Top 10 arts stories of the year

Tara Bradbury
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Presented by The Telegram, in no particular order, based on views on our website

This year’s MusicNL week was divided, for the first time, between two places: festivities began Nov. 9 in St. John’s, then got down to business in Gander, finishing up at the end of the week with the annual gala awards show at the Gander Arts and Culture Centre.

While there were no huge surprises when it came to award winners — Amelia Curran and the Ennis sisters topped the gala with three awards each, while other winners included Craig Young, Dan Bursey, The Once and Lady Cove Women’s Choir — the event wasn’t without controversy. Longtime MusicNL members Shanneyganock skipped the conference and awards show and have given up their membership in the association altogether, after receiving a jury evaluation they say was disappointing on an application for funding for their latest album, “Rockin’ on the Water.”

This year’s MusicNL week had a bit of a twist when it came to the organization, with a focus on youth.

It’s something Jen Winsor hopes the association will continue to engage young performers.


A retrospective of Mary Pratt

In May, artist Mary Pratt spoke to The Telegram about her life, her career and a retrospective exhibition of her work which is touring the country. She was frank in the interview, explaining how she’s been criticized for painting from photography and had given it up for sewing instead, but was convinced by then-husband Christopher Pratt to reconsider.

“He said, ‘Now, you’d better paint this; you better finish this painting or I’m going to be visiting you at the Waterford with flowers,’” Pratt said, smiling. “And (my daughter) Barbie, who was just a little thing, said, ‘Mummy, if you aren’t a painter, what can you be?’ It was so innocent and such a sweet observation, that I thought, I can’t do this do the girls.”

The Pratt exhibit, which was displayed at The Rooms from May until December, will tour until 2015.


Shanneyganock goes country

Shanneyganock appears twice in our most-read arts stories this year. In September, the band released their 13th record, “Rockin’ on the Water,” which debuted at No. 1 on the world chart on Canadian iTunes. The album has a bit of a country twang; something new for the Celtic band.

“It’s a bit about getting older, more relaxed,” explained frontman Chris Andrews. “We play how we feel, and this is how we felt when we recorded it. There’s a little bit of an Americana feel, a little bit of a departure from our normal stuff, but not too far.”


Brad Paisley plays Mile One

Speaking of country music, country superstar Brad Paisley visited St. John’s for two sold-out shows at Mile One Centre in September. Paisley was interactive, spending time at the back of the stadium, and including a screen show that was entertaining and could have stood on its own, with taped cameos from people like William Shatner, Merle Haggard, Alabama and a holographic Carrie Underwood, so lifelike singing the pair’s duet, “Remind Me,” that audience members, for a split-second, thought she was real. Each night, Paisley gave away a guitar and his trademark white cowboy hat to an audience member.


Getting intimate with Johnny Reid

Scottish-Canadian country star Johnny Reid always causes a stir when he announces he’s coming to town. In November, he spoke to The Telegram about his plans for an intimate Christmas show at Cochrane Street United Church in St. John’s (later adding a second show), saying he would never do a cross-country tour without stopping in this province, no matter how bad the weather or how booked up the regular venues were. Die-hard fans camped out overnight at the church to get tickets, and lined up in the cold hours in advance of the shows, which happened Dec. 19. Reid didn’t disappoint and played 45 minutes of classic holiday songs and original songs from his CD, “A Christmas Gift to You.”

“Any time I come to Newfoundland, it’s like a Christmas gift to me,” he told The Telegram.


Songs for Stella

In October, the music community rallied around Pasadena teacher Paul Heppleston and his family. His 6-year-old daughter, Stella, had been diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour, underwent surgery, and was due to start radiation and chemotherapy at the Janeway. Wanting to help the family with their living expenses while Stella is in recovery, singer/songwriter Jerry Stamp organized a fundraising show, “Songs for Stella,” which took place at The Republic in St. John’s. On the bill were King Nancy, Danika Drover, Chris Kirby, RocketRocketShip and more. The Heppleston family is still at the Janeway, where Stella’s treatment is underway.


