Music is everywhere in entertainer Charlotte Diamond’s backyard.
At her home on Sechelt, Diamond can see the words of some of her beloved children’s songs come to life. Flowers grow in her garden, echoing the words of “The Garden Song (Inch by Inch)” from her 1985 album 10 Carrot Diamond. Her bird feeder, welcoming birds and bears alike, is reminiscent of 1988’s “Animals Have Personality.”
And of course, the deer who come to eat her flowers were the direct inspiration for “Oh Deer, the Doe’s in the Marigolds” on her most recent album, Diamonds by the Sea.
Although she only moved to the Sunshine Coast in August, she has been going there with her husband Harry since 1997. But her career stretches back even further, to when she came out with her first album of children’s songs in 1985 after spending years as a teacher.
“I left teaching, but I guess I’ve come to the bigger classroom of the world,” she told the North Delta Reporter.
Over her more than 30-year career, the North Delta-raised singer has become a beloved children’s entertainer and educator across North America. Songs such as “I am a Pizza” and “Three Hugs a Day” became classics for many kids growing up in the 1990s and 2000s, and her music in English, French and Spanish has won her a number of accolades, including being appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada on Aug. 25, 2017.
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This month, Diamond will be returning to Delta for her 19th annual pair of concerts in Ladner and North Delta. There, alongside her son Matt, she’ll be singing songs from her new album and bringing back some bilingual classics.
“I guess what we’re doing with the concert is encouraging kids to be interested in other languages and other cultures,” she said, something she first became interested in as a high-school student at North Delta Secondary.
“I really enjoyed my French teacher” Mr. Le Lièvre, she said. (His name roughly translates to Mr. Jackrabbit.)
“That probably got me going in my interest in French.”
Back then, in the early years of the 1960s, North Delta Secondary was a small school. Everyone was involved in every aspect of student life. By the time she graduated, Diamond had played sports, been part of a debate club, was the school Prime Minister and participated in musicals.
“I didn’t sing in the musicals, but I did make up,” she said.
“At that time, I didn’t really recognize my singing ability, or was as drawn to music as I was later on in my life.”
That draw came near the end of the 1970s after Diamond, who studied zoology and French at the University of British Columbia, began teaching at a high school in New Westminster and had given birth to two children.
It was then that she started performing in adult folk groups — one time opening for Pete Seeger, the American folk singer who wrote the book she used to learn the guitar — and she eventually brought a few songs to her sons’ preschool.
Parents were requesting her music for their little ones, she said, and Diamond decided to put together a collection of her songs. The collection, called Music for Everyday, was recorded in her laundry room on a cassette recorder.
It sold 500 copies.
It was the spur Diamond needed to start a band — the Hug Bug Band — and produce her first album: 10 Carrot Diamond. It won a Juno the following year, and so far has been the only one of her albums to win the prestigious Canadian award.
“It was very exciting and very unexpected,” she said. “I was surprised because they put me sort of in the front row, right beside the stage. I should have twigged in. And then when they called my name, it was just the most amazing experience.”
Diamond has released 14 albums over the years, created her own television show, led educators’ workshops across North America and toured the country. But she’s always loved performing and working close to home.
“I like returning to familiar places, because then you can add new things,” Diamond said.
On Jan. 20, at 2 p.m., Diamond will be returning to Genesis Theatre in Ladner for a performance with her son Matt. Then, on Jan. 21 (also at 2 p.m.) the pair will be performing at Seaquam Secondary’s theatre. Tickets are $5 at the door, or available online at deltasd.bc.ca/event/diamond.
Together, Diamond and her son will be performing some of the new songs they’ve worked on together, like “Ottie the Otter,” an environmental song inspired by her love of zoology and her time on her husband’s fishing boat.
“Matt’s great to work with,” she said about her son. “He’s a good singer. He’s very funny. He puts on hats when I’m doing certain songs. And he’s also really good at working with kids.
“So I think as I sort of slow down in my career, I’m sure he’s going to be doing far more.”