Baxter Wareham comes from Harbour Buffett in Placentia Bay and Baxter’s music is Placentia Bay music. His tunes, songs and stories are imbued and performed with the spirit of the seafaring people with whom he grew up, who he has always admired and from whom he learned many of the pieces in his vast repertoire.
Baxter’s involvement in traditional culture is best characterized by its diversity. Firstly, Baxter is as equally recognized for his button accordion music as he is for his singing and for his stories and recitations. But this diversity has marked his lifelong sharing of these talents as well. Baxter began playing and performing with his four brothers at parties and informal gatherings and soon they were invited to the 1973 Mariposa Folk Festival. Baxter suggests that this resulted in further invitations to, for example, the Philadelphia Folk Festival (where they were accompanied by the respected Placentia Bay singer Mac Masters) and to the 1976 American Bicentennial Celebrations. Since the early 70’s, then, Baxter has played most of the festivals in Newfoundland and many in the rest of Canada as well.
Baxter has also collaborated with a diverse host of other Newfoundland musicians. He was an integral member of the trio, with Pat and Joe Byrne, which produced the album Towards the Sunset in 1983. (Indeed, both Pat and Joe acknowledge that it was the fortunate inclusion of Baxter’s rendition of “Rubber Boots” on that album that furthered its popularity.) His involvement with renowned fiddler Kelly Russell and folksong luminary Anita Best resulted in appearances in Bristol, England and the release of the 1997 album Lately Come Over by Bristol’s Hope, a venture which also included master guitarist Sandy Morris and bassist Derek Pelley. This quintet (of Wareham, Russell, Best, Morris and Pelley) also performed at a Federal Government sponsored Canada Day event in Japan. He has also appeared at festivals and special events in Vancouver with the late Newfoundland fiddler, Rufus Guinchard, and singer/songwriter Jim Payne. Further collaborations and guest appearances have been on the album “Newfoundland Bluegrass” released in 1994 by the Newfoundland Bluegrass band Crooked Stovepipe as well as his contribution to roots performer Rik Barron’s 2008 album Right to the Bone. However, when he recalls memorable solo performances his fondest recollections are of his times playing at the concert series at the Random Passage site and his many yearly appearances at the various venues of the March Hare.
In 1989 Baxter released his solo album Buffett Double. Produced by Pigeon Inlet Productions this is a representative selection of Baxter’s accordion tunes and includes a recitation as well as an original composition, “The Harbour Buffett Waltz.” The fact that selections from this album are still being played on radio programs speaks volumes.
It is perhaps most fitting that the last recording that Baxter has released so far is Come Tell Me a Story Grandad, a selection of his favorite and most requested recitations. The album was produced in 2016 by his nephew, Leland Wareham, and Baxter admits that he was encouraged in this project by his nieces, nephews, children, grandchildren and other younger members of his extended family. Passing his material on to the younger generation has also been a passion for this lifelong teacher.
Indeed, Baxter’s some sixty-year involvement with traditional music and culture has been marked by considerable diversity but his performances always have a special quality inspired by the Placentia Bay roots from which he sprang. As Pat Byrne says in the liner notes for Buffett Double, “… there is a special flavour about them that comes from their having been rolled around…on the swell in Golden Bay, from their many incarnations in forecastles…and from their having ‘rattled a few loose panes in the windows’ at many a dance.”
For his diversity of performance, collaboration and output and for his contribution to expanding awareness of the music and culture of the province and especially of his beloved Placentia Bay as well as for his lifelong efforts to pass on this awareness to future generations the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society is pleased to present the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award to Baxter Wareham.
Biography contributed by Joe Byrne
Photo by Leeland Wareham
2019 marks fifty years since Shirley Montague gave her first performance at the Town Hall in her hometown of North West River, Labrador. After moving to Norris Point in the mid-1970s, she became a fixture on the provincial music scene through performance, song-writing, recording, radio and television.
Grounded in the traditional music of Labrador and inspired by nature and the life stories of hardworking people who live off the land, Shirley began writing her own songs in the 1970s. An excellent storyteller, her compositions capture the beauty, humour and hardship of life in Labrador and rural Newfoundland.
