An hour with … Mark Hiscock

Shanneyganock musician picked up accordion at age 4, and has been playing for 38 years

Published on September 2, 2014

At 42 years old, Mark Hiscock’s career as a musician is longer than many of those who are older than he is — 38 years, to be exact. His history with the accordion began as a baby, when his father would lull him to sleep in his crib, playing music on the instrument, and Hiscock took it up as a four-year-old.

Over the weekend, the Shanneyganock member was inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Music Hall of Fame for 2014, along with Bell Island musician Keith Fitzgerald, joining the likes of Kelly Russell, Harry Hibbs and Dick Nolan.


Music Hall of Fame

“I was looking at the plaque, and I was like, Wow, I’m the youngest person on here,” Hiscock says, chuckling. “You have all these players that have put Newfoundland music on the map and that I’ve come up behind, looking at and really listening to a lot of their music. To be put on a plaque with those guys is quite an honour and a privilege. Sometimes you sit back and wonder, what have I accomplished? When something like this comes about, it brings it right back to that level. You know you’re doing something right.”


Accordion love

Hiscock owns 14 accordions, ranging from vintage instruments to one with a USB port, allowing him to record his music.

“If you told me 10 years ago that I’d be putting batteries in my accordion, I wouldn’t have believed it,” he says.


You love it too, you know you do

The accordion’s appeal is simple, Hiscock says — it’s a party in a box — and he reckons it’s one of the reasons why people love Shanneyganock.

“You can take it anywhere you want to go. I only play maybe three or four songs without the accordion.”

Isn’t that a lot of pressure?

“Yes, but I can handle it. I have big shoulders.”


Speaking of (formerly) big shoulders …

Over the past few years, Hiscock has lost about 130 pounds. Along with healthy eating, his exercise routine includes working out with a personal trainer three days a week, as well as walking and hiking.

“It’s a constant battle, but I feel so much better now. We do a 90-minute show, and four years ago, when the show was finished, I’d pack up all my gear and go back to the hotel or go home, and the boys would stay out and party. Now I have all kinds of energy — I’m looking for the next 90 minutes.”


Alternative career?

“Growing up, I always wanted to be on the sea. I spent 22 years on the Scademia, entertaining tourists. I was going to get my captain’s ticket, my master mariner’s. I ended up getting a smaller ticket, a four-tonne ticket at the time. I ended up skipping over college and all that stuff and stayed on the Scademia and started playing as a career. It’s full-time for me now.”


Best experience ever

Hiscock and the other members of Shanneyganock spent a week in 2011 at Canadian Forces Station Alert, near the North Pole.

“That was pretty amazing. We were up there just before Christmas and we got to visit Santa’s workshop and all that stuff, so it was a bit of fun,” he says. “There were 24 hours of darkness. They had lights on the base and everything was inside, it’s so cold, but everything was linked through different channels to get to the gym or the cafeterias. We did go outside and at one point they took us on a little tour and said, ‘Stand right there, guys. Now you’re the most northernly people in the world.’”


Bucket list

“Someday I’d like to row in the Regatta.”


Homesick Newfoundlanders

Hiscock and the rest of Shanneyganock regularly sell out their gigs in Alberta.

“When we first started going up there, playing, if you played certain songs, like ‘Grey Foggy Day,’ there would be grown men crying in the audience. It’s overwhelming for us onstage to see that, too, to see what an effect the music has on them. They miss home so much and they want to be home, but they can’t be.”

Hiscock and the rest of Shanneyganock are gearing up for a tour of the Maritimes in a couple weeks, and are planning to tour Alberta before hosting their traditional Shanneyganock Christmas in St. John’s. There are also special plans in the works for the band’s 20th anniversary next year.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Mark Hiscock was recently inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Music Hall of Fame for his contributions to the province’s musical culture.

©— Photo by Tara Bradbury/The Telegram