A life through music: Frank Mills

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December 2, 2014 9:02 AM

Frank Mills

You may have heard it chiming from an ice cream truck at one time or another – the tune has become somewhat of a standard world-wide.

It’s called Music Box Dancer and by now, the man who wrote it has led a full life.

Frank Mills is a composer, arranger and pianist who had a late start in the industry, but came out as a talent with worldwide renown. Now he tours yearly, sharing his life story through the music he’s written.

“It takes over two hours, depending on the audience, the situation and how tired I get,” he laughs. “I’m 72. I don’t feel it, but unfortunately, it’s knocking on my door.”

With that many years behind him, Mills definitely has a story to tell, and guests will hear it come his performance at the Vic Juba Community Theatre.

“There’s a lot of communication (at my shows)” says Mills. “Because every song has a story. The ones I’ve chosen all go somewhere. And they all play the part.”

The songs he’s set to play are all drawn and inspired from important moments of his life and will come in chronological order at his show, where he’ll tell the stories behind them, too. Moments like his first brush with the piano to his stint with The Bells and his collaboration work with Rita MacNeil. He’ll also be bringing in a few Christmas carols here and there. The idea of bringing his life to the stage through music was more than appealing to him.

“I decided that it might be fun to sort of wind down my career by starting where it wound up,” said Mills. “And the first number I do in the show is a song I learnt probably when I was seven years of age when I was starting the piano.”

Mills feels the audience is captivated by the stories of others and in the past, they’ve listened to his songs and the stories behind them. Some songs were inspired by a lot of fun times in his life. Others, not so much. But for this show, he says that most, if not all the tunes he will play, should put a hop in your step, with the exception of some Christmas carols.

His latest project is called Piano Fun and it’s a package of two CDs, one containing his 12 most popular songs and the other featuring those songs without piano; just a backdrop of orchestra. It also comes with a book of sheet music for those songs so that anyone can play along. It’s a kind of keyboard karaoke, says Mills.

And it was inspired by an important life event, too.

“One of the songs that I particularly like of my own compositions is a song called A Classical Rock. And that was the result of having met Mason Williams on a television show down in Halifax.”

After Williams’ hit Classical Gas came out, he challenged Mills to write a song in the vein of classical rock, himself. He agreed and A Classical Rock came into being. It was also that very song that served as a springboard to a new world of orchestral accompaniment for Mills; the “beginning of my dance with the orchestra,” he says.

“I was fascinated by it. And of course the opportunity to be able to play along with this orchestra now is anybody’s today with my Piano Fun book.”

Piano Fun can be purchased through his personal website, www.frankmills. com. As for his upcoming show at the Vic Juba Community Theatre this Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $57 each and can be purchased at the box office, online at www.vicjubatheatre.ca or over the phone at 780-872-7400.

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