Showing posts with label music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label music. Show all posts

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Researcher looking for stories and memories of Nish Rumboldt, Newfoundland’s Pied Piper of song.

 Music has always been central to everyday life in Newfoundland and Labrador. From work songs to hymns, fiddle tunes to symphonies—music expression plays an important part in the cultural life of this province. Choral director Ignatius Rumboldt proved that folk and classical singing alike could be enjoyable and accessible for people across the province. Through his role as a choirmaster and music educator in the 1930s-1970s, he was essential to the creation of a choral music community that flourished in communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.


By Ellen Power

Ignatius “Nish” Rumboldt was born in 1916, one of seven children in a fishing family from Curling. Upon his mother’s death in 1921, the family split up and six year old Nish was sent with his brothers to the Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John’s. Despite the upheaval, Nish thrived in the arts and music classes offered at the orphanage. His talent caught the eye of Basilica organist and local businessman Charles Hutton. Hutton mentored young Nish and helped him get advanced lessons in voice and music theory. Nish was only 15 years old when Hutton offered him the position of assistant organist at the Basilica in 1931. Hutton retired 5 years later and Nish took over his position as the chief organist and choirmaster. He held the post for the next 16 years. During this time, Nish organized choral and orchestral concerts for St. John’s audiences, to great acclaim. He also taught choirs at Catholic schools across the city and was an early supporter of the Kiwanis Music Festival competition.

Image: Nish Rumboldt (front row, far left) with the other MUN Extension Faculty, 1961. Photo courtesy of MUN Digital Archives Initiative

Nish Rumboldt is probably best known for his work in establishing choirs across the province in the 1950s and 1960s.  He was one of the first musical directors to add Newfoundland folk songs to the choral repertoire, first with the CJON Glee Club and then with MUN Extension choirs across Newfoundland and Labrador. His spirited interpretations of traditional Newfoundland songs were popular with choristers and audiences alike. Nish hoped hearing the music would inspire people to learn more about the province’s folk music traditions. “I used every opportunity I could,” he later recalled. “[I]f we were asked to sing at a government banquet and we had distinguished visitors, we’d sing a little of every type of music, but I’d be sure to finish up with Newfoundland music.”

Nish believed anyone could join a choir, as long as they were eager to learn. “I met a few people who couldn’t sing at the time but I never discouraged them,” he once said. “One chap came, give him a note and he’d sing anything but. And he became one of my soloists later.” One former soloist in a choir of Nish’s remembered his kindness to choir members. “He was so gentle with his singers,” she recalled.  “Even if they couldn't sing that well, he never put anybody down, he kind of lifted you up”.


Image: Nish Rumboldt conducts the MUN Glee Club in concert, c. 1960s-1970s. Photo courtesy of MUN Digital Archives Initiative

Nish Rumboldt was admired across the province for what one writer described as "the ability to transfer his verve and love of life to a choir and on to an audience." His work with choirs eventually resulted in his 1975 recognition as a Member of the Order of Canada. Nish retired in 1980, the same year he was awarded a honourary doctorate from Memorial University in recognition of his tireless work to promote choral music in the province. This work lives on, despite his death in 1994. The Department of Music, which owes its creation in part to Nish’s advocacy, now carries a scholarship in his name. And the active choral community in this province today certainly owes a debt to the lifelong efforts of Nish Rumboldt.


Were you in one of Nish Rumboldt’s choirs, or did you work with him in the choral community? Share your stories, memories, and photos with us at


Dunsmore, Douglas. "Nish Rumboldt: Newfoundland’s beloved Pied Piper of song." In Sharing The Voices: The Phenomenon of Singing International Symposium I, St. John’s, NL, June 1997, 107-114. St. John’s, NL:  Memorial University.

Morgan, Bernice. “Ignatius Rumboldt—Mr. Music.” MUN Gazette, August 28, 1978.

Pathways. "Ignatius Rumboldt." Produced by MUN Extension Services. Aired 1983, on MUN Education Television Centre.

