Fergus and the young folk
Newfoundland music legend works with area’s youngest musicians
The martial arts movies of old usually featured the grand master teaching a young pupil.
Over the course of the film, the pupil works alongside the master, learning everything he can and honing his craft.
That’s until the pupil has to dispatch the movie’s villain in impressive fashion.
That’s kind of what you got at Ascension Collegiate in Bay Roberts on June 4 when renowned Irish-Newfoundland musician Fergus O’Byrne conducted the latest version of his Young Folk At The Hall. Only you replace traditional music with martial arts and an epic end-of-film showdown with a concert at Grace United Church in Coley’s Point the next day.
Twenty-five young musicians from around the Trinity-Conception region signed up for the highly anticipated event, which took place over two weekends.
Working with O’Byrne and seven mentors, the group split into six different bands to hone their sound and set list for the Sunday night performance.
Walking through the halls of Ascension, you heard versions of traditional favourites like “Auntie Mary Had a Canary” and “Saltwater Joys,” as well as contemporary classics like “Wagon Wheel.”
The sounds wafted from the cafeteria to the far end of the school, blending with each other to create a harmonious melting pot of traditional Newfoundland music.
For many of the youngsters with instruments on their laps or beneath their chins, they were playing with people they’d never played with before.
Creativity comes quicker in a group setting. Besides, traditional music should be played in a group anyway.
“I found before I couldn’t play with other people,” said Blaketown’s Kyla Russell. She played with The Wild Bologna. “Now, I find it easier playing in a group. I’d never really played with people before.”
Abigail Morgan, another of member of The Wild Bologna, found playing with people sparked something creatively.
“I found that on some of the songs, I can change it up and make it more interesting,” she said.
The process for dividing them into bands played into the idea of passing down traditions from one generation to the next.
“I put them all in a list and look at them, first of all by age. The range now is 17 down to eight. I look at that and I also look at what each of them play and bring to the program,” said O’Byrne. “Then I divide them into bands. I want the older ones with the younger ones because I want to give them a sense of passing it on. So when they grow through the program, they’ll have this idea.
“It’s all an osmosis that once they’re together, they’re going to share … and each kid is unique.”
They picked their own band names that will go in the event’s program. Names like The Celtic Seals, Put A Purple Penney in a Pink Pan and Ice Ice Purple Purple Baby Mole dot the inside cover of the pamphlet.
What each brings to the table is something O’Byrne looks forward to.
“I never know what’s going to the table,” he said. “Sometimes, you get really strong acts.”
This was the first time the workshop was held in Bay Roberts. It was a part of the highly successful Songs, Stages and Seafood Festival held by the town every year.
With such high registration numbers, O’Byrne can’t think of why there wouldn’t be a second edition next year.
“It’s great for the first time out here and I hope this becomes an annual thing,” he said.
Renowned Irish-Newfoundland musician Fergus O’Byrne (middle) works with the group Ice Ice Purple Purple Baby Mole during the Young Folk At The Hall music workshop at Ascension Collegiate in Bay Roberts on June 4. The sessions were a part of a new event of the Songs, Stages and Seafood festival. Members of the group, from left, are Steven Reid, Brady Piercey, mentor Naomi Brown and Gabe Ardis.