She is also a fine singer, guitarist and fiddler, and has produced five solo albums over the span of her career.
In addition to her solo work, Shirley has been involved in several collaborations with some of the province’s finest musicians. Notable projects include Gros Morne: A Musical Journey (1999), a haunting album co-produced by Shirley and musician Eric West and inspired by the culture and landscape of the national park; Remembering the Red Bay Basques (2008) – a compilation recording spear-headed by Shirley, focussed on the 16th-century Basque whaling industry in Red Bay Labrador; and Only Lonely Sometimes – Shirley’s contribution on the renowned recording 11:11 Newfoundland Women Sing Songs by Ron and Connie Hynes (1997). In 1988, Shirley also wrote original music for the Ode to Labrador and rearranged the lyric to incorporate Inuktitut and Innu-aimun translations. That version is included on the compilation Our Labrador, which features folk songs in Labrador’s three languages.
An organizer as well as an artist, she has created multiple performance opportunities for other musicians. In 2007, Shirley founded Trails Tales and Tunes: a unique ten-day festival in Gros Morne national park showcasing the physical beauty of the park in combination with the best in music and storytelling. It is a massive undertaking that provides a boost to the local economy and gives gigs to local, national and international performers. Shirley was highly involved in the establishment of the office of Creative Gros Morne, and also instigated the first small town MusicNL (then MIA) awards and conference event in Rocky Harbour in 2003. Since then, MusicNL has taken the event to other rural locations with great success.
Shirley has been recognized for her work with numerous awards, including Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador’s Cultural Ambassador Award and their Cultural Tourism Award, MusicNL’s Denis Parker Industry Builder Award, the ECMAS’ Stompin’ Tom Unsung Hero Award, The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award, and the Historic Sites Manning Award. She is a renaissance woman who understands both sides of the stage. As one of the province’s most beloved musicians, her understanding of the bond between performer and audience has inspired her to create venues in rural settings where artists can become a meaningful part of the life of small community. Her insistence upon remaining and providing work for people in rural NL is exemplary, and serves as a reminder that these communities are vibrant, viable and indispensable to our culture.
For her outstanding contribution as a musician, tradition bearer and community builder, the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society is delighted to recognize Shirley Montague as the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.
“Aidan O’Hara is a tremendous ambassador for Newfoundland and promoter of the links between the two big islands.” (Former Irish Prime Minister, John Bruton).
“Aidan O’Hara, the well-known broadcaster, was president of the Irish Newfoundland Association when the Taoiseach (Prime Minister John Bruton) first visited (Newfoundland) in 1976. He introduced him to many of those people involved in researching Irish connections, among them Professor John Mannion…” (Shane Kenny, “A truly remarkable but brief visit” in The Sunday Tribune, 24 March 1996)
County Donegal-born award-winning writer and broadcaster, Aidan O’Hara, has worked as a presenter and producer with RTÉ (Ireland’s National Broadcaster) and the CBC. In the autumn of 1973 he decided to become a student again and with his wife, Joyce, and their four children arrived in Newfoundland where he signed up for two years of study at Memorial University. While studying folklore and cultural geography at MUN, Aidan worked in radio and television with CBC St. John’s and quickly became immersed in life in the provincial capital.
Aidan was fortunate to have as his mentor and friend, Dr John Mannion, Professor of cultural geography at MUN, and he introduced him to the Irish communities on the Cape Shore of Placentia Bay, Point Lance and Branch in St Mary’s Bay. The O’Haras formed firm friendships the people in those communities and over the next five years Aidan recorded many of their songs and stories. Some of these recordings will be featured on the Irish Traditional Music Archive web site following a launch in Branch at the end of July.
Throughout the seventies, Aidan featured ‘The Branch Crowd’ as they became known in his broadcasts, on stage, and in print in St. John’s. Their first big exposure to a wider audience was when they appeared at the first two Folk Arts Council Festivals in 1977 and ’78. Aidan was Vice-President of the St. John’s Folk Arts Council at the time and he was cofounder of the festival and programme director for the first two years.