The Canadian Encyclopedia, s.v. "Ignatius Rumboldt," by Paul Woodford and Betty Nygaard King, accessed Nov. 6, 2020,

Woodford, Paul G. “Nish” Rumboldt: the life and contributions of Ignatius Rumboldt to music in Newfoundland. St. John’s, NL: Creative Publishers, 1984.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Living Heritage Podcast Ep162 Revitalizing the Heart's Delight-Islington Christmas Carols

In days past, Christmas Eve in Heart’s Delight-Islington would ring with the singing of  their own special Christmas carols. The tradition involved the door-to-door singing of two specific carols which had been passed down over the past century. Originally, they were sung by men, who would travel to every house in the community. Other communities in the area, such as Cavendish and Green's Harbour, also once sang a version of the carols, but the tradition remains strongest in Heart’s Delight-Islington.

The custom continues with some changes over time, but more work is needed to safeguard this very special local tradition.  In this podcast, we chat with Stan Reid and Howard Sooley, two long-time carolers who are working to ensure this tradition is carried on to the next generation.  We talk about the past and present of the tradition, and where they would like to see it in the future.

Note: On Dec 12th, as part of this year's Mummers Festival, The Rooms will be hosting an afternoon Coffee and Culture with participants from Heart's Delight-Islington. Facebook event here. Photo courtesy Geraldine Legge.


The Living Heritage Podcast is about people who are engaged in the heritage and culture sector, from museum professionals and archivists, to tradition bearers and craftspeople - all those who keep history alive at the community level. The show is a partnership between HeritageNL and CHMR Radio. Theme music is Rythme Gitan by Latché Swing.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Virgin Most Pure: A look at the Heart's Delight-Islington Christmas Carol tradition

Over the past year, I’ve met a couple times with the new heritage committee in Heart’s Delight-Islington, Trinity Bay. At our last meeting, we had a chat about how the heritage committee might work with the Town and the Recreation Committee to revitalize the Heart’s Delight-Islington Christmas Carol tradition.

The tradition involved the door-to-door singing of two specific carols which have been passed down over the past century. Other communities in the area, such as Cavendish and Green's Harbour, also once did a version of the carols, but the tradition remains strongest in Heart’s Delight-Islington. You can read more about the tradition in Chapter 7 of the book “Heart’s Delight - Islington: From Isolated Communities… To A Growing Town” Printed by Full Circle Printing for The Town of Heart’s Delight - Islington, circa 1990.

What the book identifies as Carol #1 is a variant of what is known historically as “A Virgin Most Pure” or “A Virgin Unspotted.” A few online sources suggest that the earliest known version of the text is in "New Carolls for this Merry Time of Christmas" (London, 1661).

The first verse was included in the fabulously-titled “Wyeth's repository of sacred music. Part second. : Original and selected from the most eminent and approved authors in that  science; for the use of Christian churches, singing-schools &  private societies. : Together with a copious and plain introduction to the grounds of music, and rules for learners” by John Wyeth, circa 1813-1820.

Below, you can see the Heart’s Delight-Islington version, and compare it with Wyeth’s first verse, and remaining verses which were included in a Maryland shape note song book published between 1800 and 1830. This combined version comes from The Second Penguin Book of Christmas Carols, by Elizabeth Poston, 1970. The Heart's Delight-Islington version is one verse longer;  the "Virgin Most Pure" version has a refrain which is repeated between each verse, which goes: "Then let us be merry, cast sorrows away; / Our saviour, Christ Jesus, was born on this day."

Heart's Delight-Islington Carol #1

A virgin most pure, most pure behold
Brought forth our dear Saviour, as we have been told 
For to be our Redeemer from death, hell and sin 
From Satan's transgressions, the ruler of sin. 

Near Bethelem City of Judah so fair, 
Great multitudes of people together were there, 
And they to be taxed as the custom ran so 
Twas Caesar commanded that it should be so. 

And when they had entered that city so fair, 
Both Mary and Joseph together were there. 
Their lodgings were simple; they beheld it no scorn. 
By the very next morning our Saviour was born. 

