The North Island Concert Society launched their 2019-2020 season on Nov. 30 with Voices for the Salish Sea.
The concert celebrated songs and stories of the inland seas and waterways of southwestern British Columbia and Northwest Washington, the name “Salish Sea” referring to the First Nations people who originally occupied the area.
The Port Hardy Civic Centre was two-thirds full, with about 150 spectators. The show was brought to us by the amalgamation of two bands: Tiller’s Folly and The Wilds.
If one was not familiar with the two groups previously, they could have seemed like one band.
As it turns out, the two groups have very different musical styles and objectives.
Tiller’s Folly is a critically acclaimed, internationally travelled acoustic roots trio that have been performing for 19 years.
Modern day storytellers of Pacific Northwest lore, the group includes Bruce Coughlan (songwriter, lead vocals, guitar), Nolan Murray (fiddle, mandolin, mandocaster) and Laurence Knight (bass and vocals). Dealing mainly with the historical and cultural aspects of the Salish Sea, the subjects of their songs were fishermen, rum runners, loggers, tugboat and steamboat captains.
The Wilds, led by Holly Arntzen (vocals, dulcimer, piano) and Kevin Wright (vocals, cajon, congas), focused on the ecological aspects of the Salish Sea. They are as much an educational group as a musical one, as they spend much of their time putting on school music programs and concerts.
They were supported by the North Island Children’s Choir, conducted by Marsha O’Neill, which accented their work perfectly.
They sang songs about the ocean as a living entity and the plight of the whales and the salmon, referring to themselves as the performers of “bring the fish back hits.”
The two groups’ musical lives are very fluid, as, in addition to getting together for this event, some members also do other gigs on their own or with other groups.
As the stage lights came on, the group went straight into their repertoire.
There was no real introduction, nor explanation of their unique arrangement for this concert or any kind of mission statement presented.
As they sang, one couldn’t help but wonder “who was who?” and “what are they about?” I was able to find the answer to the first question by talking to one of the band members after the show. The second became somewhat clear as the night went on, and then after doing a little research. Some background information on the bands at the outset would have been a necessary and even interesting feature of the show.
The most outstanding aspect of the evening was the songwriting. All the songs had a catchy rolling rhythm (like ocean waves), with plenty of variety in ideas, topics and structure. There were no songs that were “lulls” between other songs—each stood on its own. The evening passed easily, coming to an end seemingly too soon. Their spirited performance earned them a standing ovation.
– Debra Lynn article