OLD-TYME AIRES

Sweet Music of the Past

  After thirteen years of success performing music of the 40s, 50s, and the 60s, a local band is finally getting some well-deserved exposure. OLD-TYME AIRES, a band comprised of five musicians, is based mainly in the Leduc/Millet region.  Without fanfare, and even without one single newspaper article or advertisement, this band has had a noticeable success in the region, playing for seniors’ dances, birthdays and anniversaries, and other special events.  This reporter was invited to travel with the band on a Thursday night to attend a Stettler Seniors Social Society Dinner & Dance.  The Royal Canadian Legion was packed, so it seems this was a long-anticipated band performance and buffet dinner.  

The band name is not full of whimsical spelling. It is rather made up of long ago English words (‘aires’ meaning songs). It fits the purpose of this band perfectly. When the band was created (and still to this day), the primary goal was to promote music of a bygone era and to help maintain it!  Words like “post-WWII and “classic country” are part of the band’s image and self-promotion.
The background of its five musicians is eclectic. Esther Schmidt on keyboard invested many hours in learning to read music as an adult, and has been the main organist at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Rolly View for over forty years. She is also a keen urban gardener and an enthusiastic Leduc volunteer.  Wilfred Kneller on bass guitar and his cousin Don Kneller on drums earned their living in the dairy industry. Wilfred was a dairy farmer for 25 years in the Rolly View area, and still lives on his meticulously well-kept former dairy farm, while Don, now residing in Edmonton, was the owner of Kneller Dairy Sales & Services in Leduc. On the banjo, Harvey Schneider was an occasional replacement thirteen years ago who enjoyed the ‘gig’, and never left, despite his still current occupation as a grain farmer in the North end of Leduc County.  
On the accordion is talented and congenial Selma Wegner of Millet. She had a career at the Leduc Community Hospital for nearly thirty years, where she worked as an RN and nursing manager.  Having retired in 1995, she has fond memories and an obvious pride of her time there.  
While attending this seniors’ dance, it was impressive to witness all these couples dancing the night away.  One gentleman, whose 91st birthday was announced by the Society’s president, Mr. Terry Crisp, never missed one dance!  One of the announcements was the 46th anniversary of Wilf and Marlene Buelow of Stettler. An interesting fact is that this couple once resided in Hardisty, where Marlene was part of “The Week the Women Went”, a 2007 event funded by a film company when 102 women left their families, jobs and businesses to go on an all-expenses paid vacation to the Rockies, and the men’s survival and testimonies were recorded into an interesting documentary.  Another connection to our readers’ neighbourhood. The society’s secretary, Annabelle Bignell, was quite enjoying the band and took a moment to mention that her brother Ken Reinbold is an electrical contractor living in the City of Leduc.
Talking about survival, the Old-Tyme Aires has flourished in challenging economic times, and although not fond of travelling on winter roads, they have bookings all year long. The list of dances experienced by attendees of this bands’ performances is long, Seven-steps, Cotton-eye Joe, La Versovienne, Heal-and-Toe Polka, the Old-Tyme Waltz, the SK barn dance, the Bird Dance and the Butterfly, the French Minuet, Gay Gordon, the Polka and Fox Trot and the Spanish Waltz are all famous old time dances, and by the looks of it, still popular with a certain age group.
The tunes are catchy and reminiscent for some of a difficult era where music was blissfully lifting spirits and providing a precious distraction to the challenges of life. Songs like “Yellow bird” and “Blues Spanish Eyes” offer a latin-american rhythm to dance to, while “There goes my everything” is a lovely country western tune. “Anytime” and ‘In the Mood” are classics from the Post-WW II era and are still popular today.  Since all five musicians have a German background, this band has a notable repertoire of German songs, which makes it an ideal band to perform at an Oktoberfest event, something they love to do! 
With a faithful following in the central region of the province, Old-Tyme Aires has produced five CDs in the past 13 years, and is not showing signs of slowing down.  Aided by his business background, the booking agent for the band is Don Kneller, who can be reached at 780-450-3306. Specializing in “Old Tyme” and “Classic Country” music, the Old-Tyme Aires band’s quality of performance is guaranteed another busy schedule this year, and this Pipestone Flyer reporter looks forward to another occasion to see the band per
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