“Okay, Patsy—let’s go!”
That’s what local singer/songwriter Sandra Allan says to herself backstage each time she performs as her musical idol, Patsy Cline.
“Patsy Cline is the ultimate legend of all time,” Allan stressed in an interview yesterday. “She’s been my favourite since I’ve been a kid.
“I love the way she expressed herself in her music. She held onto every note,” she added. “It’s the type of music that sent chills up your spine.”
District residents most recently might remember Allan portraying Cline in the annual VALA Variety Show held here back on Feb. 10.
Or folks may have stopped in Stratton on Saturday night for the “Sweet Dreams” talent show—a benefit concert to help raise funds for Allan to pursue her musical career.
“I know it sounds weird but it’s like I include Patsy in my performance because I know she’s looking down and watching, and probably smiling because someone remembered to sing her songs,” she noted.
Allan, who was born and raised in Fort Frances but currently lives in Emo, has decided she’s ready to use Cline’s inspiration and strive to make her own music heard.
She has three original songs she plans to record, but demos with a quality high enough to play on the radio are quite expensive. Allan noted her three songs will cost close to $3,000.
Since she didn’t have that kind of money, her friend, Charleen Gustafson, had the idea of a benefit concert.
“At Christmas I called Sandra to invite her to one of our guitar practices,” noted Gustafson. “She mentioned that she had just received word from an agent who wanted to support her in her career, but she needed to cut a demo and she wasn't sure how to go about funding that.
“We decided to put on a show, featuring her, and inviting local talent to perform. And from there things mushroomed.”
Gustafson said Patti Brown and Donna Heyens began making arrangements for the hall and posters, and several people offered to perform.
“The night of the talent show, we realized we were right about putting it on in Stratton,” she enthused. “The people there always support the things others try.
“The crowd was enthusiastic, clapping and singing along even when the show went way longer than we had anticipated, right to the end, at about 11 p.m.”
Both Allan and Gustafson were thankful to all the people who helped make this a success—the performers and all of the people in the audience.
“It was awesome,” Allan enthused, adding about $775 was raised. “The talent was just phenomenal. I always knew there was a lot of talent here. Just to see the show clarifies it because it’s unbelievable.
“The money is going to help out a great deal,” she added.
Gustafson said about 175 people were on hand for the show, which featured 17 performances.
“Sandra performed as Patsy Cline first and later she treated us to some of the songs she has written and plans to put on her demo CD,” she noted, adding Allan closed the evening by inviting the other performers to join her on stage to sing a few medleys.
Allan is excited about finding the rest of the funds—she hopes by April—and then getting to work with professional engineer Paul James in Winnipeg.
Her three songs are called “59 Reasons,” “Hell to Pay,” and “Dark Blue Sky.”
Allan said she likes all types of music, from pop and country to gospel—and the songs she’s written shows her variety.
“‘59 Reasons’ is fast and up-beat. Kind of a Shania Twain style,” she explained.
“Hell to Pay” has a blues feel, but is a country song, while “Dark Blue Sky” was written as a dedication to her father.
Allan credited her father, also a singer and a songwriter, with developing her interest in music.
“We used to sit at his feet when we were kids and listen to him sing and play,” she recalled. “I just was inspired by that. Then he got me singing duets with him when I was about eight years old.”
Although she had no formal musical education, Allan started her first band when she was 13 years old and taught herself to play the guitar. Since then, she’s put out four demo CDs—all of original music.
But as a single parent, Allan took an eight-year break from music because she wanted her son to have a stable life. Now that he’s getting older, she’s ready to get back into it.
“I’m going to be 40 years old this year,” she said. “In music, that’s kind of pushing it.
“I’m at the point where I want to get out there and I want my music heard,” she added. “When you get to a certain age, you realize and believe in yourself totally . . . and you believe in your music.
“And that’s where I am right now.”
Allan has performed many benefit concerts herself to help people in Afghanistan, New Orleans, and cancer patients, having been a cancer survivor herself.
So she was thrilled to have Rainy River District come together Saturday night to support her dream.
“Whenever I do something, I challenge myself and it’s awesome to see the outcome,” she replied when asked where she hopes her musical career will end up.
“I’m just really excited about getting back into music because I love music so much.”
And because she’s seen so much local talent, she offered some words of advice: “Keep at it and believe in yourself.”