The King of all glory to this world now has come. 
Small stores of fine linen to wrap him so warm. 
Where Mary had a swaddling of a young son so sweet, 
Down in the ox manger where she laid him to sleep. 

Then God sent an Angel from Heaven so high 
To give shepherds warning in fields where they lie. 
Bidding them to be merry; drive sorrow away. 
For our Saviour, Christ Jesus, was born that same day 

Then shortly after a shepherd did spy 
Great multitudes of Angels appeared in the sky. 
And so merrily they were talking, and so sweetly did sing 
All praise be glory to our Heavenly king.

A Virgin Most Pure

A virgin most pure, as prophets foretold,
Should bring forth a Saviour which now we behold,
To be our Redeemer from death, hell and sin,
Which Adam's transgression involved us all in.

Through Bethlehem City in Jewry it was,
That Joseph and Mary together did pass;
And for to be taxed when thither they came,
Since Caesar Augustus commanded the same.

But Mary's full time being come, as we find,
That brought forth her first born to serve all mankind;
The inn being full, for this heavenly guest,
No place there was found for to lay him to rest.

But Mary, blest Mary, so meek and so mild,
Soon wrapped in swaddlings this heavenly child;
Contented she laid him where oxen did feed,
The great God of nature approved of the deed.

Then presently after, the shepherds did spy
Vast numbers of angels to stand in the sky;
So merrily talking, so sweet did they sing;
All glory and praise to our heavenly King. 

The book "88 Favourite Carols and Hymns for Christmas" printed circa 1830 includes the "A Virgin Unspotted" first line, and a different final verse:
To teach us humility all this was done
And learn us from hence haughty pride to shun;
A manger his cradle though He came from above!
The great God of Mercy, of Peace, and of Love. 
If you have a memory of this tradition (or photos!) comment below or email 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Living Heritage Podcast Ep096 The Neighbours: Exploring Stories and Songs with Meghan Forsyth

Dr. Meghan Forsyth is the Project Coordinator and Researcher at the Research Centre for the Study of Music, Media, and Place, and the Director of the Bruneau Centre for Excellence in Choral Music at MUN. She is an ethnomusicologist specializing in music and dance of the Acadian diaspora, and is co-author, with Ursula Kelly, of the forthcoming book The Music of Our Burnished Axes: Songs and Stories of the Woods Workers of Newfoundland and Labrador. In addition to her work at MMaP, Meghan teaches courses in ethnomusicology, musicology and popular music at MUN’s School of Music.

Recently, MMaP launched “The Neighbours: St. John’s” -- an app for mobile devices. In this episode, we chat about how this new app presents fascinating stories from cultural communities in and around St. John’s. Meghan describes how the app enables users to take a walking tour of downtown St. John’s and Middle Cove Beach to hear stories associated with individual locations, and then she gives us a preview of her new book on logging song traditions.

Download the mp3

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Living Heritage Podcast Ep061 Forgotten Songs of the Newfoundland Outports

Anna Kearney Guigné is an independent folklorist and adjunct professor affiliated with Memorial University of Newfoundland’s ethnomusicology program. An historian at heart, Kearney Guigné has extensively written about twentieth-century folksong collectors and collecting practices. Kearney Guigné also explores the wide range of influences that continue to shape our rich musical tradition including such popular media as newspapers, broadsides, songsters, and radio programs, vinyl recordings.

This November, Anna will release her fourth major publication The Forgotten Songs of the Newfoundland Outports: As Taken from Kenneth Peacock’s Field Collection, 1951-1961. We talk about the life, fieldwork, and legacy of Kenneth Peacock, and the work of selecting songs for publication in this new book.

Listen on the Digital Archive:

Take note! 