Through his radio broadcasts on RTÉ radio programmes and film documentaries on the Irish in Newfoundland – especially his prizewinning The Forgotten Irish – people in Ireland became aware of the strength of cultural ties between the two islands. In 1976, the Irish embassy in Ottawa contacted Aidan to say that the Irish government representative at Montréal Olympics was coming to Newfoundland on holiday and would he look after him? With four children, there was no room at Aidan and Joyce’s house, so they got Maura and John Mannion to provide the visitor with accommodation. His name? John Bruton, who later became Ireland’s Prime Minister.
Next day, the O’Haras brought him to Branch where their friends, Mary and Anthony Power, looked after him. John was quickly impressed with the strength of their Irish ways in song and story, and later said, “It was quite an amazing sense of coming home, even though I had never been there before.” As a result of that visit and from what he learned from Professor Mannion about the extent of Irish-Newfoundland ties, when Mr Bruton was Irish Prime Minister, he signed a memorandum of understanding with Premier Brian Tobin in 1996. It resulted in establishing cultural, educational, and business ties between the two islands that continue to this day.
In 1998, Aidan’s book on the Irish of Newfoundland, Na Gaeil i dTalamh an Éisc, won the national Oireachtas Prize and the following year it was nominated for the Irish Times Literature Prize. Aidan has done his bit to help in spreading the word about Newfoundland and for more than thirty years has spoken on its history and culture to groups and communities all over Ireland. Over the forty years since their return to Ireland, the home of Joyce and Aidan O’Hara has been ‘home from home’ for many Newfoundlanders from all walks of life. Their door is always open to their friends and visitors from The Rock.
Born in Ontario, Susan Shiner moved to Hawke’s Bay, on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, in1972. In 1979, she met Rick Page, also from Ontario, at Woody Point while he was on vacation. Since that day, the two have made their home in Newfoundland. This meeting almost 40 years ago marked not only the beginning of a long love story, but also the start of a shared and steadfast commitment of supporting musicians and other performing artists both on stage and backstage in every possible way.
As volunteers, Rick and Susan have opened their homes to performers, housing, feeding and transporting a long list of participants in cultural events as varied as the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival, the Sound Symposium, Lawnya Vawnya and Festival 500. Between festivals, this couple consistently supported generations of local talent, from the most well known as well as the lesser known.
“It is a great pleasure to name Susan Shiner and Rick Page as this year’s Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Arts Society Lifetime Achievement Award recipients” says John Drover, President of the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Arts Society. “Susan and Rick have dedicated themselves to the Festival and the Folk Arts Society for decades. Volunteers are as important to us as our many performers and tradition bearers. Thank you to Susan and Rick for all your help and support.”
Says acclaimed Newfoundland performer Jim Payne “Susan Shiner and Rick Page have been lifelong supporters of the revival of folk and traditional music in this province, in this community, and especially at the NL Folk Festival. Susan was instrumental in presenting the Good Entertainment for Anyone’s Not Used To It festivals in 1977 and 1978, which brought together music, song, crafts and storytelling tradition bearers from all over the province for the first time. These early efforts to raise the profile of the old guard of this province traditional musicians laid the foundation for this and many other summer events festival whose impacts re- sounded far beyond their venues, and left a deep and lasting impression on the social and cultural fabric of this place. For Susan and Rick, their efforts were always caring, committed, political, socially responsible, completely altruistic, and always offered with a desire to contribute, and to make the world a better place for all of us. We are fortunate to have them in our community.”
Each in their own way, Susan Shiner and Rick Page contributed to some of the most important events in the revival of our folk music and traditional culture through the 1970s and 1980s.
In 1975, the organizers of the Mariposa Folk Festival, in Toronto Island, decided to include performers from Newfoundland. Susan accompanied Rufus Guinchard, her Hawke’s Bay neighbor, to that event. In both 1976 and 1977, Shiner was asked to organize and accompany a larger contingent of traditional singers, musicians, dancers, crafts people and storytellers from Newfoundland and Labrador to that mainland festival. In 1977, Susan, with Isabella St. John and Rhonda Payne, organized the Good Entertainment for Anyone’s Not Used To It festival at the LSPU Hall. With an audience of 600 people, the event featured 26 performing artists and craftspeople from all over Newfoundland & Labrador, including Émile Benoît from the Port-au-Port Peninsula, Becky Bennett from the Northern Peninsula, and Leo O’Brien from L’Anse-au-Loup in Labrador.
