Sharon and Bram have finished their farewell tour. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Butter tarts and dictionaries: Five things you didn’t know about Sharon and Bram

TORONTO — Children’s entertainers Sharon and Bram wrapped their farewell tour over the summer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re slowing down entirely.

On Nov. 8, they’ll release a compilation of seven singles unveiled over the past year. “Sharon & Bram and Friends” also features two new tracks, a sing-along version of “The Colour Song,” and “Old Coat,” a favourite they performed on the tour.

“We’re not going to hit the road, however we’re not going to stop singing,” assured Sharon Hampson. “Maybe there are surprises ahead we haven’t even thought of.”

Besides playing music, the Toronto-based performers say they’ve got a handful of hobbies to keep them busy in their golden years.

For instance, ask Hampson about butter tarts and you’ll find yourself in a passionate conversation about which bakeries have mastered the Canadian pastry. Bram Morrison will gladly indulge in those desserts, but he prefers obsessing over his collection of dictionaries.

Those wholesome pastimes seem appropriate for the artists who sang a generation of kids’ songs, including ”Skinnamarink,” “The Muffin Man” and “One Elephant.” They spent half of their 40 years as the trio Sharon, Lois and Bram — though Sharon Lilienstein stopped touring more than a decade before dying of cancer in 2015.

Now after, decades of entertaining live audiences, the pair will pursue a few personal interests even their most loyal fans might not know about:

SEEKING BUTTER TARTS: Hampson doesn’t just eat butter tarts, she analyzes the sugary treat with meticulous attention to the consistency of its filling. “I prefer it a bit runny,” she says, noting it’s a hotly debated topic among butter tart aficionados. Years ago, Bram and his late wife collected butter tarts from Ontario restaurants to hold a taste test seeking the best version of the dessert. Hampson insists Charmaine Sweets, outside Toronto, was the clear winner. Last year, she planned to showcase her sweet tooth as a judge at an Ontario butter tart festival, but touring commitments forced her to pull out. She hopes for another invitation next year.

READING DICTIONARIES: Morrison is known among fans for his linguistic skills, but he says most of them probably don’t know he’s an “etymology guy” who reads English dictionaries with a keen interest in the historical context behind words. “You look up the same word in different dictionaries and you find different shades of meaning,” he says. “Sometimes they’re philosophical differences.” He guesses his shelves are filled with several dozen dictionaries, and when he’s reaching beyond his usual vernacular, you’ll find him “on the floor with half a dozen in front of me just free associating,” hopping from word to word. Hampson notes that her bandmate isn’t shy about his obsession either. He stocks dictionaries in his bathroom.

REGULAR EXERCISE: Now in her seventies, Hampson says there’s a real value in staying active. She spends four or five days each week at the gym, taking dance classes or Pilates with a group of women from surrounding neighbourhoods. “I think people crave community,” she says. “After the exercise we go to the cafe nearby and have a bowl of soup or salad.”

KNITTING PROJECTS: Back when they travelled the road, Hampson and Lilienstein were often seen knitting up a storm to pass the hours. “I still have those sweaters in my home,” Hampson says with a found chuckle. Lately, she’s started a project using some of Lilienstein’s yarn passed along after her death. “I’m working on a sweater now from Lois’ stash,” Hampson says. “She bought beautiful yarns.”

SHARING RECIPES: Food was an honoured tradition in the friendship circles of Sharon, Lois & Bram’s band and their retirement will be no different. Morrison calls himself “a cooker” with a penchant for dishes passed through generations of his family. “They’re mostly in my head,” he says of meals prepared by his grandmother. Hampson is especially fond of Morrison’s handiwork with kasha, a Jewish comfort food which spins buckwheat into a more flavourful offering. “Food was always a thing with the trio,” she says. “It’s about family, being together, sitting around a table and talking, which goes back to the whole notion of community.”

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