Newfoundland marks anniversary with song and story

By Ian Foster
Bishops College
St. John's, Newfoundland

Rex Murphy

On March 31st, 1949, two minutes before midnight, Newfoundland joined Confederation and became the tenth province of Canada.

On March 31st, 1999, Newfoundland celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of joining Canada with Soiree '99, a gala event held at Memorial Stadium, in the heart of St. John's.

It can be argued that Newfoundland boasts some of the most talented performers in the cuntry. During the concert, audiences were treated to a wide variety of entertainment. Musicians performed a wide range of music from pop music, to folk, to opera. The master of ceremonies for the evening was commentator and journalist Rex Murphy, who continuously enthralled viewers with his amusing, albeit sarcastic, humour.

The line-up for the event included a performance by popular singer Kim Stockwood, who sang her brand-new single "12 years old" from the album of the same name. Jazz saxophone player, John Nugent, came home from New York to perform in the show. Felix and Formanger, a duo that includes a fantastic accordion player, played a set of traditional tunes. The Spirit of Newfoundland theatre troupe orchestrated a magnificent combination of Newfoundland songs. The Newfoundland Divas - Joanne Hounsell, Sonya Gosse, and Shelly Neville - received a standing ovation for their intricate opera performance. The Irish Descendants had the crowd going with their fabulous Newfoundland folk music.

The night continued with the reading of E. J. Pratt's "The sea," and the beautiful and emotional performance by Phyllis Morrissey of a song by the same name. The Sipujij Drummers and Dancers of Conne River represented Newfoundland's native background. Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellas performed a song from their latest album entitled "Chocolate," followed by one of their well-known comedy sketches.

Another group who stole the night were the Ennis Sisters, who sang "If anything happened to you," and "Gettin' Dark Again".

Finally, Gordon Pinsent gave a moving speech, addressing the life and times of Newfoundland, how we started, and who we are.

The Ennis Sisters

Needless to say, there was an extensive group of individuals involved in the production of the event. One must not forget the members of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, who accompanied many of the performers for the night. The conductors included Jim Duff, who also arranged the music played, and Peter Gardner.

After the gala performance, some of the artists talked about the significance on Newfoundland's Confederation with Canada. Brian Way, the pianist for the evening, responded, "I'm glad I'm Canadian and I'm very happy to be here."

Check out an excerpt of Ian’s
interview with Jed Blackmore.

That sentiment was reinforced by Jed Blackmore of the Folk of the Sea Choir.

"I think that we are made stronger with Canada and that Canada is better off with us," he said after the concert.

Kim Stockwood also commented on what it was like to be home.

"I love it. I love the people. It's like I have a secret. That there's something so special about Newfound-land. No one can describe it, no one knows what it is, but it is like no where else in the world."

Check out an excerpt of Ian’s
interview with Kim Stockwood.