Regrets? He’s had a few

For 25 years, local filmmaker Christopher Richardson was haunted by a valedictory speech he gave as a graduate of University of King’s College in Halifax. Irreverent and over the top, he included lots of drinking references — and even chugged a beer at the end of it — and jokes about vomit and nudity. When he was given the chance to have a do-over of the speech at his 25-year reunion, he started thinking about regrets in general and what they say about a person.

He made a film based around his own regret, “Regret,” which screened at the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax in the fall, where it was rated Highest Audience Buzz of all the films in the festival. It aired on the Documentary Channel in November, and Richardson is now looking at transitioning the documentary into a TV series.


Moving Imaginations

Louisiana-based children’s entertainers The Imagination Movers, known for their Disney Channel TV show of the same name, performed two shows at Mile One’s Molson Theatre in November. Members Rich Collins, Scott Durbin, Dave Poche and Scott (Smitty) Smith had children dancing in the aisles, singing along and laughing at their on-stage antics, which included covers of One Direction tunes and physical comedy. Afterwards, they held a meet-and-greet for two dozen or so fans, where they signed T-shirts, took pictures, chatted and sang songs, taking requests.

“It was fun. I thought it would be colder,” joked Poche last week to The Telegram. “It was as friendly a place as we have played, and the crowds were great. I need to return and try the cod tongues. But not the big gooey-centred ones.”


‘Murdoch Mysteries’ meets ‘Republic of Doyle’

The cast and crew of CBC TV’s “Murdoch Mysteries” came to town in August for a crossover show with “Republic of Doyle.” How did it go down? There was no Tardis required — Det. Murdoch and Const. Crabtree (played by Pouch Cove native Jonny Harris) were led to Victorian Newfoundland on a murder investigation, meeting up with Jacob Doyle, ancestor to Jake Doyle. Actor Allan Hawco played his signature character’s own ancestor in the episode, which aired in late November.

Harris said it wasn’t obvious to him, when he started acting on “Murdoch,” that his character was a Newfoundlander, though it apparently was to the rest of the cast.

“The first season, we were having a table read for one of the episodes, and one of the guest stars says to me, ‘Your accent, are you from Newfoundland?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ She said, ‘Do you use your accent on the show?’ I said, “No, I turn it off.’ And everyone else all burst into laughter,” Harris told The Telegram.


Jay Smith memorial concerts

In late March, Cape Breton musician Jay Smith died suddenly in a hotel room in Edmonton while on tour with rock group Matt Mays and El Torpedo. He was well known in this province, having performed with a plethora of local musicians, and many of them — including Colleen Power, The Once, Amelia Curran, Joanna Barker and Fortunate Ones — participated in shows at The Ship and The Rock House in St. John’s in his honour. Proceeds were donated to the Jay Smith Family Trust, a fund created in support of Jay’s family and two young children.

“Aside from being an amazing musician and songwriter, Jay was the life of the party and had no problem crashing any stuffy old record company do at the ECMAs or whatever,” Power said at the time. “He made me and many others laugh and he had no fear. I will never forget his laugh. It is so surreal that he is gone.”


... and, this just in: a late-coming special mention


Pamela Anderson and Sam Simon offer sealers $1 million

When actress Pamela Anderson and “The Simpsons” co-creator Sam Simon came to town last week with members of PETA to offer the Canadian Sealers Association a $1-million bonus to end the seal hunt, they were heckled — and ambushed. “22 Minutes” comedian and satirist Mark Critch burst into the new conference with an offer of his own: he asked Anderson if she’d accept $165, the amount he said each sealer would receive if they took the deal, to give up acting for good.

The Telegram’s story, photos and video of the ambush went viral, attracting hundreds of thousands of hits within hours.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: College in Halifax, Janeway, Cochrane Street United Church University of King Disney Channel Molson Theatre CBC The Ship and The Rock House Jay Smith Family Trust Canadian Sealers Association

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Pasadena, Republic of Doyle’The Doyle Pouch Cove Cape Breton Edmonton

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