I got to thinking about the role of music in Newfoundland culture after I read yesterday that Dermot O'Reilley, who was a member of Ryan's Fancy, and a long time contributor to the Traditional Newfoundland music scene, died over the weekend. I was too young to remember how Ryan's Fancy (who were the "Great Big Sea" of the 1970's, while Alan and the guys, and myself, were in diapers) but I do remember seeing Dermot and Fergus play while I was studying in St. John's. Man, could they get a crowd going. It was seeing musicians like them that rekindled my love of traditional Newfoundland music. As a kid, its the soundtrack of your life, so you tend to overlook it. However, in the time that I have been away from home, its an old and familiar friend.
Over the weekend, I sang in our church's talent night. It was the first opportunity that people got to hear me sing something that wasn't relgious. I sang "Saltwater Joys" and "Sarah", both by Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellas (brilliant and funny). Afterwards, I got a lot of compliments (which was fantastic) but two stood out to me. One was a lady who told me that her and her family has just moved to London from Halifax, and the songs truly echoed how they feel about the East Coast. The second was from my rector. She told me that after she heard me sing songs from home, she finally 'got' my singing voice. I often struggle with some of the hymns and things in church. In reality they are like vocal gymnastics. But in singing something from home, its easy and comfortable, and I really enjoy singing it. How I sing is heavily influenced by the music I have heard my whole life, and hearing someone tell me that they now understand how I sing, means a lot. It's as if for a moment, I am home.
So, here is to Dermott, and all musicians who bring the love of my home to the world.