Festival Dedication 2019: John Koop and Ray Walsh

Each year, the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival is dedicated to a member of the folk arts community that passed away in the previous year. This year, the NL Folk Arts Society recognizes not one, but two prolific contributors to the provincial folk music scene.

“We’re honoured to pay tribute to two talented, passionate folk musicians with this year’s Folk Festival dedication,” says Anna Brophy, President of the NL Folk Arts Society. 

“Celebrating the Folk Festival means celebrating those artists and the contributions they have made to our traditions and culture. Both John and Ray were the epitome of what is great about our Festival, and we honour their memory in song, dance and storytelling, like they would have wanted.” 

John Koop came to Newfoundland in the 1970s and immediately became involved in the folk music scene. He played bass in Snuffy Jackson’s seminal country band, The Normal Fishing Tackle Choir, and hosted the 1977 and ‘78 Good Entertainment for Anyone’s Not Used To It festivals. An active member of the Folk Arts Society, he was an ardent supporter of Folk Night both as a performer and as a fan. A master of wordplay and puns, he frequently performed recitations on stage and hosted workshops at the festival. John passed away in November of 2018 and was a folkie to the end, may the circle be unbroken.

Ray Walsh died on January 27th of this year. One of Newfoundland and Labrador’s best known accordion players, Ray was a proud advocate of traditional music in our province. He was featured on many television and radio shows in a career spanning nearly 50 years, including CBC Television’s All around the Circle from 1964 until 1975. Over his career, Ray contributed to many recordings and tours for performers John White, Joan Morrissey, and Kevin Collins, and in 1995 formed the Walsh Family Band with his brother Gerard, son Greg, and daughter Michelle. He served on the board of the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Arts Society, was featured on the festival’s Main Stage many times, and was honoured with the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.