A duck's tale…

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More about Christina | The scoop on Jean
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As Emile Benoit used to say, “Holy cat!” How did we get here?! It’s hard to believe that Jean and Christina have been playing Newfoundland songs and tunes together now for 25 years, We’re having to come to terms with being the “older generation” of Newfoundland musicians, Our feathers might be getting a little grey, but the tunes are as lively as ever!

We’re both still passionate about passing along the traditions. Both of us have contributed to the St. John’s Folk Arts Council and the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival. Jean served several years as Board Chair and Acting Director; Christina was head of the Fundraising Committee (the year the Festival was rained out!) We both teach at workshops and folk music camps. Christina publishes method books and tune books for Newfoundland music (link). And just because teaching 50 students, programming conventions, and performing wasn’t enough for Jean to do, she has started her own production company, Black Cat Music.

Christina directs the STEP fiddlers, a subgroup of the Suzuki Talent Education Program of St. John’s. The kids learn Mussels in the Corner along with their Twinkles and perform at festivals, benefits and functions in St. John’s. They’ve brought Newfoundland tunes as far as London (England) and Guelph (Ontario.) They’re about to release their second CD of Newfoundland tunes,

If you want to know how we got here, read on!

Ancient history: Since 1985 we’ve been playing music with each other for fun, and with others for money. But it wasn’t until 1996 that we decided to concentrate our performing energies on our duo. So we applied for a showcase at the North American Folk Music & Dance Alliance conference in Toronto. "Nothing like starting at the top" we said, privately thinking that we had a better chance of getting our bums into beer bottles. Contrary to expectations, we won the showcase. Well, sink or swim! Off we went, quacking (whoops, sorry, meant ‘quaking’) in our boots to play our very first gig on the mainland! It was a tremendous experience, and we got to meet some wonderful people who have been our friends ever since. And we got a few gigs to boot.

The merry dancers: Did you know that in Newfoundland the Northern Lights are referred to as the Merry Dancers? In ‘97, FACTOR gave us some money to record an album. We were just finishing up when we met the inimitable Grit Laskin at the Lunenburg Folk Festival. Grit had just gotten together with the cream of the Canadian folk scene (Bill Garret, Ken Whiteley and Paul Mills) to found Canadian folk music label, Borealis. The Lunenburg audience had just given us our very first standing ovation. Anyway, Grit came up to us after our set, and asked if we had an album. We told him we’d just finished Like Ducks! He asked if we would join the label. We said we’d thought about going with a label and decided "Nah, forget that! Not for us." Luckily for us, Grit wouldn’t take no for an answer! We signed with Borealis in 1998 and we can without hestitation say that they are the best label in the universe. We’re still merrily dancing together.

The great adventure: We’ve been touring all over since then, twice to Britain, down to the "Boston States" and across Canada collecting friends and performing. Some of the highlights were playing at the Edmonton Folk Festival with Danu and Shooglenifty, sharing the stage with Waterson:Carthy in Vancouver, performing at the Button Factory in Waterloo and staying with our Ontario "Mom and Dad" Robin and Pat Jones, playing with Cherish the Ladies, and staying up all night at Celtic Colours with the Moose brigade, trying to keep up with Danu on our tour of Vancouver, Winnipeg and Calgary folk festivals with the Maher’s Bahers, Folk Alliance mainstage showcases in Toronto and Nashville, our two English tours where we performed with Jane and Amanda Threlfall and Dave Fletcher and Bill Whalley at the Four Fools Festival in Chorley, and the Warwick Folk Festival along with Sarah Grey, Nancy Kerr and James Fagan, and Waterson:Carthy, our tour in October 2003 with Anne Hills and Aoife Clancy, and every summer that we’ve spent with our wonderful friends at the Celtic College in Goderich. I know I’m forgetting to mention all kinds of stuff--but if you’d like to share in some of the fun, check out the scrapbook pages!

All content 2010 Jean Hewson and Christina Smith