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To Sail The Salt Sea

To Sail the Salt Sea

To Sail the Salt Sea

 The Magic of Newfoundland Folk Music

People of the sea have a hold on our imagination, as messengers of our souls into that milieu most of us are not in direct touch with.

22.8 2016 

I was coming back from my afternoon hike at the Green Gardensand then something wonderful happened. Turning on the radio, I heard deep male voices singing a soul-stirring  song  –  “There’s no Other Life but to Sail the Salt Sea”…

The song was followed by an invitation to a concert at Norris Point, 8 o’clock!

I took an instantaneous decision to do the detour. It was the right time and the right place to have that extraordinary experience. The kichen party, as it was advertised, was held in a local auditorium in the upper village. People sent me, erroneously, to the town hall, where a children’s concert was held. Then a bunch of lads sent me in the wrong direction back towards the pier. Eventually I found the place, and it was the perfect way to bring my Newfounland experience to a close.

Even polluted and depleted, the Sea is still is the biggest, most powerful and most influential element of our planet. The sea is the embodiment of infinity, the Mother of all Life, a mystery we’ll never totally fathom. The sea is a way of life and existence for zillions of creatures since forever, and for millions of humans as well. She surrounds us all, wherever we are, accepting and rejecting us, creating weather and climate, in constant engagement with atmosphere and land. People of the sea have a hold on our imagination as messengers of our souls into that milieu most of us are usually not in direct touch with.

Even polluted and depleted, the Sea is still is the biggest, most powerful, influential element on our planet. It embodies Infinity, Mother of all life, a mystery we’ll never totally fathom. The sea is a way of life for zillions of creatures since forever, and millions of humans.

Islands carry sea spirit and soul, and music created on islands, embodying that spirit, has special force and allure. Hearing “To Sail the Salt Sea” on the radio in Israel, I might not have experienced the stirrings felt while driving at dusk on the hills of Newfoundland.  That is the magic of music ingrained in culture and geography. Greek music had a special effect on my psyche when I was travelling the Greek islands. Jazz was most powerful when heard in Preservation Hall, New Orleans…

The Newfoundland folk music is unabashedly patriotic to the island, and I could just yearn for belonging in that club… The people in the small auditorium participated, clapped, laughed at the jokes, listened to the stories. There was a spell. 

After the show, I went to tell the singers how much I liked their performance (I also bought the disk). Fergus, the shorter one, addressed me: “Didn’t I meet you yesterday at Woody Point? Weren’t you the lady who asked for help with the car?” And indeed I found out the couple performed the day before in the Writers Festival at Woody Point, explaining why I met Fergus there…

They played a regular accordion and a mini accordion, guitars, recorders, a banjo and an Irish Bodhran drum, and played them all expertly. The two men filled the room with their deep voices and the engaging sounds imported here from the other side of the Atlantic. Fergus O’Byrne was originally Irish, but Jim Payne was born in Newfoundland.

The lyrics concerned the air of the island, the imperative need to sail on the sea, the rich nature and ruggedness, animals and forests, the woman to come back to, love. There was one song they sang acapella in memory of sailors who died at sea. A shiver ran through the crowd and through my spine as well…

I made up my mind there and then that the right man for me at this stage of my life should have the following qualities: a passion for life, a passion for the outdoors, a passion for me. And to be reasonably attractive and kind. A pinch of musicality and a tolerance for humor wouldn’t hurt either. Not asking too much, am I?

Newfoundland folk music. Jim Payne and Fergus O'Byrne playing accordion and banjo, Woody Point

Newfoundland folk music. Jim Payne and Fergus Obyrne playing accordion and Bodharn, Woody Point

Additionally, Payne told stories, including authentic ghost stories, and plenty of jokes. Some anecdotes were referring to the now common construct, “Newfoundland and Labrador”, something many people here apparently did not feel warm and fuzzy about. Some were about foreigners calling the island Newfoundland instead of Newfanland. It, indeed, merited the title of a full-fledged kitchen party.

 Fergus O'Byrne play Newfoundland folk music on the bodharn, Woody Point   

   Playing Newfoundland folk music on the mini accordion, Fergus O'Byrne   Jim Payne telling stories at kitchen party, Woody Point, Newfoundland

The next day I left the island, but still succeeded to “snick in” one last natural reserve and a powerful visit to the wavy Atlantic shore…

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