Our upcoming concert, Going to the Rock!, features music of Newfoundland, and as always, the KSS choristers have some favorite songs that they’re looking forward to performing.
Says one singer, “Sarah (arranged Jonathan Quick) is a fun classic, and Make and Break Harbour is a beautiful, poignant song that captures the plight of many Newfoundland fisherfolk and their families, written by Canada’s father of folk music, Stan Rogers.” Listen to Rogers performing his own song in the video below.
Says another singer, “She’s Like a Swallow (arranged by Edward Chapman) is a beautiful choral piece.
“I also enjoy the challenge of “Drunken Sailor” – the timing & harmonies are so much fun, and the arrangement is an amusing rendition of an old favourite!” Concert-goers will likely recognize the song when they hear it. Drunken Sailor is a capstan shanty, or sailors’ working song. Raising the anchor on a ship involved winding the rope along a giant winch (capstan), turned by sailors walking around it. Capstan shanties are typically more “smooth” sounding than other types and, unlike many other types of shanties, frequently have a full chorus in addition to the call-and-response verses. Listen to the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Maken introduce their version, below:
“I like the Moocher and Me because of it’s catchy and lilting tune,” says yet another singer, “and the Feller from Fortune (arranged by Harry Somers) for the fun!” Check out this video of the University of Illinois choir singing the same arrangement of Feller from Fortune that KSS will be performing:
In addition to the Newfoundland songs, KSS will also be singing a set of varied pieces that we’re preparing for our visit to Festival 500 in July. One of the singers’ favorite songs comes from this set: “Each time we sing I Thank You God (arranged by Gwyneth Walker), it seems to have a unique impact. The lyrics work hand-in-hand with the instruments (voices & piano), drawing us all together to share this poignant message.” Listen to the 2002 NMMEA All State Womens Choir perform this piece, here:
Reverend Canon Don Ford is the rector at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, London. A native of Newfoundland, he will be interweaving the evening’s music with spellbinding stories from his colourful homeland.
“When I first met our storyteller, Don Ford, he offered to tell me the history of Newfoundland, which he knows very well. I was mesmerized for a solid 20 minutes by his passion and the depth of his understanding of what the people went through to exist there, and the love with which they hold their culture – their lifeline in a sea of change.
“Our audience will enjoy the music in Going to the Rock! The smiles will open hearts and minds to hear an inspirational message of courage and achievement of a people who have gone through challenging times.
“Folk music is the true music of the people. It grew from the soil and the difficulties of a simple agrarian existence – in the case of Newfoundland, a simple fishing existence. It speaks of the timeless themes of humankind: love and survival. It is the story of all of us – both joyful and poignant.”
The lively bow of B.C.-based Celtic fiddler Jennie Bice will have toes tapping at the next KSS concert, Going to the Rock!, featuring songs from Newfoundland in preparation for our trip to Festival 500 in St. John’s this July.
What does the music of Newfoundland mean to Bice?
“I had the privilege of performing with my band Prydwen at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival a number of years ago. I have always loved the music of Newfoundland; it was joyous and raucous and inclusive. It meant gathering with folks you loved around a piano and belting out ‘I’s the B’y’ and ‘The Squid Jigging Grounds,’ and blowing through a pile of fiddle tunes. It was the very essence of ‘happy.’
“When we performed in Newfoundland, the music took on an even deeper meaning. I was a bit nervous about playing fiddle there, all the while surrounded by incredible Newfoundlander fiddle players, but we were very well received, and ended up being invited to many kitchen parties where you quickly realized that absolutely everyone there plays music. The jam sessions would continue till daybreak, and start up again somewhere after lunch. Music is always present, and participation is assumed.
“The music of Newfoundland, once discovered, will always keep a spark of happy in your heart.”
Fiddler, violinist, singer, composer and educator Jennie Bice is at home in many musical genres. From frenzied boot-stomping Irish craic, country & eastern, roots and rhythm styles, to world fusion, rock, jazz and blues, Jennie shines on every stage she meets.
Bice began playing fiddle at the age of four around the family piano, and never stopped. Currently recording and performing on the west coast of Canada with Boris Sichon, Back Door Slam, Tim Readman, Copper Sky, The Streels, The Craic, and many others, Jennie also loves taking time out every once in a while to teach workshops at a few of B.C.’s fantastic
A producer, engineer, and teacher at Annwyn Studios, Bice is devoted to musical exploration and artistic inspiration. KSS audiences will find her an absolute delight to watch.