The University of Ottawa Press and the Canadian Museum of History official book launch of

The Forgotten Songs of the Newfoundland Outports
As taken From Kenneth Peacock’s Field Collection, 1951-1961

By Anna Kearney Guigné
Wednesday November 30th from 7:30 to 9:00 pm
MMaP Gallery
Research Centre for Music, Media and Place
Second floor, Arts & Culture Centre, St. John’s, NL

Monday, April 4, 2016

When Your Boy Comes Back To You - more WWI-era sheet music!

We posted last week about finding a copy of the 1916 First World War sheet music "The Sweethearts That We Left In Newfoundland" here in the Heritage Foundation of NL office.

This week, we bring you the second of our finds, a piece entitled "When Your Boy Comes Back To You" by Gordon V. Thompson, dated 1916, published by the Thompson Publishing Co, 75 Bay Street, Toronto.

The lyrics are as follows:

When Your Boy Comes Back To You

Keep the lamp of hope still brightly burning,
Till your boy comes back to you,
And although your heart may oft' be yearning
For one whose love is true,
Bear in mind the day he'll be returning,
So then, cheer up! don't be blue,
Ev'ry day you're far apart you grow dearer to his heart,
Till your boy comes back to you!

When your boy comes back to you,
You will keep your promise true,
You will watch, you will wait by the old garden gate,
Till the regiment appears in view
Whey your boy comes back to you
And the bands are playing too,
Won't your heart be beating fast,
Just to welcome him at last?
When your boy comes back to you!

Don't forget to heed this word of warning,
It will mean so much to you,
Though it's dark tonight the sun at morning
Will shine with brighter hue
On the boys with glory all adorning,
You will share that glory too!
Wear a bright and sunny smile, tho' you wait a long, long while,
Till your boy comes back to you!


Download  a pdf copy of the sheet music here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Sweethearts That We Left In Newfoundland: First World War sheet music

It's spring cleaning time at the Heritage Foundation of NL, and look what we found!

"The Sweethearts That We Left In Newfoundland" is a piece of sheet music, with words and music by James J. Galway of St. John's, printed by the F.J. Lawson Company of NY, dated 1916.

The lyrics are as follows:

The Sweethearts That We Left In Newfoundland.

Tho' on the battlefield and waves we fight for Motherland,
We can't forget the sweethearts dear at home in Newfoundland,
The fondest thoughts revert each day and hearts with throbs expand,
When we recall the lov'd ones there in far off Newfoundland.

We've seen bewitching maidens glance on us in Motherland,
And grasp'd the hands of fairest ones from Scotland's heather-land,
We've been entranc'd by Irish smiles with words of blarney grand,
Yet sweethearts none can conquer us but those in Newfoundland.

And now when battle thunder rolls as we the foe withstand,
We'll yield no truce to tyrants who would crush the Motherland,
But all the more we'll bravely fight with Britain's martial band,
When thinking of the sweethearts dear at home in Newfoundland


Then when the crown of vict'ry rests on Britain's free old land,
We'll treat the transports decks again embark'd for Newfoundland,
To meet once more and grasp with joy in loving embrace grand,
The sweethearts that we left behind in dear old Newfoundland.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Oh! You Nasty Nazi Man: A WWII Novelty March Song from 1940s Newfoundland

Those of you who follow the ICH blog know that we are often uploading information and interviews to the ICH Inventory on Memorial University's Digital Archives Initiative. It is an amazing resource for people conducting historical and folklore research, and the ICH Inventory is only one small part of the entire collection.

There is a recent uploads page for the DAI, which showcases some of the more recent items uploaded. While checking it out today, I came across this peculiar gem, a novelty march song from Newfoundland entitled "Oh! You Nasty Nazi Man" - a call-to-arms of sorts with a chorus that starts "Oh! you nasty Nazi man, Way over in Berlin, You know you haven't got a chance, This blinking war to win."

Words and music are attributed to A.J. Dee, and copyright is attributed to one A.S. Donnelly, of 20 McKay Street, St. John's. If you know anything about this piece of music, or the author, let me know, or leave a comment below!

