Newfoundland is a cauldron of creativity. I’ve always known it; some of my favourite writers are from there – whether it’s Annie Proulx with The Shipping News, Wayne Johnston with The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, Michael Crummey with Sweetland or Michael Winter with Minister Without Portfolio, there’s no doubt about it – they have a magical talent of evoking thought provoking images and stories.
This past Sunday I had an opportunity to experience a different kind of magical creativity when I attended a benefit concert in St. John’s, held in honour of a long-time friend who has been going through some rough times health-wise. As a musician, Derek Harrington has garnered the respect and love of his fellow St. John’s musicians and fans alike, so when the news went out that this event was being held, they came in droves. There were so many musicians who wanted to participate, that D’Arcy Broderick, one of the key organizers, had to limit each act to 20 minutes in order to get everyone in during the 8 hour span of the day. To be immersed in an event of this nature, where amazing musicians came from all over to crowd on stage (some bands who usually play with 3 or 4, showed up with 6 or 7 musicians because everyone wanted to give of their time and talent) was an extraordinary experience. The songs, the music, the laughter and yes, the tears as people crowded around the computer to say hello to Derek himself on facetime, since he wasn’t well enough to attend in person, combined to produce magic.
And speaking of magic, I was delighted to listen in on one conversation where Jimmy Carton (one of Canada’s best loved Irish tenors for anyone who may not know him) and Richard Harrington (Derek’s brother and fine singer himself who came from Dublin for the event) were discussing their belief that Newfoundland is truly Tír na nÓg, the Irish mythical Land of Youth. One only needs to meet Doreen Reardigan to know that there must be some truth to this assertion. At 83, she is on a dragon boat rowing team, she performs in a musical group called the Sweet Forget Me Knots, she’s an actress who still gets called upon for commercial and television work, and as you can see from the photo, she was a volunteer who never sat down for hours and hours at the benefit.
I’d like to bottle that air of Newfoundland.
For anyone of you who knows Derek Harrington and would like to contribute to help him with his road to recovery, you can go to the gofundme site: