There is likely no individual better able to inspire those interested in Canada's far north, and in particular the Northwest Passage, as singer/song writer David Newland. Newland has traveled extensively to both as a Zodiac driver and presenter with Adventure Canada, a travel company that offers travelers a chance to cruise to Canada's far north and experience the magic of its unique landscape and inhabitants.
Newland gave a special presentation titled “The Northwest Passage in Story and Song” at the MERA Schoolhouse in McDonald's Corners on March 13. In the first section of his show he spoke of the history of Canada's far north and how many British explorers who traveled there in an effort to find the Northwest Passage, the quickest way to the Far East, met their demise.
His knowledge and understanding of the place's controversial history is apparent and he peppered his factual presentation with maps and photos of the land and the people who were living there long before British explorers began making expeditions there. “This show places my journeys in context and helps to share some of what we as Canadians draw on when we think about the Northwest Passage and what it means to us,” Newland said when interviewed at the show.
Being a guy who can drive a Zodiac, sing and write songs and who is also comfortable making presentations is what landed him this truly unique line of work. “Someone said he just needed a folk singer who could travel easily, drive boats, perform songs and make presentations - and that is how I ended up here.”
Newland, who currently lives in Cobourg, saved the musical portion of the show for its second half. He played guitar ukelele and harmonica and was joined by a three-piece band who backed him up beautifully, with Saskia Tomkins playing strings, Oisin Hannigan on various percussive instruments, and Steafan Hannigan on flutes, whistles and other instruments. They performed a number of original songs inspired fby Newland’s northern travels, songs like “Musk Ox Stew”, and “Under Forever Skies”. The latter tells of the “ghosts of men who came to plunder".
The foursome played one upbeat and cheeky tune called “What Ho! The Arctic!” and they showed their musical diversity with a calypso-inspired tune titled “Beechy Island”, for which Newland displayed a slide of the beach where three sailors from Franklin's famed expedition are buried. They died during their first winter there.
Newland is a seasoned and passionate performer and his passion for the north and its people comes through strongly in this show.
Newland's in between banter further opened listeners’ eyes to the magic that only Canada's far north can inspire. “If I had to use one word only to describe the place, I would say it would have to be 'scale' ...when you get to the Arctic, words begin to fail, words like sublime and awesome, often used these days to describe a brand of hot chocolate or a certain skate board move. In the Arctic these words aspire once again to their old ancient meanings.” For more information visit “The Northwest Passage in Story and Song” on Facebook.
Newland's show at MERA may very well have inspired a few listeners to consider adding an adventure in Canada's far north to their bucket list.