Champions of music
Workshop planned to promote music appreciation
The International Grenfell Association (IGA) has been championing health care, education, religion and social services for more than 125 years. Now, the venerable organization has turned its attention to enhancing accessibility to music on the Northern Peninsula and in Labrador.
Enter Joe Donaghey and Joanna Pohl.
Donaghey, a classical guitarist, was hired by IGA to head up phase two of its music program with the title music champion.
“Isn’t that the coolest title, ever?” asked Pohl, coordinator of the Iceberg Festival, who is helping Donaghey to put on a pilot workshop in St. Anthony.
Tentatively, the pilot, which will be a music appreciation workshop, is set to take place in early December. Dates have not been finalized as Donaghey and Pohl are working with Memorial University and local musicians to coordinate schedules.
The planned format is to have the musicians play a short set and talk about why they chose their instruments and the genre of music they play and how those things fit into the context of local and Newfoundland music.
Donaghey himself will be the first guest musician.
His choice of classical guitar was kind of accidental.
“I wanted to do music production, but one year I just forgot to reapply,” he explained. “I could play guitar, so I found the only program in Ontario (Cambrian College) that did guitar and I got in, so I have six years of classical guitar under my belt now.”
In fact, in addition to his advanced diploma from Cambrian, Donaghey has two degrees from Memorial University, a bachelor’s and a degree in music composition.
He said he is now happy with his slip up.
“Learning an instrument gives you incredible discipline, which I don’t think I would have gotten with recording to the same degree,” he said.
Donaghey and Pohl want to turn the pilot into a whole series of workshops on different topics, for St. Anthony and other communities on the Northern Peninsula and in Labrador.
Music appreciation was the natural place to start, Donaghey said.
“Always having music around from a young age, really influenced where I am now,” he explained. “Getting that point across, what music can do, even if it’s not obvious, it certainly shapes who you become.”
Although they will be bringing in others to help present the initiative, Donaghey also wants to make sure there is local involvement.
“I think keeping local musicians in it is important,” he said. “I don’t want to push that out, I want to keep that and also open up things to other influences.”
Pohl’s involvement also came about somewhat accidentally.
Originally from this area, she wanted to move home and get involved with the Grenfell legacy, so she went back to college and was hired by the town to coordinate the Iceberg Festival after graduating.
Also from a musical family, Pohl was looking for a way to tie that personal legacy in with the Grenfell legacy. Donaghey happened to get an office a couple of doors down from hers at the St. Anthony municipal building and they got to talking about working together.
In the short term, she said, they have bitten off what they can manage for the moment, with aspirations of holding regular workshops and perhaps even incorporating a tourism component to it.
In the long term, the plan is much grander.
“We want to have a permanent space and develop an arts and culture centre here that serves the Great Northern Peninsula and Labrador,” she said. “There’s a lot of interest and a lot of support in that long-term concept.”
The first phase of the music program was conducted by MUN professor Dr. Tom Gordon, who worked in Nain with brass bands, a legacy of Moravian mission work in northern Labrador.
Joe Donaghey performs at Memorial University during his graduation recital in April.