You can view the sheet music on the DAI, or download a pdf here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Symposium on Music, Folklore, and the Public Sector - May 15

You are invited to attend a half-day symposium on Music, Folklore and the Public Sector on Thursday, May 15, 2014, hosted by the Research Centre for the Study of Music, Media and Place (MMaP). A group of internationally renowned ethnomusicologists and folklorists will join with local experts, activists and entrepreneurs for a lively exchange on issues that range across local culture, politics, and social well-being.

 his afternoon event will feature presentations by the Board members of the Society for Ethnomusicology: Gregory Melchor-Barz (medical ethnomusicology, Vanderbilt University and the University of the Free State, South Africa); Anne Rasmussen (musical labour in Oman, gender and Islamic arts, College of William and Mary); Tina K. Ramnarine (cultural mapping, heritage sites, Royal Holloway, UK); Harris Berger (popular music and performance studies, Texas A&M University); Zoe Sherinian (Tamil folk music, politics, film-making, University of Oklahoma); Margaret Sarkissian (minority groups in Malaysia, Armenian immigrants in Toronto and Chicago, Smith College); Andrew Weintraub (music and human rights, repatriation, Uganda and Indonesia, University of Pittsburgh); Stephen Stuempfle (SEM Executive Director, Caribbean musics, Indiana University);

It will also highlight ongoing public sector initiatives in Newfoundland and Labrador: Dale Jarvis (Intangible Cultural Heritage, HFNL); Zainab Jerrett (Tombolo Multicultural Festival of Newfoundland and Labrador Inc.); Jillian Gould (Public Sector Program, Folklore, MUN)

When: Thursday, May 15, 2014, 1pm-6pm, followed by a reception.

Where: MMaP Gallery, 2nd floor of the Arts & Culture Centre, St. John's NL
Admission is free.

For more information and a full schedule of events, please visit the website:, or contact Meghan Forsyth (709-864-2051, We hope you will join us for this exciting event!

Photo by Chris Hibbs, 2010.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Indonesian instrument naming ceremony this Thursday

By Mandy Cook
Memorial’s School of Music will unveil the latest addition to its suite of instruments at a special event at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre.

Music lovers will be treated to the debut concert of the school’s new gamelan and a special naming ceremony for the set of Indonesian instruments on Thursday, March 21, from 4-5 p.m. on the centre’s upper concourse. The gamelan will be housed in the school’s Research Centre for the Study of Music, Media and Place, located in the Arts and Culture Centre.

It is Indonesian tradition to give a new gamelan its own special name through a ceremony called a selametan (“thanksgiving”). The ceremony involves sacred songs and special offerings of food (especially nasi Tumpeng – rice with saffron, drinks, fruits, and incense. Master gamelan artist Ade Suparman, who hails from West Java, will lead the ceremony and perform with gamelan expert and Evergreen State College instructor Dr. Sean Williams. Mr. Suparman is a specialist on kecapi (a stringed zither), and Dr. Williams is a suling (flute) player and vocalist.

The event will also be the debut of the MUN Gamelan Ensemble under director Bill Brennan, who is also a member of the Toronto-based Evergreen Club Gamelan. The student ensemble has been working together since January and has benefited from recent workshops with Mr. Suparman.

“The School of Music has been the recipient of a generous donation from the estate of Rita Love that has enabled us to complete our prestige string quartet, to establish a student scholarship and to commission an Indonesian gamelan degung,” said Dr. Ellen Waterman, dean, School of Music. “We are grateful to Derrick Hutchens, the executor of the Love estate, for his work in realizing these projects.”

A gamelan is a set of keyed metallaphones, similar to xylophones, and gongs found in Indonesian classical music. The various instruments are all made to order by a master artisan and are meant to be used together only in that particular gamelan. The School of Music’s gamelan was crafted by 75-year-old Tentrem Sarwanto, a renowned Javanese gongsmith who has supplied gamelans to several major universities in Europe and North America.

There are several different varieties of gamelan -- Javanese, Balinese, Sundanese – depending on what part of Indonesia they come from. Sundanese gamelan, or gamelan degung, the gamelan the School of Music has chosen, also includes double-headed drums, a bamboo flute (suling) and a zither (kecapi).

