SURREY â€” Itâ€™s not quite The Partridge Family, but John Donnellyâ€™s latest musical adventure echoes the family band of the â€™70s TV sitcom.
This is a big week for Rockinâ€™ Robin & the Magical Tree, which released its debut album, Letâ€™s Go, on Tuesday (May 19) and launches a summer tour at a pair of Surrey venues, including this weekendâ€™s Surrey International Childrenâ€™s Festival (Saturday, May 23, 10:30 a.m. on the community stage).
The music project was created by Donnelly, whose John Donnelly & Associates company stages large-scale events, including Surreyâ€™s Canada Day event, Fusion Festival and Party for the Planet, in association with the city.
â€œItâ€™s a great new adventure for us and itâ€™s really brought our family together,â€ Donnelly told the Now.
â€œI have three kids and all are involved,â€ he added. â€œMy oldest boy, Jordan, helped build the set and played guitar on some of the tracks. My daughter Naomi is the lead performer (Robin Redcoat), my son Terence is a puppeteer and voice actor and my wife Joy (Dorras) is also a puppeteer. So when we go off and do the show, itâ€™s the whole gang loading up the truck and away we go.â€
Before he got into the event-production biz during Expo 86, Donnelly played bass and sang with Queen City Kids, notable for Can-rock hits â€œDown Againâ€ and â€œDanceâ€ in the early days of that decade.
Completely different is Rockinâ€™ Robin & The Magical Tree, a multi-media show that stars Robin Redcoat and a cast of comical, singing birds â€“ namely, Little Red, Dorothy Dodo Bird, Bazza B., Marty Macaw and the Blackbird brothers, Skinny and Dippy. The live show, with its ear-worm songs and animated videos, is designed for kids in that kindergarten-to-Grade-2 age range, pretty much.
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With the backing of Kidswerk Music, the childrenâ€™s music imprint of Nettwerk Music Group, the plan is to take the Rockinâ€™ Robin show on a tour of Canada and the U.S. this fall.
On Wednesday (May 20), the Rockinâ€™ Robin set was brought to Central City Shopping Centre for the opening of the mallâ€™s new Play Central playground, located next the Winners store.
â€œItâ€™s been wonderful putting this together for the past couple of years,â€ Donnelly said, â€œand really, this whole project has come up because of my relationship with Surrey, producing Canada Day and Fusion and the all the other festivals there. I just saw a real need in the market for family entertainment thatâ€™s fun and entertaining and raised the production value a little bit.â€
Donnelly said heâ€™s thrilled to be playing music again, this time with his family.
â€œExpo was my kind of transition,â€ he recalled. â€œThey asked me to be the entertainment manager for the Saskatchewan pavilion. At that point, it became pretty impossible to go back to being just a bass player because Iâ€™d discovered a whole new world of producing shows, so Iâ€™ve followed that path for a long time. And now that this has come around, Iâ€™ve built a studio in my office and I take my bass to work. Itâ€™s a lot of fun.â€