Celebrating Newfoundland Art and Culture at McMichael Gallery

Posted : February 26, 2014

Our blog is chock full of great ideas for fun things to see and do in York Durham and Headwaters. We are always adding new content and updating old posts, but sometimes you might stumble upon something from our vault. If this article has inspired you to hit the road, be sure to double-check that the featured stops in this post are still welcoming visitors.

People attending Changing Tides: Contemporary Art of Newfoundland and Labrador

Changing Tides: Contemporary Art of Newfoundland and Labrador

From January to June, 2014, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection offers its exhibit dedicated to the art of Canada’s eastern-most province, called Changing Tides: Contemporary Art of Newfoundland and Labrador. To celebrate this unique and gripping collection, the gallery held its first ever Newfoundland Jazz Ceilidh on Sunday, February 16th as part of its Family Day lineup of events.
Exactly what, you might ask, is a ceilidh?
Pronounced kay-lee, it is a rip-roaring party of Gaelic origin, with music, dancing and socializing. And it’s not just the McMichael Gallery’s first Newfoundland Jazz Ceilidh. As Jazz.FM91’s Heather Bambrick says, “It’s the first of its kind.”
It was Bambrick and Friends who provided the musical talent for the event. The voice of Jazz.FM91’s morning radio show, she gave the crowd an inspired performance. Why inspired? Well, not only is Ms. Bambrick a winner of multiple National Jazz awards in both the Vocal and Broadcasting category—she’s also a Newfoundlander by birth.
Jazz FM 91's Heather Bambrick Talking to Crowd

Jazz.FM91’s Heather Bambrick

The McMichael gallery couldn’t have chosen a more perfect musician and host for their event. With her east-coast lilt and her broadcasting background, Bambrick slipped effortlessly in and out of the island’s unique accent—and even more unique dialect.
But it was no accident; Bambrick chose her accent strategically, coupling it with humorous stories from her childhood to evoke a laugh from the audience. I loved the story of how she learned French … from a certain Mme MacPherson. How Bambrick managed to blend a French and Scottish accent together is beyond me. Nonetheless, she had the audience chuckling with delight.
The ceilidh started off with some classic, well-loved jazz numbers before progressing into traditional east-coast songs like Jack was Every Inch a Sailor and With Me Rubber Boots On.
Band Singing For Crowd

Heather Bambrick and Friends entertain a full audience

There were many songs that I, myself, knew. Parting Glass happens to be my son’s favourite bedtime song, and, of course, no ceilidh is complete without The Old Newfoundland and Danny Boy. Though this last number was done entirely instrumental, the quiet murmer of the audience could be heard singing “Oh Danny Boy, oh Danny Boy, I love you so,” to the strains of the fiddle.
By the time the ceilidh got underway the hall was standing room only. The ample seating set out beforehand had already been filled. But then again, being a ceilidh, it was not a sit-down type of concert. People young and old came and went, mingled and chatted, and danced and sang along with the band.
Young Caroline and Sam really got into the spirit. Oblivious to the hundred-plus pairs of eyes on them (or perhaps because of that) these two energetic children jumped up and did a lively jig to I’s the B’y.
As a blogger who was there specifically to experience and write about the event, I had a unique perspective on the day. I almost felt like a fly on the wall, listening with half and ear to the conversation around me. “This is great,” said one young lady to her companion directly behind me. And for the final number, I was standing next to an older man who wistfully mouthed the lyrics to Heather Bambrick’s beautiful and haunting rendition of Let Me Fish off Cape St. Mary’s.
Newfoundland culture is a unique thing. Like the place itself, it’s a world of its own. Throughout the year the art of this striking and often mysterious island can be seen at the McMichael Gallery. But its culture is more than just its art. With this first ever Newfoundland Jazz Ceilidh, McMichael went above and beyond to share all that is rare and fascinating about Newfoundland and Labrador.
Visitors to McMichael admire Newfoundland artist Mary Pratt

Visitors to McMichael admire Newfoundland artist Mary Pratt

Kudos to everyone at the McMichael Gallery, to Heather Bambrick and friends, to Jazz.FM91, the official sponsor, and to all the guests who attended the ceilidh. You made it a truly memorable event.
Katie Ryalen is a freelance writer and copyeditor. She lives in Durham, Ontario with her husband, son and three spoiled cats. Blog: katieryalen.wordpress.com Twitter: @KatieRyalen

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