March Hare a literary celebration for all

Dave Kearsey
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Sherman Downey appreciates a change of scenery that allows him to be accepted by artists of all kinds so he plans on being a fixture at the March Hare.

Sherman Downey and The Ambiguous Case were one of the local groups who performed at Sunday’s Soiree — the final event for the 2014 March Hare — held at the Glynmill Inn.

Downey said it was great to participate in his second March Hare because it was a nice break from the routine of sharing music with audiences at music festivals and bars.

“For us it’s always been a special thing to get in front of writers and poets, and kind of be accepted into the fold just for the songs ... being looked at a little bit differently from the audience,” Downey said following Sunday’s performance.

“People sometimes come out to a bar and they’re coming out for a dance, but they’re not really sitting and listening to the form of the song or the lyrics.

“Not that they don’t appreciate them, but when we find ourselves in front of a writer’s festival audience people are really paying attention to what we’re writing lyrically and we always loved that.”

It’s an audience he wants to embrace, so it’s a safe bet he will be back again next year.

“What we find most appealing about it is that we’re getting in front of an appreciative, quiet crowd that we can talk to about the songs a little bit, and they’re just really supportive audiences in terms of buying CDs or books.

“You get an audience who loves writing and poetry and reading so it’s kind of nice to be accepted on that level,” he added.

As devised by Al Pittman and Rex Brown, the original March Hare was modeled on the traditional Newfoundland soup supper and the community concert and designed to relieve the winter doldrums at the Blomidon Golf and Country Club in Corner Brook.

Somehow, over the years, this vigorous but humble celebration has been transformed into an international literary festival that not only includes the work of local poets but also features some of the best writers from Canada and the world, and music from some of the finest professional musicians in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Corner Brook poet Adrian Fowler has been participating in the March Hare since its inception, the first one being held back in 1988, according to his recollection.

This year, Fowler enjoyed reading his poetry at an event in Tilting on Fogo Island and also Renews, which proved to be a very special moment in his March Hare tour.

“That was kind of cool because that’s where my father was born and he left the community when he was about 10 years of age,” he said. “It was kind of interesting to go back and sort of complete the circle after all these years.”

Being able to share his works with people in small communities that attracted large audiences is something that surprised him over the years. He said the people keep coming out year after to year to support it so he feels people really appreciate what the event is all about.

He also believes local artists are always eager to embrace what he feels is a unique event.

“It’s fantastic for the local writers and performers because they get the chance to rub shoulders with people who are national and international significance,” he said.

More importantly, he believes the professionals feel pretty good about what they derive from sharing their stories.

“It kind of puts them in touch with the grassroots kind of audience,” he said.

Fowler believes the March Hare keeps getting better every year, noting the event has come a long way.

“I think the level of the writing and the level of the performances and so on has gotten better all the time,” he said. “It was always a lot of fun, but I think these days the programs are really strong.”

Organizations: Blomidon Golf and Country Club

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Corner Brook, Canada Tilting Fogo Island

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