Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Music legend Pamela Morgan and the Stephenville Theatre Festival

By Keith and Heather Nicol
     Newfoundland music star Pamela Morgan is heavily involved in this year’s Stephenville Theatre Festival and we recently had a chance to speak to her about some of the shows she is involved in.  First some background-from 1976-1995 Pamela Morgan was lead singer, guitarist, and arranger for Canada’s pioneering “Celtic” band, Newfoundland’s Figgy Duff, who brought the traditional Newfoundland music to a global audience.  Since 1995 she has created several albums and toured extensively in Canada, the US and in Europe. More recently she has overseen productions of two of her original scores for live theater; her own folk opera, “The Nobleman's Wedding”, and Figgy Duff's score for Shakespeare's "Tempest". For the Stephenville Theatre Festival she told us that she has reworked “The Nobleman's Wedding” creating a full length folk opera in the process. “This has been an incredible amount of work writing the story, creating and arranging the music, learning to play the pieces and now as musical director teaching it to the rest of the cast. The story is based on a song that I initially learned in Stephenville in the 1970’s and so it is fitting that this full length musical production is being performed here for the Stephenville Theatre Festival.” We saw the “The Nobleman's Wedding” and we really liked Morgan’s folk opera and how it was performed by the band and singers. 
Pamela Morgan spoke to us about her involvement with the Stephenville Theatre Festival

      Pamela Morgan is also the musical director for two other performances at the Stephenville Theatre Festival- “Music from Home” and “The Country Show”. “Although I have been around music professionally for all of my adult life, being a musical director is not a role I usually have so this has been a new experience for me. My philosophy is to have the performers select a few songs that they think might fit the programme and then I work with each performer to make sure the songs they end up singing for the show are well suited to their voice and style.”
Pamela Morgan will have her own show at the Festival on August 6, 2014
     We have been lucky enough to see both of these shows and thoroughly enjoyed both of them. Pamela Morgan will also have her own show on August 6, 2014 at the Stephenville Theatre Festival .  She told us that it will feature music from her recent CD “Play On” as well as some of her earlier music and that some special guests will join her for that performance.  For tickets to any of these shows contact:http://www.stephenvilletheatrefestival.com/

Monday, 28 July 2014

Museums and a Pig Roast in South Western Newfoundland

by Keith and Heather Nicol 
    On Saturday, July 26 we decided to check out the 20th anniversary of the Pirates Haven pig roast in Robinsons. Usually when we explore the Western region of the province we head north to Gros Morne National Park and the Northern Peninsula, so this was an opportunity to  travel south and check out some places we had not visited before. First off we dropped in to see the Stephenville Regional Museum of Art and History which has been gradually developing its collection over the past 3 years. We met the manager Linda Collier and she showed us around the various displays. “Probably our most interesting artifacts are an old stove from nearby Sandy Point which dates to 1856 and an old map from 1927 that shows the land ownership in the Stephenville area. We also have a large collection of materials from the American base and we even have the last flag that was flown there” Linda told us. There are numerous other displays including an Aboriginal section. The museum is in the lower level of the Royal Canadian Legion in Stephenville and you can get guided tours from 1-5 pm up until the end of August, 2014. Check this museum out the next time you are visiting the Stephenville area. For information  ph. 643-5854 or 643-9757. 
Heather (left) chats with Linda Collier at the Museum of Art and History in Stephenville
Staying with the museum theme we then headed to nearby St. Georges where we saw the Mi’kmaw Museum. This museum has a great airy space on the second floor of the old courthouse and has numerous interpretive panels discussing the history of the Mi’kmaq people in Newfoundland. They also have a children’s art section which was getting good use while we were there where kids can create a medicine wheel and learn how to pronounce various Mi’kmaw words. The student guides were friendly and helpful and told us how a wigwam was constructed as well as the history of the building that the museum was housed in.  Museums dedicated to aboriginal peoples are rare in Newfoundland and this museum does of fine job of presenting information about how the Mi’kmaw people lived. The museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm until August 27, 2014. For more information see: http://www.sgib.ca/index_files/Page1488.htm