Karen recently answered some questions about Going to the Rock!
What is the theme for this concert?
The theme is the exploration and celebration of the music and culture of Newfoundland. In addition, it’s the preparation for the choir’s participation in Festival 500 in St. John’s, Newfoundland in July.
How did you choose the theme?
We needed a public performance of our concert set that we are performing for the Festival, and so we decided to expand on the Newfoundland theme all the way around.
How did you choose the guest artists?
Our choristers, Kevin and Daphne Bice—true lovers of all things Newfoundland—have a daughter who is a professional Celtic fiddler out west who is a fabulous entertainer and who has jammed with the best of them in Newfoundland. Bringing her back to London was a natural choice. Her friend, guitarist Greig Cairns, and she have worked together several times over the years, so it made sense to bring him on the concert too.
Kevin and Daphne were also the contacts for Newfoundland storyteller Don Ford, who is a friend of theirs.
Are any of the pieces special favorites?
Favorites of mine include Feller from Fortune, a Canadian choral favorite which is a cracking arrangement of a well-known Newfoundland folksong. It’s crazy and funny and smart and surprising and satisfying all at once—really a great piece.
I also love The Banks of Loch Erin, which is a wistful, haunting melody brought from Scotland and made Newfoundland’s own. It’s exquisite.
Then I like Drunken Sailor. The timing keeps changing which reminds one of a tipsy sailor stumbling on a ship deck in the roll of the sea—lots of whooping, and just delightful.
A piece that is a stunner from our Festival 500 concert set is I Thank You God by Gwyneth Walker. She set the well-known poem by e. e. cummings and created a resounding affirmation of life and creation—the cosmic Yes. It’s thrilling.
We are also doing Lux Aurumque (Light and Gold) by Eric Whitacre, which has become famous as the Virtual Choir piece. We sang it on our last concert and it got a tremendous response. You can actually hear the “light” shimmering.
We’re also performing a splendid arrangement of Stephen Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns, his most famous song, that is an original interpretation of a great solo with a lot of room for emotional expression.
Back to the Newfoundland songs, there are three (Sarah, The Moocher and Me, The Landfall of Cabot) which are just hilarious, full of antics and gossip and back-chat and Newfoundlandese (terms known only there). As we sing them, Jennie Bice will weave her Kitchen Party fiddle throughout, pick up the theme, and get everyone wanting to dance in the aisles!
Join us at our next subscription season concert as we present rollicking music from and about Newfoundland!
To send us on our way to Festival 500 in St. John’s, we’ll be hosting our very own Newfoundland Kitchen Party with Newfoundland storyteller Don Ford and special guest Celtic fiddler Jennie Bice from Vancouver.
Music will include traditional folk songs (She’s Like the Swallow, Ode to Newfoundland), and even a capstan shanty (sailor’s working song)!
Curious about the music featured in our upcoming fundraising cabaret, Beatles and Friends? Artistic Director Karen Schuessler was looking through the KSS repertoire for fun, upbeat music, and rediscovered our Strawberry Fields concert (June 2007), which has the distinction of being our most popular concert ever.
She also loves two other songs on the program: Battle of Jericho and Let Me Fly. They’re high-energy spirituals from our Road to Freedom CD. We haven’t done them for a couple of years, and they’re great songs!
John Lennon’s Imagine is another great favorite of Karen’s. “The text is child-like in its wonder and clarity of a better world. And as Einstein said, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’ If we can imagine a better world, then we’re half-way there!”
The cabaret is Saturday, February 12, 2011. The evening will feature music of the Beatles, and include specials guests Jazz on Broadway (Steve Holowitz, Amber Cunningham and Paul Grambo). There will also be a silent auction, complimentary food and a cash bar. The cabaret is being held at the London Ukrainian Centre, 247 Adelaide Street North. Silent auction opens at 6:30 p.m. and cabaret begins at 8:00 p.m.
To purchase tickets, click here to navigate to our Concerts and Tickets page.
In 2011 the Karen Schuessler Singers will be one of the featured choirs at Festival 500, the highly respected international choir festival held in St. John’s Newfoundland, every second year. This week-long festival will offer choral workshops, concerts, and a variety of other educational and performance opportunities. For KSS it promises to be the experience of a lifetime!
Stay tuned for more updates and information as our departure for the east coast draws near!
Visit this space often for a wealth of background information, research and interviews about our upcoming concerts, as well as cool stuff that we've found on the Internet related to music and choral singing.
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