In 1978, Shiner hosted three musical sessions at the second NL Folk Festival in St. John’s She also organized, with Isabella St. John and Elaine Wychreschuk, the second Good Entertainment festival in Lomond, Gros Morne Park. With more than 2,500 people in attendance, 40 artists and artisans performed, including a large group of francophones from the Port-au- Port Peninsula and other communities of the West Coast. Park officials refused to allow a third festival, planned for 1979, for fear of “traffic jams.”
In 1980 the Terre-Neuviens Français of Cape St. George invited Susan and Isabella St. John to work on the programming and recruitment of participants for the first festival “Une Longue Veillée.” In addition to the numerous talented musicians from the Port-au-Port Peninsula, this festival brought together francophone artists from St. Pierre-et-Miquelon, the Magdalen Islands, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Rick Page, with whom Susan was now sharing her life, volunteered his talents as a carpenter for the construction of stages at “Une longue veillée”.
Susan’s commitment to equality for women has shone through all her work in support of musicians and artists. As an event organizer, she took care to put the spotlight on the accomplishments of many women from rural communities. Highlighting the talent, resilience and humour of these women, is in Susan’s view, one of her greatest accomplishment in the folk arts scene.
The couple settled in St. John’s in 1984. Rick, a well respected carpenter around our city, has always made it a point to hire musicians on his crews. Rick has volunteered as chief carpenter at the NL Folk Festival for almost ten years.
“Susan and Rick are the white-haired hippies who go out to see every ounce of the great music that consistently keeps coming up locally St. John’s and from away. They listen, they sing and they dance with more gusto than any of us “kids” ever could” says Geraldine Hollett, singer from the beloved musical group The Once. “If they love your band, they will be the best groupies you could ever hope to have. If they hate your band, they’ll likely show up anyway because they get what makes and keeps a community. Their level of commitment and volunteering kicks agist ideas to the curb. They have selflessly welcomed hundreds of musicians into their home for decades and the amount of food they have made to feed the travelling minstrel would leave most of us aghast in awe. Their pride in this place makes them guides, grandparents and governors to all those who need to see, feel and learn. They passionately give back over and over and over again. Folks like Susan and Rick are not a dime a dozen, but they should be. Congrats on the award, and on behalf of all musicians, thank you for being our gracious host and making us feel like your home is our home.”
After the birth of their children, Claire and Ian, Susan and Rick took great pleasure to attend the NL Folk Festival annually. Indeed, it became almost a familial duty. As often as possible they volunteered their support to the organizers, a family tradition that they hope will be passed to their granddaughters, Maggie, born in 2015 and Elizabeth, born in 2017.
The 1970’s heralded an era of newfound discovery and pride in Newfoundland culture and identity. The Folklore Department at Memorial University was thriving, people stopped being ashamed of the way they spoke, and rebelled against the newfie joke. We were in sync with a roots movement all over the world, as people began to look inward to their own people for inspiration.
Noel Dinn, who had defied all odds and led his 60’s rock band, Lukey’s Boat, from Newfoundland to Montreal, on to London England, now began to assemble a group of musicians to carry on his vision of greatness, a band that would mingle his incredible powerful rock drumming with the music of the people. This group became Figgy Duff.
But our source of uniqueness and strength was also our obstacle. There was no music industry on this windswept island in the North Atlantic in the 60’s and 70’s. The energy, courage and determination it took to blaze the Celtic trail across Canada and abroad in the 1970’s is utterly astonishing.
