December 10, 2020
On the Rock
Having spent my formative years in St. John’s, Newfoundland, I was very excited to introduce Ofra to this amazing Canadian province – one of the rare places to which her career had not yet taken her. We took a vacation in St. John’s in the summer of 2018, and she loved it so much we decided to buy a house and move here.
In the time following, Ofra has fallen in love with the beauty of the land, the spirit of the people, and the rare mystique of the culture. When we finished the Back to Bach album in the summer of 2019, we took a trip to explore some of the island. As we said “good-bye” to the Baroque album (much like having a child, once you’ve done your part, it’s time to let them go out into the world), we launched into researching the music of Newfoundland.
From the extensive list of music available to us, we have chosen a variety of material from unknown sources, to music borrowed from other lands, to songs and dances by some of Newfoundland’s most treasured writers.
A real challenge for me, as music arranger on this project, was to try to capture the essence of the original music while putting it in a context that made sense for Ofra’s solo cello. First and foremost, I wanted to ensure that I maintained the respect due this music. Also, I needed to find a way to introduce the cello in a way that added to these pieces without usurping the original nature of the music itself.
As the COVID-19 pandemic descended on the world in early 2020, we found ourselves able to immerse into this project, undistracted. As we all combined our efforts to develop this album, in isolation, we were thrilled with the contributions of our extraordinary guests: Alan Doyle, Bob Hallett, Heather Bambrick, Amanda Cash, Kelly- Ann Evans, Fergus O’Byrne, Kendel Carson, and Maureen Ennis.
With the guidance and contribution of Bob Hallett, we were able to compile a selection of songs, jigs, and reels that Ofra felt she really connected with and that told a story of what she has come to know and love about the province. I’m sure the time will come when she feels there is more of the story to tell. But this is what we have come up with, for now.
Mike Herriott St. John’s,
Summer of 2020