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Towns in Tune to feature SV on PBS

The Irish Descendants. – © Jaymie White / Wreckhouse Press Inc.

By Jaymie L. White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

STEPHENVILLE — On Saturday night, Jun. 24, the Town of Stephenville hosted Part Two of the PBS production, ‘Towns in Tune’, which saw a ‘twinning’ of Lake City, South Carolina and Stephenville, Newfoundland. The towns shared their music, food, and artists, collaborating in an event that will be aired on PBS. The first part took place in Lake City on Apr. 22, an event that Mayor Tom Rose attended, and Mayor of Lake City, Yamekia Robinson, was in attendance on the 24th. “This has been over a year in the making, close to two years in the making, and it’s a significant event. What happened in Stephenville over the weekend was probably close to a million-dollar production for costs associated with the events. So basically, over almost two years ago, I was introduced by a company out of St. John’s headed up by Fabian James that had connections in the US network with PBS, SCTV referred to as South Carolina’s PBS, about the potential of a program he was working on and it was a Town’s in Tune event as they framed it,” said Rose. “Stephenville and Lake City were paired for a couple of reasons. This was to be a pairing of culture and twinning two communities. So Lake City, South Carolina has an annual event that takes place. It’s called ArtFields, and it’s eleven years in the running, where they promote all different aspects of culture, different mediums that exist in the arts world. And in Stephenville, we’re very blessed with such a strong aboriginal French Newfoundland cultural hub, I guess you could call it, but also we’re very blessed with such great musicals. With the Stephenville Theatre Festival, the longest serving professional theater group in the province of Newfoundland Labrador, that’s a big statement. And we have the Bay St. George Artists Association, the veteran folk festival that kicked in. We have Nomad Stages. We just have a lot of very talented people.” Tickets were limited at 230 and sold for $25 each. All 100 per cent of their proceeds to Stephenville Emergency Food Services, for a total of $5,750. The event kicked off with a songwriters circle. Featuring two artists from the United States, Phillip Lammond and Ruthie Collins, and two from Newfoundland and Labrador, Jackie Sullivan and Bob Hallett, the songwriters told stories and sang songs, delighting the audience with their different musical stylings. Amy House hosted the event and had the crowd in stitches, talking about the many characters she met, doing interviews and sharing stories that will be included in the final production. “This is a show all about fusion. Fusion is bringing things together, blending things, combining them, seeing what happens, seeing what bubbles to the top,” said House. “Towns in Tune is just what the name suggests. We bring two towns together and we partner them. And in this case, we have the great idea of partnering Stephenville, Newfoundland with Lake City, South Carolina. We also bring artists together from each of the communities, get them working together. We bring musicians and writers and visual artists together. Get them working together. From Newfoundland and Labrador, and from South Carolina and other parts of the USA, we bring chefs together, and one of the premises of the show is that we turn a workplace into a concert space, hence having a concert here at the Stephenville airport.” When the songwriters circle came to an end, the festivities continued with late addition Matthew Byrne, a Canadian folk singer and guitarist who has worked as a solo artist and as a member of The Dardenelles. Byrne kept the audience enraptured with his interpretation of traditional songs from Newfoundland and abroad. The intensity of the performances only escalated when the final performers of the night took the stage. The Irish Descendants had the audience stomping, clapping, and singing along to such Newfoundland favourites as I’se the B’y and Rattlin’ Bog. Not only did they receive a standing ovation for their performance, they sang two encores, much to the delight of the audience. Following the final performance, those in attendance made their way to the back of the airport where numerous chefs had plates of food set out for everyone to enjoy. There was a delightful array of sweet and savoury to sample from, and the murmurs from the crowd were overwhelmingly positive. The entire event was part of a four-day undertaking. “We started off Thursday night with a musician and comedy act at the Days Inn. Friday was the big Arts NL Awards banquet that showcased a lot of our local talent. Also Saturday afternoon at the town square, we opened up with Mr. Paul Pike and his Indigenous, cultural, and sensitive performance and it was so well received. Then we had our local groups, our youth accordion group, and then Saturday night was the big PBS shoot that took place at the Stephenville airport,” said Rose. “Then we closed it on Sunday with a private event. It was called an ‘Artist Three’ project. It was piloted in Stephenville, first time ever, where three artists, or three pods of artists, which were musicians, authors and artists. So the artists and the musicians read a part of a section of the book, a chapter in the book, and they created a piece of art and a piece of music and it was all unveiled for the first time ever. Very successful. So I was over the top. I’m beat out. I’m tired. I was four days of hosting and we had the mayor of Lake City, South Carolina, up here, Mayor Yamekia Robinson, and they had a wonderful time.” A South Carolina artist made a remark that stuck with Rose. “He was one of the artists on Sunday, and he basically said, ‘when I came here initially, I thought I was a long way from home from South Carolina, but every moment that I stayed in this town and met the people and the good folks, I realized I wasn’t that far away from South Carolina,’ and I thought that was pretty poignant and beautiful,” said Rose.

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