Exhibit to explore ‘Voices of Placentia Bay’
Local storytellers, singers, poets focus of multimedia project
People visiting Placentia next summer will be able to learn about the significant and in some cases less well-known characters who’ve had a knack for sharing stories in the area, either through song, poetry, or straight-up gabbing.
A new multimedia exhibit, titled “Voices of Placentia Bay,” will be housed in the Cultural Interpretation Building next to the town hall in Placentia. Colleen Shea, an interpretive planner who has worked on the project alongside main exhibitor Marilyn Mahle, has been thoroughly enjoying herself while sorting through piles of audio recordings and other material.
“It’s a celebration of all of the singers, players and storytellers that came out of Placentia Bay — the most amazing amount of talent,” she told The Compass. “It’s about how the old songs and old stories were preserved and passed on by the tradition bearers from generation to generation, family to family and community to community.”
The exhibit will also look at how the tradition of storytelling remains strong within the younger generation. Shea credits the emergence of musicians from the area like Matthew Byrne, Kevin Collins, Damien Follett, Larry Foley and Geraldine Hollett for helping that cause.
“They’re building a whole new body of traditional music that is new, vibrant and different, but still rooted in the traditions of where they come from.”
Wealth of material
The hardest part of working on the project for Shea has been determining what can fit into the exhibit. Shea and Mahle initially started with a collection of research prepared by Eric West in 1978.
“There are hours and hours and hours of tapes,” Shea said of West’s work, which includes 23 interview subjects, some of which came from resettled islands in the area.
“We tried to include people from all over Placentia Bay.”
“Some of those people were older people then, and they’re long gone … When we started trying to figure out who they were and fit them in and find out about them, their families are still around … They were the people who were singing in the kitchens and they were the people who were singing at the dances and the times.”
The multimedia exhibit will include some of these interviews, plus further interviews conducted with people who have built upon the old storytelling traditions and kept them alive in the area.
“We tried to include people from all over Placentia Bay,” said Shea.
There will also be slideshows, music, videos and biographical information. Shea hopes to include interactive components that allow people to play music themselves or share poetry.
Memorial University’s Research Centre for Music, Media and Place is also helping set up a website for the exhibit that will include a wealth of additional archival material.
A Facebook page — Voices of Placentia Bay (https://www.facebook.com/voicesofpb) — has been used to help identify people and learn more about the storytellers.
Tom O’Keefe, president of the Placentia Area Historical Society, is pleased to see the project moving forward.
“It’s great really, because it’s building on what is our primary objective — to highlight the history of the area,” he said.
The society received funding from the provincial Department of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development and the federal Department of Canadian Heritage to create the exhibit. The Town of Placentia is also partnering with the society by providing space for the exhibit.
Next summer, this wooden structure will be filled with multimedia material for an exhibit called “Voices of Placentia Bay.”