May 29, 2024


You’ll never know if you have a talent, until one day you wake up and try it.

For Mary-florence Bartley, it came as a shock when one day she woke up and was able to play the North American native flute, a wooden, handmade instrument that has “been around for centuries in many cultures.”

“I had never seen one before,” said Bartley of Barrie, Ont.

She was on her way out the door of a native gift shop in Alberta when she was stopped by a glass cabinet that she hadn’t noticed before. Inside was the flute.

“I had no idea how to play it, but for some reason, I knew I had to have it,” she said.

No instructions were included with the wooden instrument, but that didn’t stop Bartley from playing. “All I could do with it was make it sound like a cat that was caught in something really uncomfortable, really painful.”

When she returned home, the “cat was still caught in the trap,” however, when she woke up the next morning, she could play the flute.

“I knew then I was given a gift,” she said.

For the last six years, Bartley has continued to teach herself how to play. She says she doesn’t know how, “but something happened during the night, and I was given a gift.”

At Canada’s Got Talent on Sept. 27, Bartley stood in line for three long hours, confident in her talent.

“There were thousands of people there, and from what I heard, there was some pretty amazing talent. Who knows, I may have been standing in line next to the winner,” she said.

After standing in the “cattle line,” she finally entered the Rogers Centre. “There were more guitars than at a Nashville picnic! It was quite the cacophony.”

Those who auditioned were sent up to the sky boxes in groups of 50 where there were two to four judges in each one.

“My judges were really nice. My initial intention was to perform Colours of the Wind with my intro and extro on the native flute. After my performance, one of the judges asked what the guitar was for, the one I had slung over my shoulder. I didn’t know the procedure for auditions and I wanted to be prepared for anything. I told them I can sing anything from Gramma’s Feather Bed to Schubert’s Ave Maria. It’s difficult to come up with one selection.”

Bartley went on to sing Ave Maria for the judges. She said after she finished they “picked their jaws up off their chests,” and suggested that should be the “voice” she uses the next time she performs.

Bartley finds out if she moves on in the competition by the end of October.

This isn’t her first competition. Bartley won the title of Senior Star in Barrie this past summer, and has also won Senior Idol for her region.

Like any competitor, there’s always inspiration to back her up. Bartley’s first husband was killed by a drunk driver in 1973, five days before his son’s first birthday. She buried her dad two months later.

“That was the summer I made a conscious decision that, no matter what was going on in my life, I would look for the positive and the humour. So far, 38 years later, it seems to be working pretty well. I volunteer for the hospital and hospice and my mission is to make people smile and feel better.

“I’m here because my first husband was killed and he’s the only one, the first one that could recognize that I could sing. He recognized it before I could, so you know what? I’m going to do this. So we’ll see what happens.”

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