I had a sense of what the night would be like when I realized all the parking spaces on Cathedral Street were gone when we got to the Masonic Hall at 7:33. A glance at the doors told me there was a line up outside and down the steps of the hall.
By the time I found a place to park and we got inside, the main section was already filled. There was an alcove to the right and a quick look in there told us we wouldn't be able to see much of anything from there so we managed to get a couple of chairs in a little spot between the main section and the alcove. The view was great. But people kept coming and coming. Soon the alcove was filled and extra chairs were being brought in and by the time the event started, people were standing in the back, along the sides of the hall and in the lobby outside, trying to see what was happening.
As the heat from the bodies in the room began to rise, the event started with Shelagh Rogers standing on stage for a few seconds until the gathered crowd realized she was there and began to clap. Her short-cropped hairdo made some not recognize her right away, but when she opened her mouth and introduced the evening, there was no doubting who our host was. Her introductions and personal stories of the performers throughout the evening, were a great bonus to the event. She explained the evening would be raising money for the Writers Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador
and the ArtsCan Circle
, a group that links artists with Native youth in Canada. In particular, she told us about Mike "Caribou" Stevens who Shelagh explained is a renowned harmonica player who goes to northern communities to teach the kids how to play harmonica and gives them some of the instruments so they can continue to play after he leaves. She then introduced Stevens who mesmerized the audience with his performance and received one of the two standing ovations of the night.Damhnait Doyle
then came to the stage after another great introduction from Rogers. I had never seen her performing live and in person. She has a powerful, rich, gorgeous voice and can entertain with her talking in between songs as well so I will definitely look forward to seeing her perform again.
Next Marjorie Doyle read from Reels, Rock and Rosaries
and had me alternating between laughter and sorrow. After a break, we were all enthralled to hear Mike Stevens perform a haunting rendition of Amazing Grace on harmonica. Suddenly, in the middle of the song, I realized the crowd had started to join in and were humming along and before I knew it, I had joined in too. John Doyle then did a reading from A Great Feast of Light
and you couldn't help but notice that his descriptions of growing up in Ireland seemed awfully familiar with the same last names and descriptions of the gardens and stories of Christian Brother teachers.
Alan Doyle then came on the stage. The consummate entertainer, he kept us from being bored even when having difficulty getting his amp to work. He sang a song from the score he just finished for Mary Walsh's new movie, Young Triffie’s Been Made Away With
and one more song then brought his father, Tom Doyle, up on stage. Tom has a great voice as well and they sang two songs together, with much laughter from the talking between songs and the interaction between the two. They then invited Damhnait and Mike Stevens on stage for a rousing rendition of Cockles and Mussels which everyone in the audience, it seemed, joined in to help sing and they received the evening's second ovation.
It was a wonderful evening and if you missed it, good news. It was recorded and will be on CBC Radio's Sounds Like Canada on Labour Day. Although, I am afraid the recording will never be able to quite capture the charm of the evening.