The Mi’kmaw Museum in St. Georges has a children's area which is a nice bonus

      By this time we were getting hungry and we were looking forward to our next stop at the Pirates Haven Chalets and Adventures which was having their 20th annual pig roast. Paul and Ruth Gale have been operating various tourism facilities in the Robinsons area of Southwestern Newfoundland for more than 20 years and their one constant has been an annual pig roast. They told us that many of the customers for this roast were people who were staying in their RV park or chalets but that people also come out for the day from Stephenville, Corner Brook and the Codroy area as well. We didn’t realize that roasting a pig was such a big endeavor and Paul told us that they started cooking the 120 pound pig at midnight and that it had to be tended  throughout  the night. But after 16 hours of cooking the meat was deliciously moist and they served close to 75 meals over the evening.  Paul also spoke enthusiastically about the 88 acres of land that they have and said that we had to come back when they weren’t so busy to check out Robinsons Head which he says had an amazing view of the coastline. They not only offer typical RV services but they also offer salmon fishing, ATV rentals and several events through the summer. Next on their programme is a dinner theatre event on August 2 and a Mardi Gras in mid October. Check out http://www.pirateshavenadventures.com for more information. 
Ruth Gale serves a pork dinner fresh from the spit

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Stephenville Theatre Festival gets top marks for "The Country Show"

   by Keith and Heather Nicol 
 We recently attended “The Country Show” at the Stephenville Theatre Festival and we give this show "two thumbs up" for its variety and quality of the performance.  There was a large band and many singers and the cast covered lots of country favourites from Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline and Shania Twain. The musical director is well known Newfoundland performer, Pamela Morgan and Dave Panting keeps the music flowing on stage. The cast performed 24 songs in all and started off strongly with a toe tapping version of “Jambalaya”. In the first act we also liked their renditions of “Ring of Fire” and “Good Hearted Woman”. In the second act, Pamela Morgan did an amazing job with “Ode to Billy Joe” and new singers came on stage and wowed the audience with “Jolene” (Emily Ramsdale) and “Man, I feel like a Woman” (Erica Anderson).  Even if you are not big fans of country and western music you will enjoy this high energy performance. There are just 3 more presentations of “The Country Show” so check the box office for details (ph 709-643-4553). The show we attended was sold out so you should get your tickets ahead of time if you plan to see this show.
Dave Panting is one of the main performers in "The Country Show"
The Stephenville Theatre Festival is celebrating its 36th year this summer and runs from July 11 to August 10, 2104. It is Newfoundland’s longest running theatre festival and overall there are 5 shows being presented this summer. “Jack meets the Cat” is their family show and is performed on Sunday afternoons. They are also doing the comedy “The Birthday Party”, “Music from Home” and their flagship performance “The Nobleman’s Wedding” as well as “The Country Show”. For more information see http://www.stephenvilletheatrefestival.com/  
The Stephenville Theatre Festival sings "Good Hearted Woman"  

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Golf by the ocean at the Harmon Seaside Links in Stephenville, Newfoundland

by Keith and Heather Nicol
We recently had a chance to check out the Harmon Seaside Links in Stephenville before we attended a Stephenville Theatre Festival performance that evening.  It made a great combination – Golf by day, play by night. The course is an 18 hole –par 72 golf course right across the road from Bay St. George.  This means that you often get a refreshing breeze which has been nice this summer with its record breaking heat.  The course is flat so is great for walkers and we had a very enjoyable afternoon exploring this course. There is quite a bit of water which adds to the scenery but it really only comes into play on a few of the holes. And although everything appears to be wide open you need to be accurate with your tee shots to avoid the rough along the sides and fairway sand traps. Despite the dry, hot conditions the greens were in good shape. 
Heather putting on the 5th hole
 The course provides good views of the Indian Head Range and the community of Stephenville can be seen in the background. On the day we played the wind was not too much of an issue but be aware that it often can be windy, particularly in the afternoon.  The front nine is more protected from the wind since it has been cut out of the forest and is an ideal choice if you only want to play 9 holes. Joan Tobin, the pro shop manager, told us that they are having a great summer and that quite a few visitors had dropped by to play. The 2014 Harmon Invitational will be taking place on August 1-3, 2014. This annual tournament will once again be a two-man best ball format, with the lower of the two handicaps being used for the team scores. The club also has a putting green, power carts, and a driving range.  Be sure to check out this web site for more information-  http://www.harmonseasidelinks.com/ 
Keith teeing off on the 9th hole

Friday, 18 July 2014

Be sure to take in the Stephenville Theatre Festival this summer

by Keith and Heather Nicol
    The Stephenville Theatre Festival is celebrating its 36th year this summer and its most ambitious performance is “The Nobleman’s Wedding” which is billed as a folk opera. Pamela Morgan, one of Newfoundland’s most well known musicians, has created The Nobleman’s Wedding from a folk song that she happened to learn in Stephenville many years ago from Jack and Ellen Carroll. We thought all of the performers were very impressive with both their acting and their singing. And the band (which includes Pamela Morgan) is first rate. The story line is easy to follow and deals with 2 lovers -Nancy (a nobleman’s daughter) and Thomas (a lowly sailor).  Their union is greatly opposed by Nancy’s parents and they conspire to separate them.  Can they find a way to be together? We loved the costumes and the music and fully recommend this play to anyone. 

