Sunday, January 29, 2012

Living the Tradition

One of my favorite annual events took place on Sunday afternoon. Young Folk at the Hall is a musical concert sponsored by the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society to foster and encourage a love of traditional music in the province's younger residents. It's organized by a man who has the status of musical legend in NL, Fergus O'Byrne, who came here in the 1970s as a member of the Irish band Ryan's Fancy. This was the eleventh year that YFATH has taken place, and each year's crop of young performers seems to be better than the last. The thirty or so participants get together on two successive Saturdays to form a number of smaller groups, then choose repertoire and rehearse. They have literally only a few hours in each other's company to put together a set featuring the musical talents of the group's members.
The "Young Folk" involved range in age from seven to seventeen, and there are a wide range of skill levels present. That's the idea; kids mentoring other kids and helping one another learn more about the traditional songs and tunes of Newfoundland. One of the most heartening facets of the program is that for the last several years, young people who have graduated from the program have returned to facilitate the experience for the new, younger participants. The smiles on their faces during the performances -- and during the standing ovation at the end of the concert -- are a clear indicator that these young people are having a great time, and it's a great time that doesn't involve video games, computers, TV or a trip to the mall.
The choice of material is surprisingly varied, with traditional and contemporary songs, instrumental tunes, and a wide range of instruments from fiddles and tin whistles to cello and mandolin. Songs are often arranged so that each member of the group contributes a verse, so every participant is featured at least briefly. It's inspiring to watch the spirit of cooperation and camaraderie that's demonstrated by these young people. It's also wonderful to watch them develop polish and professionalism year by year as they take part in Young Folk; seeing the shy seven-year-old becoming a poised and confident nine- or ten-year-old and stepping in to mentor younger participants. Young Folk at the Hall not only encourages an appreciation of the traditional music of the province, it provides an opportunity for young people to stretch their wings as performers, and to develop a passion for the musical heritage that sets Newfoundland and Labrador apart.
Photos: 1) Hayleigh McGrath; 2) The Pull Hair Dummies (William Corbett, Leslie Amminson, Bryan Snow, Victoria Smith, Chelsea Parsons) 3) Ellen Power 4) Finale with all participants performing "Mussels in the Corner".

No comments:

Post a Comment