“All but one of us brother and sisters have been singing with The Folk Song Circle,” says Mary Ann Maddison, one of the members of the popular local musical group that has entertained generations of Port Alberni residents, especially seniors living in independent living, assisted living and long term care homes in the Alberni Valley.
Maddison, née. Noiles, began singing with the group around 1972, and her sister Louise joined in soon after.
The siblings’ musical talent was inherited from their parents, Doug and Darlene Noiles, who married in Springhill, Nova Scotia in 1950 and loved music. The couple had six children: Mary Ann, Louise, Doug, Donna, Grace and Colleen (all born in Springhill, Nova Scotia). Doug Sr., who was a coalminer, enjoyed music and was a guitar master. He loved to take his older daughter to various musical venues to perform.
Music was always present in the Noiles’ household, especially at bedtimes.
Darlene also came from a musical family. Her father, Jim, played the accordion and her uncle Joe strummed a banjo. The family gatherings used to bring the neighbourhood together for evenings of music, singing and much laughter.
At an early age, Mary Ann and Louise sang at many places in the Maritime province, such as the Springhill churches, the local prison and the theatre. Their father even took them to a talent contest in Prince Edward Island, where they tied for the first place! Darlene had made matching dresses for the girls—it was a proud moment for the family! Following that,the two young sisters also went on to perform at a TV show called “The Super Club” in Moncton, New Bruinswick.
By the age of 11, Mary Ann was taught by her father to play just three chords in his guitar, which became her favourite musical instrument.
“After many blisters, I could sing and play ‘Blue Skirt Waltz’,” she says.
Nowadays, the same old Gibson guitar her father treasured is being played by her.
Young Doug, like his sisters, grew up with his dad playing guitar and piano at jam sessions or singing songs with relatives. He also enjoyed singing at the school choir and sang as a soloist many times. He soon became well-known as a young teenager for his rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Wooden Heart.”
At age 17, in the early ‘70s, Doug Jr. moved to Port Alberni. By that time, Mary Ann was already here. Although not much singing took place initially, the family (including mom and dad, who had also moved to the west coast) later on enjoyed singing along with a growing family of children and grandchildren at get-togethers, such as camping trips.
Doug also enjoyed singing to 8-track tapes, cassettes and CDs while driving his truck. On his numerous camping trips, he met others who also enjoyed singing as well as guitar playing. He has been invited to sing at weddings and memorial services for friends.
Currently, he continues singing with the Folk Song Circle, along with three of his sisters, and the Sea Note Choir with four of his sisters, who practice and entertain at the Capitol Theatre.
Donna and Grace are close in age. From a very young age, they sang in church and at the Salvation Army. Once, Donna sang on a radio station. Grace, who now lives in Burton, B.C., along with her husband Lawrence, also likes to sing regularly with their family and the karaoke machine.
Then comes Colleen—the youngest of the Noiles family. Her musical talent was recognized at an early age: by age two she would sing anywhere and anytime. At age eight, she had already joined Robin Mitchell’s and Pat Miller’s youth choirs. In addition, she began playing acoustic guitar and piano. In high school, she played flute and clarinet and became a vocalist for the stage band. She also played a leading role in a theatre musical called, “The Pajama Game.” Her musical interest took her to join a local band after graduation, following her move to Nanaimo, Victoria and Calgary to play in larger venues.
At age 23, Colleen became a bass guitar player and vocalist and recorded her first album with the “Night Magic” band. The group that played at most casinos in Alberta (and toured Sakatchewan and Ontario) moved to Victoria, where she recorded her first solo album.
She has been back home in Port Alberni since 2008 and has kept involved with the Portal Players Dramatic Society, performing in several musical productions.
From “coast to coast,” this talented musical family has been giving lots of fun times to many in our Alberni Valley!