She’s also included some popular songs from that era that people are more likely to know (“We’ll Meet Again”, “Autumn Leaves,” “Stardust,” and the like).
Melanie says people should come to the show because it’s a cute, family-friendly show about love and war and it’s gotten great reviews (Best Solo Show (Orlando Fringe), and Most Outstanding Performance (London Fringe Festival)). [Melanie didn’t happen to mention she’s a great singer, but I’ve heard her music via the links shown below and as you might expect from her resume, I can assure you she’s no slouch in that department. LMC]. “And did I mention you can bring your own knitting? ” she added.
So does Melanie still hate knitting? “Well, I don’t know if I’ll ever be a big knitter,” she says, “but through music, my podcast and this show it sure has become a big part of my life.”
More Power to Your Knitting, Nell! is produced by Sisterscene/Savvygirls and plays at the Stash Needle Art Lounge (1B, 1215 – 13 Street SE) nightly at 7PM or 9PM until August 10th. Tickets are $15.
For more information and tickets go to Calgary Fringe Festival. You may also want to check out Melanie’s website (including a YouTube preview of the show) and her popular savvygirls knitting podcast. She’s also put together her first CD of knitting songs, which you can purchase/hear at Knitting All the Day.
Melanie Gall will be taking another show, The $50 a Night Girl (a musical about female Tin Pan Alley composers) to the Edmonton Fringe Festival next week.