Newfoundland folk duo Jim Payne, left, and Fergus O’Byrne are performing at Knox United Church on March 8. (File photo)

A fine time to be had with East Coast folk music icons

Newfoundland musicians Jim Payne and Fergus O’Byrne perform March 8 in Parksville

A strong wind in the sails has got east coast musicians Jim Payne and Fergus O’Byrne headed from one rock to another with a set of concerts in the Vancouver Island area this March.

A pair of Newfoundland and Labrador’s most eminent folk performers, Payne and O’Byrne are prepared to put on three evenings of merrymaking and folk music, taking place on Gabriola Island March 6, Courtenay on March 7 and Parksville on March 8.

Payne and O’Byrne will be in Parksville at Knox United Church (345 Pym St.) March 8 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30. To buy tickets, go to tickets.porttheatre.com.

The performance is presented by OrganWORX music series in Parksville.

Known for their infectious passion, Payne and O’Byrne bring the tradition, history and culture of everyday east coast people, where song is woven into the fabric of living.

“I find here in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador that the music and stories are still a part of everyday life,” said O’Byrne.

A transplant from Dublin, Ireland, O’Byrne said he grew up studying piano and singing in local church choirs before the great folk revolution in the 1960s caught his interest.

“I was attracted to the stories the songs told and how eloquently these songs represented the history of the ‘common person,’” he said.

Moving to Toronto and then Newfoundland, O’Byrne said he was lucky enough to earn a living playing the folk songs that so spoke to him, while learning more from his new province.

Payne, on the other hand, grew up in a pair of small communities in Notre Dame Bay called Pilley’s Island and Robert’s Arm, where he was immersed in traditional music from the start, said O’Byrne.

“All of his immediate family and relatives were singers, storytellers and musicians.”

“People gathered in homes and town halls on a regular basis to sing, dance and tell stories,” said O’Byrne.

With not much in the way of radio or TV for entertainment, Payne’s entertainment came from this tradition.

“People performed traditional music, but also wrote songs and stories of current events,” said O’Byrne. “Jim developed the skill of writing at a very early age and has continued to write and comment on the culture of our province.”

The pair first performed on stage together at a folk festival they were helping to organize, when another group couldn’t go on. Though a last-minute decision, their performance created sparks, and it’s been an alliance they’ve continued for decades.

Payne and O’Byrne remain dedicated to sharing the culture and stories of Newfoundland and Labrador’s early settlers from Ireland, England and France, while continuing that storytelling tradition with new music that recounts the vibrant present-day culture of the province’s people.

Though their performances can cover a variety of moods, their passion and the music they play attracts fellow artists to join them on stage, gets audiences singing along and even drives concert goers out of their seats to dance in the aisles.

“We aim to give the audience the best night out they’ve had all year,” said O’Byrne.

— NEWS Staff, submitted

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