It’s an oddly beautiful thing when an idea in the arts catches fire.
When suddenly everyone wants a piece of something that seemed, even to the creator, an experiment, a one-off.
The March Hare was one of those ideas.
Over the weekend, The Hare returned ablaze for its 32nd year, and on Sunday, to a packed ballroom inside the Glynmill Inn, that fire was finally allowed to burn out. The Hare, with a stage packed with familiar faces, literally went out singing.
But 32 years ago the Hare was nothing more than an idea composed by a few hands to sell more beer at the local pub. Rex Brown was one of those hands, and he says he can still remember well that first evening; who read, who performed. And he can remember thinking that, considering the Hare managed to pack the pub that first night, and did indeed sell a few beer, that maybe it would be worth trying again the following year.
Since then, the Hare has trekked Newfoundland voices off to New York and Toronto, where the people were invited in to listen to the sounds of the spoken word, and Newfoundland music. The Hare has gone on province-wide tours, and as a reciprocal to bringing Newfoundland artists abroad, has invited international artists back in. This year, one of those artists was Serbia and Montenegro native Miljan Vujovic.
Vujovic joined the Hare in Renews-Cappahayden, taking the stage with his gusle, a traditional Serbian instrument which Vujovic draws rhythmically powerful melodies from with his bow and fingers. He calls himself a guardian of the traditional Serbian and Montenegrin folk music he plays. A guardian in an era where unimaginable amounts of music accumulates online, uploaded and accessed by people the world over.
“I heard before I came here that people here are a little bit different than on the mainland,” said Vujovic. “And it’s true.”
Vujovic describes performing at the Hare, at being given the opportunity to share his traditional music across the province as an honour.
“It’s not nice to play for someone who doesn’t understand you,” he said. “The people here understood what I talk about. It was nice to give them something they never heard before.”
The Hare began its trek this year on Feb. 28 in New York City. By the time it reached the place of its origin in Corner Brook, it had been to Toronto, Halifax, and then began moving across the island, making stops in Arnold’s Cove, St. John’s, Gander, and Renews-Cappahayden.
The festivities kicked off on Friday evening when local standout Joel Thomas Hynes, along with Miljan Vujovic and dub poet Lillian Allen took to Grenfell Campus for a lunchtime performance, before the Hare trekked down the road to Corner Brook Regional High School. There, Hynes was joined by Jalen Summers, Meghan Smith, Eamon McGrath, and Kelly Beales.
On Saturday, the Hare brought theatrical fun to the community. A lunchtime event titled The Madhatter’s Tea Party was held at the Glynill Inn, featuring local actors from the Grenfell theatre program. Then, at the Rotary Arts Centre, a lively group of local actors banded together for a performance of “The Wonderful Dogfish Racket.”
The “Racket,” originally written by Tom Dawe, was revamped for stage by the late Sarah McDonald in 2015. Dawe was in attendance at the Rotary Arts Centre as the group of actors, some of them friends with the late McDonald, worked her voice out from the words on the page, and into the community for perhaps, a final time. However, later that night, another legendary voice would be evoked by the March Hare.
As Rex Brown says, the only vision behind the Hare (aside from initially wanting to sell more beer), was Al Pittman’s. But Pittman’s vision had less to do with any imminent growth the Hare might undergo in subsequent years, but more so to do with the power of the spoken word, and music.
“It was Al’s belief that if you had spoken word and music together, the people would come,” said Brown.
Well, they did. And Saturday night in the Glynmill Inn ballroom, it was Pittman’s words, and his voice, a recording of him played through the speakers that closed the night, giving the people one last time what they had come, 32 years ago, to hear.