The March Hare
A Newfoundland Kitchen Party on the Stockey Centre Stage
This time last year my husband and I attended an event at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. It was an evening of entertainment by musicians, writers and storytellers from Newfoundland – a sort of Newfoundland kitchen party on stage – The March Hare.
Rex Brown, Newfoundland historian, writer, storyteller and organizer of The March Hare, will tell you “words are meant to be heard”. Rex is one of the founders of this event that began as a single evening gathering in Corner Brook 30 years ago and is now a much anticipated event in several communities across Newfoundland every year. An excursion to Toronto became an annual event – and this year The March Hare is on the road north to Parry Sound, bringing together writers and performers, words and music.
I spoke with Rex Brown that evening in Toronto and asked if he would consider bringing the Hare to Parry Sound. I realized we both felt the same way about contributing to our communities by “getting the words off the page”. I have learned over the past 27 years of presenting author readings that there is something very magical about listening to writers read from their own work.
That the audience is also important and should be “challenged as well as entertained” is again something that Rex and I both believe. Rex put it perfectly, saying, the host, the presenters and the audience must all participate to make this happen, with mutual pleasure and respect.
Early March is a still the dead of winter in Newfoundland and Parry Sound, so what could be more perfect than an exhilarating evening of music and words to get us out on a cold winter’s night? Especially with such illustrious musicians and storytellers, Kelly Russell and Anita Best, both formerly of the renowned Newfoundland band Figgy Duff.
Anita Best, from the small fishing village of Merasheen, in Placentia Bay, is descended from a family who came from Somerset in the late 1700s, working in the fishery until their community was resettled. A family tradition of music and song, and storytelling are Anita’s heritage and influence. She is one of Newfoundland’s most prominent singers, performing traditional songs and stories, old ballads, tragic sea songs and comical ditties.
Kelly Russell is one of Newfoundland’s most accomplished fiddle players, performing nationally and internationally, teaching and recording traditional music unique to Newfoundland. Kelly grew up listening to his father, Ted Russell, the creator of The Chronicles of Uncle Mose – Tales from Pigeon Inlet, and he has continued to preserve the important Newfoundland tradition of storytelling and recitation.
Sara Tilley is an author, a playwright and a clown. Sara will be launching her new novel Duke, a work of fiction inspired by Sara’s great-grandfather’s life in Alaska and Dawson City, where he worked on steamboats on the Yukon River. Finding his journals, discovering he’d gone north to find his older brother who had disappeared during the gold rush, Sara Tilley knew there was a story to be told.
Writer, poet and novelist, Michael Crummey hardly needs an introduction here, he’s almost an honorary “Sounder” having graced the Stockey Centre stage on several occasions to read his work, always mesmerizing the audience with his words and voice. Michael’s most recent novel Sweetland, is the story of a man who refuses to leave the outport where he has always lived. As Michael said in a CBC interview, “although the book, on the surface, is about resettlement, in many ways I would say that what it's really about is mortality and what the way we face that mortality says about us as people.”
The March Hare begins and ends with Rex Brown. Rex will read from his book Out from the Harbour: Outport Life Before Resettlement, a memoir about growing up in Placentia Bay. In his own words, “But I think I have told you a love story. Is there any other word for it? ‘Sense of place’ doesn’t seem to quite cut it for Tack’s Beach and me. I hope that in my flick around Tack’s Beach harbour in the 1950s, I have shed a bit of light upon where we hail from, we Newfoundlanders and Labradorians of the outports—some of us resettled, all of us clinging to every morsel of this place, Newfoundland and Labrador.”
When the March Hare takes the stage at the Charles W. Stockey Centre on Friday 6 March the audience will be the special guests at a Newfoundland kitchen party with Rex Brown, Anita Best, Kelly Russell, Michael Crummey and Sara Tilley providing the entertainment, along with some special guests from our own community, well known local musicians, pianist Craig Harley, guitarist Bob Harley and fiddle player Mark Macfie, for a stimulating evening of literature, poetry, music, and storytelling.