Trip to Newfoundland



Trip to Newfoundland, March 03

We managed to nestle into St. John's between snowstorms, the sun bright, and the air cold. It was good to be back, walking along Duckworth Street and down the steps to the Ship Inn - through the door, out of the cold and into the welcoming warmth of music and friends well met. It felt perfectly familiar, and the talk picked up from where it had left off after the festival the previous summer.

Clarke and I had come over a couple of days earlier than planned in order to record a piece for CBC radios "All for a Song" segment, (check out David's
All For a Song page) the brainchild of Russell Bowers of CBC St. Johns. Russell had asked me to take part in the project and after refusing three times I finally caved in and agreed to try it. The idea behind the show is that an artist would select a poem from the hundreds submitted by listeners across the country and put music to the words. I arrived in St. Johns without a tune, but in possession of a lovely poem called Fishing Seasons by Bethany Keddy. St. Johns worked its magic however, and the tune came to me as I sat looking at the comings and going in the winter harbour, past the chimney pots and roof tops, as the sun set and the lights from the ships and the houses blinked on.

St. John's Harbour

Dave and I arranged it that night, then press ganged Jim Payne into the project to supply the accordion and backing vocals. The mix in the studio was excellent, and working with Jim was a something I had wanted to do since first hearing him. It was an exciting session to be part of and we have Russell to thank for that.

Our trip to the island was sponsored by the Arts and Cultural Centre, Dept of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, and involved playing at the Centres in both St. John's and Corner Brook, as well as hosting a songwriters workshop in St. John's and visits to the Memorial University Folklore Department s in both cities. In typical Newfoundland fashion, we were well looked after during the entire stay.
Our good friend Jean Hewson organized the songwriting workshop at the Masonic Temple and it was accordingly a relaxed and highly enjoyable affair. As expected there was no shortage of talent. Dave, Geoff Somers and myself spent an utterly enjoyable day with all that attended. Our visit to the University's Folklore Department was also enjoyable thanks to the efforts of bluesman and Professor Peter Narvaez.

The Arts and Cultural Centre was a wonderful hall to play in, impressive both visually and acoustically. We had many musical friends in the audience and I had the pleasure of renewing acquaintances as well as meeting people I had been corresponding with prior to our visit. I enjoyed that very much, as well as meeting up with Sara and Kamilla, our opening act, who we first met four years ago at Blue Skies Festival in Ontario. Sara and Kamilla keep getting better, and you just can't beat sister harmony at any time. The concert itself was a highlight for us, and we were very excited to finally be playing a full show for the folks in St. John's.

It was bitter cold the next day when we flew to Deer Lake, eventually ending up at the door of the Arts and Cultural Centre in Corner Brook, just down the hill from Grenville College, a Memorial University satellite campus. We had an initial tour of the Centre and the hall we were to play in. Another excellent venue that attracts a wide variety of performers from around the world. I had driven through Corner Brook four times last year, and this time I got to visit for a bit. The inlet that forms the harbour is a beautiful sight as you drive along the shore towards the mouth. The return trip is dominated by the massive pulp and paper mill on the harbour's edge. I was fascinated by this spectacular industrial landscape.

The workshops at the University were great fun. We especially enjoyed our talks with the students both before and after, many of whom attended the Friday evening concert at the Centre.

Karen Galliotte and her stage and sound crew were a wonderful group of people who bring a strong sense of commitment to their work. We can not thank them enough for their help. The day of the show we took part in an information day on "Careers in the Arts" hosted by the Centre, and well attended by area highschool students. We passed a lovely afternoon with some very talented young people.

"The Catch" opened for us. This band is a showcase for the brothers Macdonald, Lou and Mike. You rarely meet people so steeped in music - at all its levels and aspects - as these two and would be hard pressed to meet more accomplished musicians. We enjoyed meeting and hearing them very much. The show was a treat for us that night, a warm and appreciative audience in a beautiful setting. Again, I got to meet up with people I have been writing to from the West Coast of Newfoundland and it was good to have faces to put with the names. This was a wonderful way to end such an enjoyable trip.

The people I should thank are of course legion, and it is not possible to thank everyone here. Richard Stoker and Maria Byrnes from the ACC in St. Johns looked after us well, with Maria having the main role of "cat herder" during our stay. She was a constant help and delight. Jean Hewson, Linda Russell and Christina Smith were a constant support and make leaving of the place all the more difficult. Daunt Lee, a local guitar maker and pal bailed us out by fixing my suddenly broken guitar in time for the show and did so with his usual understated calm. At Memorial and Grenville Campus's we would like to thank Peter Narvaez, Ivan Emke and Doreen Klassen. Karen Galliotte and her crew at the Centre in Corner Brook were a pleasure to meet and play for. I would especially like to thank Doreen McCarthy of the Arts and Culture Ministry for organizing this trip in the first place. The Cultural Diversity Through the Arts program was a joint undertaking between the Canadian Heritage Department and the Newfoundland and Labrador Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. Doreen had mentioned the possibility of this tour taking place when we first met at the Newfoundland Labrador Folk Festival, and she was good to her word. We would like to thank her and her staff for all their efforts on our behalf, and for inviting us back to a place where we all feel so welcomed. We owe all involved a huge vote of thanks.

And so we returned home. I have been listening constantly to Jim Payne, Fergus O'byrne and the rest of "A Crowd of Bold Sharemen", an outstanding band and an outstanding CD. Come to think of it, Newfoundland is a lot like that album. It gets inside you and never quite leaves. A part of me remains in Newfoundland and the rest dreams of returning.

War Statue, St. John's

back home

photo of St. John's Harbour by David Francey

view of Duckworth Street from the CBC building

view from the kitchen, St. John's

Songwriter's workshop, Masonic Temple

Dick Stoker, St. John's Arts and Cultural Centre

Geoff warming up in Corner Brook

Frozen Bay, west coast of Newfoundland