Monday, September 05, 2011

Newfoundland music: The Once

Trinity, Newfoundland, is a small fishing community in the northern part of Atlantic Canada, a place where people have been making their livings from the sea of centuries. It was in Trinity that Geraldine Hollett, Phil Churchill, and Andrew Dale found themselves charged with making an evening’s entertainment for tourists and people passing through. In doing that their trio, The Once, came to be.

Newfoundland, far to the north in Atlantic Canada, is a place where Irish emmigrants brought their music, and in meeting up with fellow settlers from England, Scotland, and France. formed a new music. Another powerful force shaping the music of the provnce is the sea. These aspects of the music of Newfoundland weave into the music of The newfoundland msuic the once album coverOnce, whose self titled recording comprises songs and tunes from the tradition along with music from contemporary writers including Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, and Amelia Curran.

Hollett is the lead singer for most of the pieces. Churchill and Dale add backing vocals with Churchill on guitar, mandolin, violin and a bit of suitcase percussion, and Dale on a range of instruments from bodhran to banjo to accordion. The sound is tight and connected. Though the sound of music is quite different, it is the same sort of musical dialogue among the three artists that you hear in groups such as Alison Krauss + Union Station and Blue Highway.

The ballad of sea and loss called Three Fishers takes on an Atlantic Canada sound in The Once’s version, which showcases Hollett’s heartfelt lead vocals and the interweaving of instrument and voice that is a hallmark of the trio’s sound. America Curran’s thought provoking contemporary song What Will You Be Building was recorded as the trio sat around a living room floor, with a connection tot he heart of the song which carries through in the recording of it. The group kicks things up with the high energy story of a woman outwitting her abductors in The Maid on the Shore, and the trio’s a capella take on another song from the tradition, Willie Taylor, is likewise foot stomper. The song Marguerite is an intricate and intriguing tale from Newfoundland history.

In Newfoundland, the expression the once means a soon as possible, right away, directly. It’s a good chance that once you begin listening to the once, you’ll be drawn in right away.

you may also wish to see

Music Road: music of Canada
Music Road: Celtic Colours Festival on the way
Music Road: Alison Krauss: Live from the Tracking Room: A Hundred Miles or Mores

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Blogger Anjuli said...

Excellent post!!!!! I loved the great background.

8:33 PM  
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