A few weeks ago John and I went to a concert put on by the Karen Schuessler Singers that featured some music from Newfoundland, called "Going to the Rock." People here talk about the maritime provinces with a sense of nostalgia and love that reminds me of how American southerners talk about their states. It's its own little region, part of Canada, and yet culturally distinct. I had some desire to travel to Newfoundland before the concert, and afterward, I obviously wanted to go immediately. It seems like it would be sort of like visiting the U. K., but marginally easier to get to.
A couple I know both sing in the KSSingers, and the rector at my church, Don Ford, a native Newfoundlander, told stories about the province in between pieces. They also had an amazing fiddle player, Jennie Bice, and a guitarist, Greig Cairns, who played with the choir and some solo numbers. Jennie's playing was so outstanding, we really felt like we got our money's worth out of the tickets just from the pieces she played. I tried to find a youtube video of her really playing the crap out of some difficult passage work, but this video is the best I could find.
It didn't take long for us to realize that everyone in the audience seemed to know a lot more about Newfoundland than we did. But part of Don's storytelling included a history of Newfoundland, beginning with the vikings, through the colonial period, and past 1949 when Newfoundland and Labrador became part of Canada. He also entertained us with stories of being a young church intern there just after his ordination, and the bizarre decisions he had to make when the other 10 rectors in the area left him in charge and went on vacation. His final few stories were about the strength of the people of Newfoundland, living in harsh conditions, but maintaining good humor about it and a sense of community.
After the choir's opening set included the pieces they're going to perform on their tour there this summer, they moved into songs about Newfoundland and/or arrangements of well-known (though not to us) folk songs from that area.
The only downside to the concert was that they clearly way oversold the tickets. We were squished in the last pew in the balcony of the church where it took place. At intermission, an older guy in the same pew made what I feel was an offensive joke about me sitting in his lap for the second half, and then demanded that I switch seats with him so he could sit in the aisle and have more leg room (I'm sure it was better for him, but seriously, you can ask me instead of just telling me. End of rant.).
Still, the unpleasantness of the seating was overshadowed by how much we enjoyed the music. One of our favorites was "Sarah" (here's a link to a youtube solo version of the song), about a guy trying to get his girlfriend to sneak out with him at night.
The most memorable song they did was "I's the B'y." This video is the closest version I could find, though I think there are probably hundreds of versions. Jennie explained that it's a pub favorite and that it was necessary for everyone to sing along. The way she set it up, we thought she would sing a verse and have us imitate her so we could learn the tune. But after Jennie and the choir set up the first verse, the entire audience burst into song and knew exactly what was going on. John and I looked at each other like, "what just happened?". By the middle of the second verse we were singing along. It was a great way to end the concert, which was capped off with everyone singing the "Ode to Newfoundland." Again it seemed like everyone knew that one but us.
Now I'm hoping for a conference I can apply to in the maritimes so that I can get Western to pay for me to go out there!