In the very early years we traveled what seemed like every square inch of Newfoundland, seeking songs and music from people. We played community halls, clubs, festivals, kitchens, full houses, empty houses, to audiences indifferent, hostile, enraptured. In St. John’s we were eyed with suspicion by the folklore set who were re-discovering their uncles’ oil skins and boots and cape-anns battened down. We favored velvet and lace, and were vegetarians who smelled strongly of garlic and had a taste of poetry and copious amounts of fine wine. I remember a maze of diner parties with songs, music, laughter, and discussions far into the night of Blake and Yeats and Newfoundland nationalism, with Neil, Nelson, Genevieve, John, Patricia, Anita, Mike, Peter and more. Some of the folk purists were downright outraged that their precious folk music was being tampered with by long haired “urban intellectuals” using drums and amps. But in those years we measured our success by the joy we brought to the people from whom we learned the music – who instinctively understood that you can’t cram a delicate and beautiful modal melody into a three-chord country format.
The road became a way of life. We thought nothing then of picking up and hopping aboard the old Chevy van, perched on and between P.A. speakers, and driving to Toronto and beyond, gone for months on end, picking up gigs as we went. We crisscrossed Canada, US, and UK more times than I care to remember, occasionally on organized, well-paid tours, but mostly on a wing and a prayer. There was no “ Celtic” or “ Folk Rock” genre- no manager, no agent, no label. We were too electric for the folkies, and too folky for the rock clubs- blues bars seemed to get it mostly; but if we were lucky enough to strike the right venue- El Mocombo, Horseshoe in Toronto; Commodore in Vancouver, and a few other notables, it was magic.
In later years we began to turn our attention more to original music. Noel in particular needed more forms of expression – his poetry and original music were crying for a voice. Times got hard – we never did figure out the “Music Industry”. The traditional players fell away to pursue their own interests – Dave formed “Rawlin’s Cross” and Kelly and Frank “The Plankerdown Band”‘ and on July 26, 1993, Noel Dinn passed away. But not before he had accomplished more in his 45 years then most do in a lifetime. In the last two years of his life he produced three albums with ex-members and close friends of “The Duff” – the exquisite “Color of Amber” with Anita Best, the joyful and spirited “Vive La Rose” and the dark and poignant “Downstream”.
Pamela Morgan, Topsail Nfld., February 1995
The Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society, producer of the 39th Annual Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival, is proud to announce that the festival has selected renowned folk musician and folklorist Anita Best as the recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Anita Best has spent a lifetime exploring, cataloguing and celebrating the rural Newfoundland lifestyle and culture. In the process, she has become one of the province’s most prominent traditional singers.
Best has greatly contributed to the cultural fabric of this province through her talent and passion for traditional folk music. Says President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society, John Drover, “Anita has been involved with the Folk Arts Society of Newfoundland and Labrador for 37 years as a director, volunteer, president and performer. She was also fundamental in setting up so many of the programs that the Folk Arts Society offers to young people, in an effort to preserve and hand down the intangible culture of this province. Not only has she given thousands of hours to the preservation of folk traditions in this province, she is also a remarkably talented performer, and is incredibly deserving of this Lifetime Achievement Award.”
Says Best, “Our intangible cultural heritage is the real culture of Newfoundland & Labrador. The songs and stories feed the creativity of Newfoundland’s writers, musicians, storytellers and visual artists in successive generations, ensuring that the artistry of former generations can continue to live on.” Continues Best, “It is such an honour to follow in the footsteps of Ruth Matthews, Frank Maher and all of the other previous recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award. I am truly grateful to the Folk Arts Society Board for being selected as the recipient of this prestigious award.”
In the Newfoundland and Labrador of bygone days, anyone who played for a dance was called the fiddler, whether they played the accordion, fiddle, harmonica, or sang. Mrs. Clara Belle Fennelly (née Ryan) is a fiddler who plays the accordion. Well known by all up and down the Southern Shore, she has provided music for square dances, garden parties, concerts, weddings, and events for more than eighty years. The wonderful and unique Newfoundland dance tunes that she has preserved and shared can now be heard on CDS by Daniel Payne, the Dardanelles, Emilia Bartellas and Aaron Collis, the STEP Fiddlers, and Christina Smith and Jean Hewson, and in local sessions.
