Ron Hynes stood in a spotlight on a blackened stage at the East Coast Music Award gala in Halifax last night, grinning through tears. He was noticeably thinner, his voice raspy.
During the pauses in his speech as he accepted the Director’s Special Achievement Award, the full-capacity crowd was silent, seeming to collectively hold its breath.
“It may not be polite to speak of God on Sunday night outside of church, but this, all this, has always been my altar, and I’ve always felt blessed,” Hynes said. “I’m not ready to leave this altar just yet, but there’s a small chance that I may have to. I want you all to say a prayer that that does not happen. I’m not ready to say goodbye, but I am ready to say goodnight.”
The crowd, some of them also teary-eyed, erupted in a standing ovation.
Hynes, who has undergone aggressive treatment for throat cancer in the past six months, told the audience he was appreciative of the award, but felt others in the community were perhaps more deserving: single mothers, those who fished on failing grounds or moved to Alberta for work. Nowhere in the world is a songwriter held in greater esteem as Atlantic Canada, he said.
“During my recent illness, it was a humbling experience, not only to have my own province but an entire country in my corner,” he said, pausing to weep.
“I just want to say thank you, thank you to everybody.”
Hynes was one of a handful of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who were presented with East Coast Music Awards during the past week, although most of them were industry awards: Jud Haynes won Graphic/Media Artist of the Year, Louis Thomas won Management/Manager of the Year, and Neil Bishop was presented with the Stompin’ Tom Award, along with Claudine Theriault and Jon Matthews. Fred’s Records in
St. John’s won the Music Merchant of the Year Award.
The Once — Geraldine Hollett, Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale — brought home the only music award, for Roots/Traditional Group Recording of the Year for their record, “Row Upon Row of the People They Know.”
“It’s awesome but I’m astounded that more artists from home didn’t win,” Hollett told The Telegram, adding that she and her sisters did a happy dance when they learned of the win.
“My first response was, ‘What?’ and my second response was that there’s so much talent on the East Coast, it’s so hard to choose. But their time will come.”
Most East Coast Music Award winners are chosen by the combined votes of all eligible members of the East Coast Music Association, which span the four Atlantic provinces. Four categories were excluded this year, and were juried from the five nominees to the award winner: Classical Composition of the Year, Classical Recording of the Year, World Recording of the Year, and Jazz Recording of the Year. The Chronicle Herald Entertainer of the Year and Video of the Year awards are chosen by a public vote.
It all comes down to numbers, said MusicNL’s Jen Winsor, and there are more association members in some of the other provinces than Newfoundland and Labrador. While local artists might not have swept the awards ceremony, they did better than most when it comes to the business aspect of the music conference, she said. Both MusicNL showcases were sold out, with bouncers forced to turn people away at the door.
“It’s always the Newfoundland bands that people are talking about,” Winsor said. “In terms of business, they’ve done really well — people are getting management, publicity, and booking tours and festivals.
“It’s a cliché to say it’s an honour to be nominated, but it really is,” Winsor said.
Rose Cousins was the big winner at this year’s East Coast Music Awards, taking home three. The Stanfields and Natalie MacMaster won two each during the show’s live national broadcast.
Cousins also co-hosted the show, held at Halifax’s Cunard Centre, with musician David Myles. The event included performances by The Dardanelles, Repartee, Ashely MacIsaac, Jimmy Rankin, Jenn Grant and others.
In addition to the music and industry awards, a number of special trophies were presented in honour of the East Coast Music Association’s 25th anniversary. Recipients included Great Big Sea, Rawlins Cross, CBC’s Glen Tilley and Louis Thomas.
“To still be recognized, to know we made a dent it in, and to know we’re a part of the ride is great for me,” Dave Panting of Rawlins Cross said.
The awards show, which included video memoriams to Stompin’ Tom Connors and Raylene Rankin, wrapped up this year’s East Coast Music Week, which saw musicians and music industry representatives participate in showcases, seminars and one-on-one meetings. Next year’s ECMAs will take place in Charlottetown, P.E.I., to coincide with the province’s 100 year anniversary.
A full list of 2013 ECMA winners as well as photos, videos and stories are available at thetelegram.com.