Coast musician Nikki Weber had a great time at this year’s Pacific National Exhibition (PNE), not because of the rides or the mini doughnuts, but because she was on hand to support one of her musical groups during the annual Star Showdown on Aug. 20.
At age 85, Weber has been in the music business for 72 years, beginning her career in Holland singing for food during the Second World War.
For decades she has coached young singers and musicians, arranged her own music and directed many different choral groups. Every year she encourages her music students to enter the PNE’s talent competition, held live before an audience during the fair.
This year a group that is special to her, Pops and Punks, performed.
Mike Weber, her son, is one of the “pops” (fathers) and he sings with his daughter Maddy Weber, Nikki’s granddaughter, along with Gedeon Lizee and Robyn Edgar.
“They didn’t place in the competition,” Weber reports, “but they sounded fabulous and they got the best applause of the whole bunch.”
Her own appearance at the Star Showdown was written up in the Vancouver Sun, focusing on her long involvement with PNE shows. (Decades ago she sang with the jazzy vocal group, the Chromatones, on the PNE stage.) Weber was surprised at all the attention on her, rather than on her good-looking family.
She recalls that there used to be performing contests all over B.C. leading up to the PNE. The regional contest winners and the runners-up could go to the semi-finals to perform at the fair. Nowadays, competition entries are done with video, but Weber is still happy with the outcome. Pops and Punks were chosen as one of 10 semi-finalists, a proud achievement.
“Maybe next year I’ll send the guys,” she said, referring to another of her groups, the Mellow Fellows. “They’re getting really good.”
The Fellows grew out of the former MellowTones that Weber directed for many years. They are hard-working and harmonically advanced, she notes, and they include her son, Mike.
Though she has passed on the musical torch in her family, Weber is saddened to think that this PNE performance was the end of Pops and Punks. Maddy leaves for university in Kelowna this week and although she’s keeping her options open, she will likely choose a career other than music.
Weber is philosophical about this: “It’s a hard, hard life as a musician unless you’re teaching music,” she said. “But I said to her, ‘Don’t ever let your talent die.’”