The Beacon – The Virginian Pilot, Norfolk, VA
August 20, 2000
PEMBROKE MALL KIDS CLUB ENTERTAINS PARENTS, TOO
By Felicia Spencer
From ages 2 to 8, children crowded together at the back of the room for the best view.
Most wore their free white T-shirts with either shorts or jeans.
As Shelly Craig and Cindy Kays of Young Audiences performed, the children sang along, danced and giggled with one another. The children were not the only ones enjoying themselves. The parents could be seen lining the back, tapping their toes and singing along quietly, watching their children have fun.
The singing duo is part of the Just Kidding Pembroke Mall’s Kids Club, which meets once a month and features activities parents and children can enjoy together.
Activities include puppet shows, storytelling, a sing-along or even craft making.
On Aug. 12, Kays and Craig played guitars and a mandolin, and sang several songs from their two compact discs, “C. Shells” and “Animal Tails.” The music received national Parents’ Choice Awards in 1998.
Craig and Kays have been singing and entertaining children for seven years.
“It’s easier to perform as a team, and it’s more fun, too,” Craig said.
Through Young Audiences they perform throughout Virginia. As “C. Shells,” they travel the East Coast on their own.
“It’s great to see parents and children enjoy things together,” Craig said.
Not only do the children and their parents share some special time together, the children often take home a craft and their parents are eligible for discounts at several Pembroke Mall stores.
The next event for the Kids Club is the Big Owls Marsh Show by Rainbow Puppet Productions Sept. 9. All children ages 2 to 8 and their parents are invited to the free event, and those who join the club will receive a free “Just Kidding” T-shirt and membership card.
Hampton Roads Section - The Virginian-Pilot
October 16, 1998
The Beacon – The Virginian-Pilot
HONORS AND AWARDS
C. Shells, children’s musical duo of Cindy Ressler Kays and Shelly Craig from Virginia Beach, were awarded the 1998 Parents’ Choice Approval Seal for their second Southern Branch Music release, “Animal Tails.” Their first recording “C. Shells,” was awarded a 1998 Parents’ Choice Silver Honor earlier this year.
The Currents – The Virginian-Pilot
February 22, 1996
‘C. SHELLS’ IS MUSIC TO CHILDREN’S EARS
By Joan Stanus
‘Musical Duo go all out to keep kids clapping, smiling and swaying.’
They hiss. They howl. They growl.
They jump up and down, roll around on the floor and play “weird” instruments. They even enlist the help of furry creatures with silly names like Cow Patty, Gaston Gator and Sandy Claus to entertain their audiences.
Cindy Ressler and Shelly Craig, known to hundreds of children throughout Hampton Roads as the musical duo “C. Shells,” will go to just about any length to keep kids clapping, smiling and swaying during their performances.
But these seasoned performers don’t mind. It’s all part of the fun, they say.
“It’s much harder than it looks to entertain children,” said Craig, a 40-year-old mother of two daughters. “It’s completely different from performing in a bar for adults. Children are not just going to sit still for an hour and listen quietly.”
“But they’re much more appreciative. It’s so great seeing 30 kids doing your song; it’s a real trip. And when you finish, they come up and hug your leg and give you kisses.”
Her musical partner added: “When you can get kids and their parents together, bonding, it’s just a great feeling, we have so much fun doing this.”
Veteran musicians with more that 35 years of performing experience between them, the two women hooked up three years ago after discovering a mutual love for children’s music. Since then, they’ve become regulars at area preschools, outdoor festivals, mall shows, birthday parties and other children’s events.
Now their fans don’t have to wait for a scheduled concert to hear the upbeat, action-packed music of C. Shells. The Norfolk-based duo recently released their first album, simply titled “C. Shells,” on the Southern Branch Music label. Recorded at Mid-Ease Studios in Norfolk, the album, which consists largely of their own songs, took a year to produce.
“It was a lot more complicated than we thought,” said Ressler, a 40-year-old Winona resident. “We went way over budget…and since it was out first experience, we learned a lot about doing this. But we wanted to do it right.”
This was no mere stand-up-and-sing-into-the-mike production. The women finagled a friend into hauling his tuba all the way from Florida so he could contribute to a ragtime number. They asked another friend who plays the violin to help out on a ballet. Craig, a Portsmouth resident, brought in her two daughters to do voice-overs on a song called “Betcha Can’t Guess What the Puppy Did,” and a whole pack of people howled and screeched for “Halloween Ghosts.”
“We ended up talking a lot of our friends into coming and working on it with us,” Ressler said. “Shelly’s daughters even designed the cover.”
A prolific songwriter, Craig wrote most of the music for the album.
“My children are an endless source of ideas,” she said. “They’re pretty mischievous so you have to have a pretty good sense of humor.”
“Where’s the Cat?” for example, chronicles a mother’s hunt for a misplaced pet who has been subjected to all sorts of mistreatment from her children – dunked in the toilet, dressed in ribbons and bows, and trapped in a bag. The “Play Dough Blues” teaches kids to mix colors. And a lonely alligator finds romance in the Cajun-influenced “Bayou Boogaloo.”
During that song’s recording, Craig, an admitted perfectionist, even called the zoo to find out the exact sound of an alligator’s hiss.
“They thought I was crazy,” she said with a laugh. “But I wanted everything to be correct. We’re trying to teach these kids things, too.”
While writing another song about bats, she joined the national Bat Conservatory and contacted scholars at the Bat Institute in Texas to learn as much as she could about the flying mammals.
Craig and Ressler met a few years ago while performing separately in the area music scene. A guitarist, music teacher and songwriter, for years Craig had been doing solo performances in local clubs and venues such as Portside and Waterside, specializing in a variety or acoustic music, from blues to bluegrass. For a while, this Hampton Roads native also gave guitar lessons at Ramblin’ Conrads, a legendary Norfolk music store – now-closed – that served as a folk center for musicians and fans for decades.
Ressler came to the area in the early 80’s from her native Pennsylvania to manage a Newport News record store after a couple years of performing on the East Coast college circuit. In 1990, she moved to Norfolk to work at Ramblin’ Conrads and become actively involved in the area music scene. She still performs with several groups: herringbone, The Doorway Singers and Young Audiences’ “The Music of the People.”
She and Craig met at Ramblin’ Conrads and hit it off immediately. When an opening arose in “The Music of the People,” Ressler recommended Craig for the spot. They still perform together in the four-piece group, which caters to school-age children.
But the two women yearned to do songs that appealed to younger audiences as well as their parents.
“I always sang for my kids at home, and when their preschool would have entertainers, I’d always go and see what they were doing,” Craig said. “One day, it just suddenly hit me, ‘Duh. I could do this.’”
“And when we went to festivals, I realized that there was really a void that needed to be filled.”
She and Ressler decided to join forces and call themselves C. Shells, a moniker that combines both their names.
“I learned her songs and she learned mine; it was that easy,” Ressler recalled. “Our first preschool was pretty rough…but now we’ve got the hang of it.”
During concerts, they perform a range of music: their own stuff, old favorites like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” popular offerings from others and a few Disney hits. They use a range of instruments, too: guitars, mandolins, banjos and such percussion instruments as cabasas, graters and shakers. The duo also draws on puppets, sunglasses and other props, whatever it takes to hold their fans’ interest.
“Ninety-nine percent of our music is geared to entertainment,” Craig explained. “But we’re always trying to teach something, too, only we don’t tell the kids. And we always throw in a few inside jokes for the parents. We want them to enjoy the music right along with their children.”
“As a parent, I know Mom and Dad are probably being forced to listen to those songs over and over again. We want them to have fun, too.”