In tune with tragedy
Music can express what we can’t always say
Just a few weeks ago I watched a young performer sing an amazing rendition of a musical theater song with such feeling I found myself with tears streaming down my cheeks when it ended.
Bette Midler just has to sing one note and I’m a basket case of emotion. Perhaps not everyone is as easily moved by beautiful music as I am but I bet most of you have cried in front of a moving scene in a movie or laughed out loud at a well-timed joke in a novel.
It is the ability to evoke an emotional response that makes art such a valuable part of the human experience. Art gives voice to feelings that we sometimes don’t have the words for. It can represent the good and the bad of life and aid us in processing the emotion around both.
The Derina Harvey Band is a five-piece Celtic rock group comprised of east coast musicians living in Edmonton. It formed when front-woman Derina Harvey, a soloist, was told “too bad, we only hire bands,” after inquiring about a potential gig. Not one to give up, she called up some friends, all graduates from the Music, Performance, Business and Technology program at College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville, and asked them to join her. More recently, their fiddler, Jess Benis from New Brunswick, joined Scott Greene, Ed Smith, Steve Pinsent and Harvey to form the band as it currently exists.
With two albums under their belt, they’ve just released their newest single as a precursor to a future record, and to their absolute amazement it has garnered over 100,000 views on Facebook and half as many on Youtube.
“The Fallen Man’s Daughter” is a poignant story song that is a memorial to Smith’s uncle and others who were lost at sea when the fishing boat, The Patrick and Elizabeth, was lost in 1994. But rather than focus specifically on that one tragedy, they wrote a song for all who are taken at sea and those left behind. It’s also a tribute to those men who often were forced to take other employment, all for their family. In fact, the video shows a story line of a fisherman who becomes a miner then returns to the sea.
Harvey describes the song as a tribute to “sacrifice, courage and strength,” traits found both in the fishers who ply their trade on the sea and those who are left behind when tragedy strikes.
She says she has been very taken aback by the response and said, “I was not prepared for people who have endured, reaching out to me.”
Both privately and publicly people have shared their stories of loss. She explains that she is grateful and honoured that people are sharing their personal family truths with her and calls it “quite humbling.”
One line in the song, “Damned October winds call to young men and keep them,” was particularly poignant to me because I spoke to Harvey shortly after reading about a man drowned in Conche on Oct. 26.
Perhaps Dr. Brene Brown said it best when she said, “When we hear someone else sing about the jagged edges of heartache or the unspeakable nature of grief, we immediately know we’re not the only ones in pain.”
It is not surprising that this song resonates with listeners in Newfoundland and Labrador, a province that sees more than its fair share of tragedy at the hands of the sea. Or that they feel connected to a song, that allows them to feel understood and heard in their experience of being left behind after such heartbreaking tragedy.
Listen to “The Fallen Man’s Daughter” at https://www.derinaharvey.com/