I first discovered Great Big Sea while web-searching "Cod Liver Oil." It wasn’t a food supplement I sought, but a song—an old folk tune that my dad, a third-generation Newfoundlander, used to have on tape. I didn’t expect to find the lyrics; it was a long shot—but hey, why not try?
Cue my surprise when the search immediately yielded lyrics, as well as the bio of an internationally-touring, long-running band (18 years and counting) that had obviously staked its claim on the kooky old tune. Tonight, as part of the Zoo Summer Concert Series, Great Big Sea brings Newfoundland’s traditional chanteys, ballads, and doggerel to Port.
Newfoundland*, an archipelago of cold islands off Canada’s east coast, rarely exports its culture even as far as Canada’s mainland, let alone the world stage. Notable exceptions include novel-turned-movie The Shipping News, the stark black-and-white etchings of
David Blackwood (some of which have found their way into the British Royal Family’s private collection), and of course the cold-climate-compatible Newfoundland Dog. Well, it seems Great Big Sea has also earned a spot on the A-list.
For Portland’s Newfie few, tonight promises a reverie of nostalgia. But even if Newfoundland’s music is new to you, the family-friendly jig-and-reel arrangements, with Irish overtones and twists of caustic humor, should draw you closer to this quirky province’s icy shores.
*Pronounced "NEW-fun-land," by those who know