We conclude our series on finalists in Morristown Onstage 2019:
By Marion Filler
When Purple Hayes performs the classic Bésame Mucho this week at Morristown Onstage, the audience will see five people having a great time making music. The band hopes its enthusiasm is contagious.
This is an eclectic bunch with a bevy of backstories: A mother-daughter tandem, anchored by a yoga student/ journalist and two musicians who just happened to notice them at an open mic night.
They will compete against 14 other finalists for cash and bragging rights on Feb. 27, 2019, at the 1,300-seat Mayo Performing Arts Center.
More than 50 acts auditioned for this 12th edition of the show, which aims to top last year’s record of $143,000 raised for programs in the Morris School District.
It’s a competition for amateur performers who live, work or study in Morristown, Morris Township or Morris Plains, and for graduates of Morristown High School.
The Purple Hayes name is a riff on vocalists Munah Hayes and her mom, Mimi (Willa) Hayes.
Munah, a mother of three, teaches yoga classes at the Morristown & Morris Township Library, the Zufall Wellness Center in Morristown, and The Rose House in Cedar Knolls. She also travels to private clients around Morris County.
Mimi taught English as a Second Language for many years in the Morris School District, and she maintains a private practice, mostly for adults. She has participated in numerous community initiatives and youth programs.
“We do everything together,” Munah says, giving her mom a big hug. Their activities include yoga, music and countless family functions.
Coughlin is the editor of MorristownGreen.com and a member of the Morristown Uke Jam. He competed in Morristown Onstage in 2016 with the Uke-A-Likes.
“I originally met Kevin 11 years ago when I was a solo act for Morristown Onstage,” says Munah Hayes. Coughlin recalls covering her performance for Morristown Green.
“She had a very memorable voice. I started taking her yoga classes on Fridays. She ends every session with a closing song, and I kept suggesting she should become The Singing Yoga Instructor,” Coughlin says.
The pair decided to perform at The Minstrel’s Open Stage, run by the Folk Project in Morris Township.
Mimi Hayes joined them, reluctantly at first. But she has found her groove.
“I’m enjoying it now,” she says. “I think we’re actually pretty good.”
Coughlin describes Mimi Hayes’ vocals as “very sweet,” ideally suited to tender ballads, while her volcanic-voiced daughter is equipped for Aretha-style anthems. “She actually grounds us, in a positive way,” he says of Mimi.
Their Minstrel set last summer rated an encore number – a rarity for that open mic. The volunteer house band was so impressed that its cajon player, John Hone, asked if he could join Purple Hayes. (A cajon is a wooden box that simulates the sound of a full drum kit.)
“We needed a bass player and John suggested Todd Dennison, who is a talented arranger and fine guitarist” from The Minstrel band, Coughlin explains. “We are lucky to have them both. They bring a lot of spirit and polish to the act.”
Purple Hayes is scheduled for a return appearance at The Minstrel’s Open Stage on Friday, April 12, 2019.
This time, the group will be a featured act with a lot more experience under its belt — including four minutes of fun at Morristown Onstage.
Fifteen top amateur acts from Greater Morristown will compete for cash and glory in the 12th annual Morristown Onstage, on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, at the Mayo Performing Arts Center. Tickets: $29-$79. Proceeds benefit the Morris Educational Foundation. Call 973-539-8008.