Whether you’re a musician, folklorist, researcher or just someone with an interest in the folk music of Newfoundland and Labrador, there’s a new resource that’s aiming to shed light on the origins of some of our most famous (and lesser known) tunes and the rich folk song heritage of the province.
The Musical Map of NL is an initiative of the Soundbone Traditional Arts Foundation – a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to preserving and promoting the province’s musical, dance and storytelling traditions through events and initiatives like the Vinland Music Camp, Cultural Ambassador Program and community choirs (to name just a few).
This latest project strives to help paint a more complete picture of where the province’s folk songs fit into our vast, cultural tapestry by providing the locations associated with a given song (including coordinates), social relevance to the communities, lyrics, and background and songwriter information. Visitors to the site can also listen to a recording of the tune and/or watch a video of its performance.
“The project sort of came about from two people simultaneously having similar ideas. Jean Hewson had this idea that it’d be a physical map of the province with (the) main Newfoundland and Labrador songs located – the ones that have a connection with the geography of the province. And Heather Patey had a similar idea, but hers was sort of a digital form of having it online,” explains Eric West, Soundbone’s president and artistic director.
“And so those two ideas gelled together.”
The project took an all-hands-on-deck approach, with Patey taking on website development and maintenance, Hewson acting as repertoire and artist consultant, and Jane Dennison performing content research and editing duties. Musician Ian Foster recorded and mixed several songs by various artists at his studio, and graphic artist Graham Blair created a poster and web page design for the project. West coordinated/administered the project and applied for funding (which came from the province’s Come Home 2022 Cultural Funding, with ArtsNL providing sustaining funding for Soundbone), while his publishing house, Vinland Music, provided historical notes and lyrics for many of the featured songs.
The Musical Map of NL has been organized with ease of navigation in mind, allowing users to click on a specific community on a map of the province to learn more about the songs associated with that location. Users can also choose from a song list (which currently includes 52 songs) or a location list (featuring 74 communities).
“We actually recorded several of the songs just for the project…we got Ian Foster to record a number of artists all over the province. Half of them were done in St. John’s and the other half were done remotely and sent to us. And they represent many of the different cultural backgrounds,” West says, adding that they’ve included a number of young artists that Sounbone has worked with over the years (who are helping carry the torch of traditional music and performance).
This past summer, Soundbone officially launched the Musical Map of NL during an event at The Rooms where they demonstrated how the interactive website works. About 75 people took in the event, which also included local musicians Jamie Moran, Ellen Power, Madison Mouland, Dave Penny and Daunt Lee, who performed some of the tunes featured on the website.
Since its release, the Musical Map of NL has been warmly received. “We’ve had some very positive feedback from a number of organizations,” West says. And he hopes it’s just the beginning for this ongoing project.
“We’ve allocated a certain amount of funds to it, to expand that. So we’ll be getting back to that very soon.”