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NL heritage evident in music of Stanley Pierce

Stanley Pierce has been playing the accordion for around eighty years. – René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press Incorporated

By Jaymie L. White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES — Kitchen parties, the mummers at Christmas, the accordion, a fiddle, and even a pair of spoons played as an instrument mean music is woven into the very fabric of Newfoundland and Labrador’s culture. The province’s musical heritage exhibits definite Celtic and seafaring influences, but also has a unique style all its own, one that is often passed down through generations. Stanley Pierce learned a love of music from his father. “My father used to play accordion and it never bothered me because I was outdoors running around,” said Pierce. “(One day) I said, ‘Dad, let me try to play. If you can do it, I can do it. I’ll listen to everything you’re playing and I won’t forget a thing.’” Pierce has played the accordion since he was eight or ten years old and now, at 88 years old, Pierce is proficient. “My father would play the accordion but he didn’t play the stuff that I played, not everything, but he would pick it up and play it, and I caught onto him,” said Pierce. “But when I was up in the (Codroy) Valley, if I heard somebody playing a jig over there, I’d grab it (his accordion) and get right up and start playing.”, He’s also proficient on other musical instruments. “I played it all,” shared Pierce. “A little bit of everything. When I was young, growing up, I was into everything with music. I would go into a store, Dennis Simpson’s, see all their new music.” Even though Pierce doesn’t have a favourite instrument per se, he is best known throughout the province for playing a lot of Scottish music on the fiddle. “I used to go to the Valley and play,” said Pierce. “I go up the Valley now, and buddy, a fiddler, he’s the standard. He said, ‘funny thing, you can listen to something for a week and you can grab it and it’s like a fly and you got it, you don’t lose it, but we fellers got to wait. He said, you go to play it, you got it.’ Well, I guess that’s the way my brain works, I suppose.” “There’s not a lot of Scottish fiddling in Newfoundland other than the Codroy Valley,” said Pierce’s daughter, Cathy Lomond. “But Dad used to listen to Don Mister and those old programs from Nova Scotia that played Scottish fiddling. I only ever knew that (Stanley) played Scottish fiddling which is very unique in itself. It’s a different Gaelic cadence. That’s his fiddling.” Pierce got a lot of his influences for the music he would play on the radio. “I’d listen to it and after a day or two it would come right back into my head,” said Pierce. “I’d go in and grab the fiddle, take it out of her case and just start playing. I could do it like that when I was young.” Like most musicians, Pierce can cite his notable influences. “Winston Scotty Fitzgerald, he was gold. He was that good and fast that, in order to catch him, you had to try really hard. He was good,” said Pierce. “He was probably Canada’s top Scottish fiddler from Cape Breton,” agreed Lomond. “And he loved John Ellen Cameron, also from Nova Scotia. We grew up listening to them, and Johnny Cash.” “Oh yes, Johnny Cash,” added Pierce. “What he sang, it was sung good. There were no mistakes.” The instruments Pierce plays includes the harmonica, guitar, fiddle, accordion, and the organ. “I played it quick, just to learn the youngsters how to play,” said Pierce. He didn’t always play solo either, but in numerous bands as well, but the first one started right at home. “Me and my family first, we used to go down to Rose Blanche and those places, we would play for something to do,” said Pierce. Back then, Pierce and his family used to play for what was called ‘a time’. “You go have a time in the harbour, a time for a shower, a time for a wedding when I was growing up. But we started our first family band. I was only 14, so that was back in 1974,” said Lomond. “He was the manager, was me and my two brothers and a cousin, Barry Musseau. Barry’s our first cousin, so you can see the music trait.” Even though he may not play all of the music he used to play, the songs remain tucked away in Pierce’s memory. “I remember them all, and that’s a lot,” said Pierce. “Every Hank Snow and every Johnny Cash song,” added Lomond. Pierce didn’t often travel far to play music, but there were certain places people could be sure to watch him play. “He played at every folk festival in the Codroy Valley,” said Lomond. “He was always invited and he only missed two and that was during our Come Home Year. Other than that he played in all the folk festivals, and at the Starlight (Motel) he used to play.” “I wouldn’t say I played at every one, but I played up there a lot,” agreed Pierce. “There were a lot of good fiddlers. Boy were they good, and I could catch up with them and keep it going.” It has been quite some time since Pierce has played in front of a live audience. “Not come home here last year, but the previous one he played and prior to that he played at the hospital for every birthday. So it’s only the last couple of years prior to COVID. He played every Tuesday on the boat with my brothers. They were Three of a Kind. They were all Pierces and then there was Stan and the Boys. He played with Stan and the Boys prior to COVID,” said Lomond. “I played for a lot of dances. They would call me up on the phone and I would go up the Valley, because there are a lot of good accordion players up there, and that didn’t bother me. I can play anything they play it’s just we play it differently,” said Pierce. The Pierce family still maintains their passion for music every time they get together. “When we get together, even now, this past Christmas, when we get together, it’s a family, my brothers. I only play the guitar and you play and whatever,” said Lomond. “Then we have a party. All my brothers would be there because they mostly can all play the accordion. Not as good as me, but I put up with it,” joked Pierce. Throughout his eighty years of playing music, Pierce said he never got sick of it, and never will.

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