Erik Mrakovcic (left) and Erica Anderson star in "A Nobleman's Wedding"  (credit photo Caroline Hunt)
     We have also just seen “Music from Home” which is Stephenville Theatre Festival’s tribute to Newfoundland music. A large cast of musicians and singers cover alot of ground in this performance which includes familiar Newfoundland songs like Sonny’s Dream and Heave Away as well as several short stories.  Since some of the cast has its roots in other countries they have also included some folk songs from Croatia and Israel. The musical director is Newfoundland icon, Pamela Morgan .  Dave Panting  (of Figgy Duff and Rawlings Cross fame) also plays a large role in the performance.  The entire group performs over 20 songs and stories in the cozy second stage which means everyone has a good seat.  This show has something for everyone. 
Matthew Payne (left) and Jonathan Silver perform in "Music from Home"
      The Stephenville Theatre Festival runs from July 11 to August 10, 2104 and overall there are 5 shows being presented this summer. “Jack meets the Cat” is their family show and is performed on Sunday afternoons. They are also doing the comedy “The Birthday Party” and another musical , “The Country Show”.  For more information see http://www.stephenvilletheatrefestival.com/  And for people visiting the Stephenville area, check out the Days Inn (www.daysinn.com) which has special "Stay and Play" packages.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Whales and Sunsets in Gros Morne National Park

  by Keith and Heather Nicol                             
     On Friday afternoon, July 11 just as the skies opened up we started driving from Corner Brook  to Gros Morne National Park. The forecast was calling for good weather so we hoped the heavy rain was localized and sure enough as we headed north from Deer Lake it began to clear and by the time we reached Woody Point it was sunny again. We checked into the comfortable Victorian Manor Efficiency Units (http://www.grosmorne.com/victorianmanor/) and shortly thereafter our friends Martin and Molly Ware arrived. Our plan was to show them some short hiking trails that we had discovered the previous fall and have dinner at the Merchant Warehouse which just opened last year on the Woody Point waterfront. 

Walking the Beach Trail in Woody Point
     After a short hike along the Beach Trail (trailhead 21 0433316 E 5482899 N) we wondered down to the Merchant Warehouse and chose a table on the deck overlooking the ocean. No sooner had we sat down than we spotted a couple of minke whales cruising for their dinner. Our waitress told us that minke whales had been frequent visitors to the Woody Point area this summer but we think it is the very first time we have seen whales from our dining room table!! 
We saw minke whales from the deck of the Merchant Warehouse
     For supper we had a mix of dishes and we really enjoyed their most popular dinners – the “cod bites” served with a caesar salad as well as the deep fried cod . The Merchant Warehouse is more than just a place to eat. One of our favourite groups, the “Once” was playing there to a sold out crowd the next  night. Contact the Merchant Warehouse to find out what other musical events they have planned for this summer-ph. 709-453-2485.
The deep fried cod and caesar salad were delicious
   After supper we headed to Trout River where we wanted to walk on the waterfront boardwalk and see the sunset.  We weren’t disappointed and the warm weather had lots of people strolling along the beach. A high band of cloud came along and the sun highlighted the cloud as it set.  Awesome!
Head to the Trout River boardwalk for great sunsets
    The next morning (Saturday, July 12) we enjoyed a great breakfast on the deck of the Victorian Manor. The sun shimmered off of Bonne Bay and we could see Gros Morne Mountain in the distance. This deck is a real bonus and we feasted on eggs and sausages while we planned the day.
We enjoyed eating breakfast on the deck of the Victorian Manor
     We suggested to  Martin and Molly that they might like to check out one of the community trails in Trout River so after packing up we drove to the Old Man – Lighthouse trailhead in Trout River (21 U 0418042 E 5481221 N) . The 800 meter (1 way) trail climbs steeply at first before traversing the flat marine terrace. This trail has very good vistas of the community of Trout River as well as its fishing boats and wharves.  The route traverses past fields of wildflowers and we saw buttercups, hair bells , blue flag iris, and daisies along the way. There is a 140 meter side trail to the Old Man which is a pinnacle shaped rock formed when sea levels were higher at the close of the last ice age.   
Walking on the Lighthouse Trail near Trout River
     For our picnic lunch we headed to the Parks Canada day use area at scenic Trout River Pond.  Then before heading back to Corner Brook, we drove to one of our favourite lookouts in this area which provides an excellent view of Trout River Pond. The coordinates of the lookout are: 21 U 0418535 E and 5479155 N. The southern part of Gros Morne National Park has much to recommend it and we will be back before the summer is over to check out more of its hikes and other activities.
The southern part of Gros Morne Park is also home to the unusual Tablelands