Newland named Fellow of Royal Canadian Geographical Society
Cobourg's David Newland is one of two folks singer/songwriters named Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society last week. VALERIE MACDONALD/Northumberland Today
Cobourg’s David Newland is one of two folk singer/songwriters named Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) last week.
Newland will open for James Keelaghan who is headlining at the Shelter Valley Folk Festival fundraising concert at the Grafton Town Hall this Saturday.
Keelaghan is the other person who received this unique honour last Wednesday which “recognizes individuals who make Canada better known to Canadians and the world,” states a media release.
The list of Fellows includes writers, explorers and astronauts.
There is only one other folk musician who has been named a Fellow.
“It’s pretty rare for a folk singer, I take it,” Newland said.
Newland has varied experiences in addition to his music and they include travelling in the arctic and piloting a Zodiac for Adventure Canada. He is also a writer and former editor at Canoe.ca.
It’s this combination of his music and nature he believes has resulted in him being named a Fellow.
His songs are stories about the north and nature, he said in an interview in the back yard of his University Avenue home where he and his family has transformed an urban setting into a rustic rural one complete with an area where they chop wood and garden.
Shelter Valley Folk Festival artistic director Lesley Marie Boileau didn’t know of the impending honour of the pair when she booked the well-known Keelaghan to do the show in Grafton. Newland offered to be the opening act, she added.
Newland said he had to keep the honour secret until the actual Nov. 18 RCGS event when he and Keelaghan shared a stage at the Canadian Museum of History with 65 other new Fellows, including writer Margaret Atwood.
“I always knew these two were good fellows,” Boileau stated in a release. “Now the world knows.”
Boileau describes both musicians as amazing wordsmiths.
“They can turn a phrase like no one’s business,” she said in an interview.
When asked about why he thought he was named a Fellow, Keelaghan stated in an e-mail interview, “I believe it has something to do with the body of my work. I write about landscape. I write about history. I think these are two subjects that are important to the RGCS.”
It is also about “telling stories in a way that makes you think they could happen to you.
“I think each of the story songs is like a short film, a glimpse into a different world,” he stated.
So what can people expect at the festival fundraiser at the Grafton Town Hall this Saturday night?
“I’ll be playing with my longtime musical friend Hugh McMillan,” said Keelaghan. “Hugh has been the bass player for Spirit of the West for the past 25 years, but every now and again he joins me on gigs. He’s a fluid player on both bass and octave mandolin. Together we’ll fill the room with great melodies and stories.”
Newland takes the stage first and Keelaghan said he is looking forward to that too.
Both of these new Fellows have played the Shelter Valley Folk Festival in past years.
There will also be a silent auction at the event where Northumberland Hills Brewery is in the house.
Tickets are being sold at the door and online through the festival website.