This year marks 25 years since The Ennis Sisters launched their professional career. As a folk-country trio, the Newfoundland siblings have earned dozens of awards and nominations. The seasoned road warriors have criss-crossed Canada on multiple tours and sung at high-profile international events such as the 75th anniversary of D-Day on Juno Beach.
Flavoured by Celtic and traditional Newfoundland influences, Maureen, Karen and Teresa have earned a reputation for captivating harmonies, powerful stage presence and infectious storytelling.
Live performances have always been a staple of the Ennis experience. After two years of restricted performances because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the trio is once again on the road with a seven-stop western tour to promote On We Go, a new album released in June 2022. A concert is booked at the Arden Theatre for Sunday, Nov. 6.
“We recorded On We Go in 2021, but we sat on it for a whole year because we couldn’t tour it. First, we did a tour of Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada and now we’re doing a western leg,” said Teresa.
“It’s been so cathartic to get out and play. At one point in the pandemic, we wondered if we were ever going to get back to singing. When you’ve been in the business for 25 years, it’s hard to come to a dead stop. We had a bank account to fall on. Many other musicians didn’t. Besides, performing is our purpose in life. Not to be able to do it was devastating to us. It was very hard, especially during lockdown when we couldn’t even get back together.”
On We Go, a collection of original songs, was produced in 2021 with Alan Doyle, lead singer of Candian folk-rock band Great Big Sea. Doyle has also guest starred on several television shows including Republic of Doyle, Hudson and Rex, and Murdoch Mysteries.
“We were impressed, and we approached him. He’s a hard worker, has a positive attitude and is fun to be around. He also has this great musical ear,” Teresa said.
The 10-track album touches on different events and emotions. Sing the World Better is an expansive number that delivers a superb blend of harmonies. Rest Easy is a song dedicated to those who have passed on, and Shalala is a fun, pop-infused number.
“It’s got a great groove. It sounds vintage and could have been written in the '60s.”
The Ennis Sisters’ fame started just prior to 1997 when the teenagers begged their parents, John and Ceilie, for $25,000 to record an album.
“At that time, it was very expensive to make an album. You had to go to a studio. People didn’t have computers with programs you could use to record. You went to a studio, hired a producer and an engineer. My mum and dad didn’t have a lot of money, so they made us promise to make the money back even if we had to go door-to-door to sell the records.”
The initial pressing for Red is the Rose was 1,000 records. Within 18 months, it sold 15,000 copies and was named Best Folk Album by the Music Industry Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.
In the past quarter century, the music industry has witnessed a dramatic ebb and flow. One of the biggest changes is musicians need a second stream of income to survive.
“Today you can’t depend on live music sales. We’ve been around. We’ve built a name for ourselves and a bank account. We can afford to pay for a tour and fly off. Today, most musicians need a job to be a musician.”
Currently, the trio is also less dependent on a record label, agents and managers to look after their affairs.
“You have to keep your fingers on the pulse. You can’t trust others to have your best interests at heart and not be taken advantage of. We carve out time every day and discuss things. We make the right decisions for the group," Teresa said.
When the sisters were younger, she adds they would sometimes squabble about certain responsibilities. However, today they divide the ensemble’s duties depending on an individual’s strengths. Maureen is the major songwriter and prepares set lists. Karen deals with management and Teresa looks after publicity and press material.
“Once we learned our strengths, it worked well. As teenagers we sometimes let our egos get in the way. As adults we appreciate each other more.”
Teresa says that although the siblings have faced challenges, “we are stronger and better. We have an appreciation for each other as a trio.”
The concert is Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Arden Theatre, 5 St. Anne Street. Tickets start at $36. Call 780-469-1542 or go online at tickets.stalbert.ca.