Nain mourns the loss of well-respected musician, teacher and friend
Karrie Obed touched a lot of lives
Unfortunately, it was time to say goodbye.
Karrie Obed died at the Labrador Grenfell Health Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Sept. 9 after a battle with cancer. He was 57 years old.
Darlene Holwell is a former student at Jens Haven Memorial School where Obed taught. Holwell now teaches Grade One at the school.
“I’ve known Karrie ‘Mister’ all my life. He was my cousin, a teacher in our school, a choir member, a brass band player but most of all, my friend,” she said via e-mail.
Holwell said she will remember Obed for his compassion for music, the Inuktitut language, and the revival of the brass band.
Holwell said she’s thankful to people in Nain, particularly Joan Dicker and Kristie Holwell, who helped with and supported fundraisers for Obed’s family during his illness.
“Nain members donated food, money and their time to help Mister’s family go to see him in their time of need. A fundraiser held by a local band named The Beardos also raised money on his behalf. Three-quarters of The Beardos are teachers where Mister taught,” she said.
Tom Gordon, professor emeritus with Memorial University’s School of Music, knew Obed for about 15 years and worked with him closely over the past seven years.
Gordon worked closely with Obed on a National Film Board film called “Till We Meet Again: Moravian Music in Labrador.”
A wonderful tradition bearer, Gordon said, Obed is featured prominently in the film.
Gordon said Obed was “a shy man with the sweetest personality.”
While not a trained voice, he said, Obed’s voice had tremendous power.
“Karrie had the most beautiful, natural voice that I’ve ever heard in my life... No matter what he was singing or how he was singing it, his voice went straight to your heart. It had an emotional intensity to it that was unlike anything I’ve ever heard,” Gordon said during a recent phone interview.
Gordon produced “Pillorikput Inuit: Inuktitut Arias for All Seasons,” which means “Blessed are the People.”
The collection of Moravian music from the 18th and 19th century features Obed and Deantha Edmunds. The album earned an East Coast Music Award nomination.
In remembering his friend, Gordon recalled how Obed travelled to Germany in 2015 to perform with the Nain Brass Band at a Moravian Brass Band Festival. During the trip, Obed was invited to sing at a Moravian church.
“He sang some Moravian hymns there for an audience of about 1,000 people. He was accompanied only by a trumpet. It was absolutely mesmerizing,” Gordon said.
Obed’s performance led to an “incredibly powerful and spiritual” album of trumpet hymns, Gordon said.
According to Gordon, brass bands have been part of daily life in Moravian Inuit villages for over a century. Obed and others in the community were instrumental in forming a brass band in Nain about five years ago, he said.
“Karrie was part of a group that worked hard to revive the brass band.”
Gordon will continue to hold on to his memories of his friend and talented musician.
“When we were preparing the first recording, we would get together in the music room at the school. We would rehearse together. I felt so privileged to be alone in a room with that wonderful voice and that wonderful person. And I find myself, in the last few weeks, going back to those moments.”
Seeing Obed perform to an audience of 800 people in St. John’s is also a memory Gordon won’t soon forget.
“He sang with his whole heart and shared his traditions with an audience who otherwise never would have come in contact with him. I saw how proud he was. I was very happy to have witnessed this,” Gordon said.
Obed is predeceased by his wife Clara Judy Sabina Obed (Tuglavina). He leaves behind his daughter, Lisetta Obed; sons, Thomas Tuglavina and Samuel Tuglavina; and grandsons, Christian Obed and Isaac Abel.
“He was the gentlest soul but also somebody who had a tremendous impact in his community. He will be greatly, greatly missed,” Gordon said.
Donations to Obed’s family can be made by contacting Holwell at firstname.lastname@example.org
Karrie Obed in the Bell Tower of the Nain Moravian Church. Submitted photo of Karrie Obed.