Mrs. Belle was born into a family of singers and musicians on December 14, 1919, in Aquaforte, on the Southern Shore. As a young child she took up the accordion and by the time she was eight was already playing for dances at the home of Mrs. Phine White. There she learned dance tunes from Mrs. Phine, Bill Jones, and visiting sailors and fishermen off the banking schooners who would attend the dances when in port. She learned many tunes from the radio as well: blessed with a prodigious memory, she often could repeat a tune after hearing it only once. In this manner she rounded out her repertoire with everything from The Blue Danube Waltz to In The Mood. Her first accordion was bought with the money earned from playing at dances and cutting cod-tongues. At the tender age of 14 she left Aquaforte and moved into St. John’s to care for her ailing sister and her children. After her sister’s death she worked at several jobs including cook and housekeeper in the home of William Howley, who held the portfolio of Justice under the Commission of Government, in order to support the family while her brothers were away at war. Frequently she would return home on weekends and play for the Saturday dances.
It was at one of these Aquaforte dances, “in the round house” as she loves to relate, that she met Raymond Fennelly, the lightkeeper at Bear Cove Point. They married in 1948 and were partners in both the square dance and in life for the next 59 years. Mrs. Belle spent 14 years in the lighthouse, and then the family moved to Port Kirwan, where Mrs. Belle opened her own shop “because 6 children weren’t enough to keep her busy” her daughter Sharon laughs. The shop served as a community focal point. In between serving customers, she would play accordion for youngsters after school. By night the store would serve as a location for weddings and dances. After it closed in 1985, Mrs. Belle continued to play for garden parties, concerts, events, and reunions. Her skill on the accordion and her repertoire of Newfoundland dance tunes has made her kitchen a magnet for local and international musicians, folk dancers, fiddlers, accordion players, folklorists, all of whom she has welcomed for tunes, tea, moose stew, and her famous fruitcake.
Mrs. Belle now lives at Fahey’s Home in Fermeuse. At the age of 94, she still plays every day.
The Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Arts Society, organizer of the 37th Annual Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival, is proud to announce that the festival has selected renowned Newfoundland accordion player Ray Walsh as the recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Walsh has greatly contributed to the cultural fabric of this province through his talent and passion for the music.
Says Tom Power, board member of the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival, “Ray Walsh is one of the best known and most recognized accordion players in Newfoundland & Labrador. He has always been a proud advocate of traditional music in this province, however, there is nothing more wonderful than listening to the passion and enthusiasm which Ray shares through his performances.”
Ray Walsh has been playing traditional music in Newfoundland for almost as long as he can remember. As a young man, Ray played at dances and gatherings in Bay de Verde, Conception Bay; he was a featured performer on CBC Television’s All around the Circle from 1964 until 1975, and has been featured on many television and radio shows in a career spanning nearly fifty years. He has contributed to many recordings and concert tours for performers John White, Joan Morrissey, Kevin Collins and many more, and in 1995 formed the Walsh Family Band with his brother Gerard, son Greg, and daughter Michelle.
Ray has toured extensively, playing as far afield as Mexico and Ireland. He is a strong proponent of Newfoundland’s traditional music, having served on the board of the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Arts Society, and has been featured on the main stage of the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival on numerous occasions. Ray has released six albums of Newfoundland, Irish and Scottish music, and continues to entertain audiences in Newfoundland & Labrador and beyond. The Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Arts Society is delighted to honour Ray Walsh as this year’s recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Gerald Mitchell was at the peak of his musical career in the 1960’s and 70’s. He was referred to as “The Labrador Balladeer”, and perhaps could have been called the Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger of the Big Land. Together, with his song-writing partner, Byron Chaulk, they composed numerous songs reflecting traditional Labrador life. As a recording artist, composer and performer, he inspired many succeeding Labrador artists such as Harry Martin, Shirley Montague, Donna Roberts and more.
Gerald contributed greatly to the catalogue of Labrador songs that remain in the hearts of Labradorians, and no doubt will find their way into the repertoire of future artists. Gerald has given us one of the greatest gifts – the gift of music. In addition to his musical contribution to the cultural fabric of the Province, Gerald is also a celebrated and accomplished visual artist. Today, Gerald lives in his home town of Makkovik, Labrador, where he still finds ways to express himself through his artistic versatility.