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The Valley

Color Norm Pringle Red, White and Real Blue

May 24, 2003|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

Instead of the patriotic colors and tunes he dreamed of, Norm Pringle will be singing the blues over red tape on Monday.

For months the Winnetka resident has struggled to stage "Sing-a-long America," a free Memorial Day concert of patriotic music representing conflicts from the Civil War to Iraq.

He lined up a 60-member chorus of musicians from the Pierce College Philharmonic Choir and the San Fernando Valley-based Premiere Chorale. He recruited 10 dancers to demonstrate American dance styles over the years. He devised a computerized projection system to flash words on a screen to help audience members sing along in a salute to Americans serving in the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

And Pringle thought he had found the perfect place to hold the show: the 5-year-old Madrid Theatre in Canoga Park.

Not only is the little-used, $3-million auditorium owned by the city, it sits on the Sherman Way route of the annual Canoga Park Memorial Day Parade, a festive event that attracts hundreds of marchers and as many as 60,000 spectators.

Parade-goers could enjoy the military units and community floats and bands, Pringle reasoned, and then step into the 460-seat theater and join the chorus in singing patriotic songs.

But when Pringle tried earlier this spring to book the Madrid, his plans were shot down.

"They told me that Memorial Day is a holiday and the theater's closed on holidays," he said.

Madrid Theatre's manager, Susan Cars, confirmed that this week. "Nobody wants to work on a holiday," she said.

Pringle appealed to the office of Canoga Park-area City Councilman Dennis Zine. He was referred to the Valley Cultural Center, which stages summertime concerts at Warner Park in Woodland Hills. From there he was referred to the city's Cultural Affairs Department, which oversees the Madrid Theatre and city-run auditoriums near downtown and in San Pedro.

Pringle asked if city workers could donate their time and work on the holiday, as his singers and dancers had volunteered to do. He was told no.

"I can't ask them to do that. They're professionals. These people work for us for pay," Ernest Dillihay, the department's performing arts director, explained this week.

Pringle, a 79-year-old former Canadian radio disc jockey and Warner Bros. movie soundman, asked if outsiders could volunteer to run the Madrid's lights and sound system for the show. No, Dillihay told him. Liability issues prevent that.

"It's a show with a lot of patriotic songs and songs of war, and even a couple of antiwar songs," a disappointed Pringle said. "It would honor the 161 Americans who paid the supreme sacrifice for the freedom of Iraq."

The sing-a-long, with tunes such as "A Long Way to Tipperary," "Anchors Away," "Ballad of the Green Berets" and "God Bless America," would have struck a chord with people, said the chorale leader, Terry Danne. He has worked with Pringle to stage musicals in places such as the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills.

"He tried very hard. The city has that nice facility -- they should have picked this up very quickly. It's too bad," said Danne, a Studio City resident who leads the San Fernando Valley Master Chorale and the Pierce College and Premiere groups.

Danne, meantime, will take many of the singers to the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood for an 8 p.m. concert on June 1 called "A Prayer for Peace."

But Monday will be less than memorable for Pringle.

"I have a show," he said, "but no place to go."

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