Danielle Digby grew up listening to a constant refrain from her whimsical mother.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful,” her mom was prone to pronouncing, “if life were like a musical?”
And on the occasion of Maureen St. Pierre’s 85th birthday, her life was indeed full of song.
“She was absolutely shocked,” her youngest daughter told InsideEdition.com Tuesday. “I had my arm around her and I could feel her crying.”
What moved St. Pierre to sobs was a flash mob that broke into singing and dancing as the grandmother of 12 sat in a British Columbia gazebo with her entire family, waiting to go into her birthday dinner at a restaurant next door.
Maureen St. Pierre, sitting in front row, with her extended family. (Danielle Digby)
The performers had been rounded up months before by Digby, a stage actress who had been racking her brain to come up with something special to mark her mother’s 85 trips around the sun.
It seemed only fitting to stage a surprise mini-musical for a woman who so loved the premise of people spontaneously bursting into song.
Digby recorded the dance moves she wanted for “Put on Your Sunday Clothes,” from “Hello, Dolly!” and the campy “YMCA” (most people already know those famous hand movements), and posted the video to YouTube.
The volunteer performers learned the routine in their living rooms, thereby lessening the need for full-blown rehearsals.
So when St. Pierre and her six grown children, with all their family members, sat down in the gazebo last month, the music started.
At first, the grandmother thought someone had just decided to sing out loud. And wasn’t that nice?
"Then one by one the others got up, and then I heard my name. I was just completely surprised,” St. Pierre told InsideEdition.com. “Once I realized it was for me, I started crying straight away."
St. Pierre has led an extraordinary life, adopting mixed-race children in the 1960s, running away from an abusive husband, and ultimately marrying Digby's father and giving birth to Danielle. It was her mother's love of musicals that inspired Danielle to become an actress.
A much-younger Maureen St. Pierre, left, with her family. (Danielle Digby)
When “YMCA” began, strangers joined the throng. “I’ve always loved that song,” St. Pierre said. “It’s just a happy-go-lucky song. And it’s so fun to do all those moves.”
St. Pierre has had her share of really good birthdays, she says, “but this was one of the best.” She is, she says, a lucky woman.
There is one moment, as St. Pierre stands in the middle of all those people serenading her long journey in life, when she is completely overcome.
That sight, her daughter said, was just the best.
“Sometimes words aren’t enough,” she said. “And you have to just break into song.”