“Gamelan music is magical and exotic sounding,” said Dr. Waterman. “Interlocking layers of delicate bell-like sounds are interwoven with complex drum rhythms. Typically, these beautiful bronze instruments are housed in carved teak frames. Ours features gilded dragons! Up to 16 players sit cross-legged on low cushions to play the gamelan.”

Gamelan is particularly useful as the in-house world music ensemble at the School of Music, says Dr. Waterman, because it is a rhythm-based group activity that doesn’t rely on particular instrumental skills in order to play – any good musician can become proficient. She says it is “beautiful looking and sounding,” and is a common instrument that an ethnomusicologist might be expected to teach in a university program, and therefore a highly valuable experience to have.

Dr. Waterman says the ensemble will provide a highly visible “anchor” ensemble in world music for the ethnomusicology aspect of the School of Music’s undergraduate and graduate programming. As well, Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., has a Sundanese gamelan, which will provide collaboration opportunities between Acadia and Memorial.

Photo: gamelan with its maker, Tentrem Sarwanto

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tuesday's Folklore Photo: Orangemen Marching Band

This photograph was provided by the Mizzen Heritage Society's archives in Heart's Content. It shows the Orangemen Brass Marching Band. At one time there were two marching bands in Heart's Content, and they played at all the different events in town. This photo is undated but is likely from the 1940s or 50s.

To learn more about the Orange Order of Canada, please click here.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Screening: You Can Punch A Hurricane: a film about women making music.

On January 24, as part of Eastern Edge Gallery’s “Words in Edgewise,” a local documentary looking at the stories of several female musicians completing the RPM challenge in February 2012 will be shown. The women discuss the challenges of performing and recording in a male-dominated music world, as well as the unique opportunities of the RPM Challenge in St. John's. Mathais Kom, Megan Sutherland, and Joelle Carey are the three Memorial University graduate students behind the short film which has been chosen to be part of the gallery’s look at the RPM Challenge in St. John’s.

Every February, the RPM Challenge inspires hundreds of local musicians write and record an entire album in a month. To gear up for another musical month, Eastern Edge Gallery presents an evening of RPM: music, film, music, talk, music. With RPM stalwarts Mathias Kom, St. John's Ukulele Orchestra, Pet Legs, and Thomas Coombes. The event will begin at 8pm on Thursday, January 24 at Eastern Edge Gallery, 72 Harbour Drive. Refreshments will be provided by Fixed Coffee & Baking.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

CultureDays talk Friday, Sept 24 with Caroline Clarke, Cara Kansala & Pam Dorey

As part of Culture Days 2010, join folklorist Dale Jarvis as he leads an artist’s talk about “Come All Ye – Second Verse”, a light-hearted portrait of Newfoundland folk music through the prints of Caroline Clarke and the woodwork and mixed media creations of Cara Kansala and Pam Dorey.

Caroline Clarke is a St. John's based printmaker and musician who draws much of her inspiration from the local community, especially the camaraderie that develops around the sharing of music. Clarke has shown her work in solo and group exhibits in the Craft Council Gallery. In 2008 she had an exhibition of prints—with a musical theme—in the Main Gallery with Cara Kansala and Pam Dorey – “Come All Ye”. In 2010, these three artists are revisiting this theme in “Come All Ye – Second Verse” continuing to have fun with their art and the music that inspires them.

Cara Kansala and Pam Dorey founded Cara’s Joy in St. John’s in 2003, and relocated to Upper Island Cove, Conception Bay, in 2005. The pair work full time from their home studio/workshop, where they fashion their colourful, humorous pictures/collages from a variety of materials including wood, wire, and twine, hand-painted fabric, and crocheted clothing.

Artist talk begins at 6pm Friday, September 24, at the Devon House, Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador, 59 Duckworth Street, St. John’s. For more information call (709) 753-2749 or email

Image shown: “St. John’s Waltz”, hand tinted linocut by Caroline Clarke.