Winnipeg songwriter inspired at North West River residency

Cory Hurley
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Whether they were looking for inspiration in writing their master’s thesis is unclear, but about 50 people gathered in Corner Brook to listen to and hear from singer/songwriter John K. Samson.

Winnipeg-based writer and singer/songwriter John K. Samson gives a presentation about his artist residency at North West River, Labrador, Thursday at the Grenfell Campus Fine Art Gallery in Corner Brook.

The Winnipeg musician just completed a residency at North West River, where he found inspiration to continue his writing.

“North West River is an incredible town, first off,” he said Thursday evening at the Grenfell Art Gallery. “I was really moved by the land itself.”

Inspiration was not hard to come by in the Labrador community. The day after he arrived, Innu elder and activist Elizabeth Penashue began her three-week trek into the Labrador wilderness.

“That became somewhat the guiding focus for my own stay there, in a way,” Samson said. “I walked every day, and I thought about her walking and what she was doing. I just walked, and learned about the place through walking.”

He was particular impressed by a songwriter’s circle he attended.

“I do find the East Coast culture really lends itself to songs, really respects songs and understands songs, and understands it is a way of sharing with other people that I don’t find anywhere else in the world,” he said.

The North West River Artist-in-Residence Program is a pilot program which is an initiative of the Labrador Institute and Grenfell Campus Art Gallery/Fine Arts Division, Memorial University of Newfoundland. It is situated in the Labrador Institute Research Station at North West River. The residency is open to artists of all disciplines, including visual arts, film, audio, music, theatre, writing and curatorship.

Samson seemed satisfied with the experience, which allowed him to find the time and inspiration to write. While his next work continues to concentrate on his home province of Manitoba — Winnipeg, in particular — he said he has plenty of material to possibly write about North West River.

Ken Jones of Corner Brook praised Samson for his distinct voice, and how it is easily recognized as a Winnipeg accent.

The musician said that is important to him in his songs and music — that the sung word should be the same as the spoken word. During his stay, he was impressed to hear there is more of a conscious effort among Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to maintain their accent.

“I think it is a huge step that is long overdue,” he said. “Because the voice is as unique as the place that it’s from. We really should be encouraging those accents instead of diminishing them and homogenizing them.”

The Western Star

Organizations: Grenfell Art Gallery, Labrador Institute, Grenfell Campus Art Gallery/Fine Arts Division Memorial University of Newfoundland

Geographic location: Winnipeg, North West River, Labrador East Coast Manitoba Corner Brook Western Star

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