Last night was impossible to describe without resorting to superlatives: “amazing,” “awesome,” “iconic.” We attended the “Night of 1000 Stars” benefit concert to aid Newfoundland singer-songwriter Ron Hynes, who is receiving treatment for throat cancer. Ron’s influence on the local music community cannot possibly be overstated: last night a huge number of Newfoundland artists turned out to sing, mostly Ron’s own songs, and pay tribute to the man who was (and is) an inspiration to so many of them.
It was a star-studded cast and for someone like me who loves local music it was a dream come true: so many artists that I love, performing together. Alan Doyle from Great Big Sea is a favourite of mine and he was prominent throughout the show, taking lead vocals on at least three of my favourite Ron Hynes songs and playing in the band for the whole second half. It’s good that Jason is so tolerant of my fangirly crushes on musicians; he laughed at how happy I was to see Alan Doyle and another artist I can’t resist, Larry Foley of the Punters, sharing the microphone on a couple of songs. Other highlights included all three Ennis sisters together singing “No Change in the Weather,” amazing vocalists The Once doing “Atlantic Blue” accompanied by members of the Atlantic String Quartet; Greg Malone coming out on stage to do a spontaneous step-dance in the middle of a number by traditional band The Dardanelles. The real tear-jerker moment was when Ron Hynes himself, obviously fragile and barely able to speak, took the stage for a few minutes. Instead of speaking about himself, he used those few minutes to pay tribute to Raylene Rankin, another great East Coast musician (formerly of Cape Breton band The Rankins) who had passed away from cancer earlier that day. I had been thinking about Raylene Rankin all through the concert because it seemed so poignant to be attending a benefit for a musician with cancer on the same day another great artist had died of cancer. Ron Hynes sang Raylene’s own signature tune “Fare Thee Well, Love” in a voice that was surprisingly strong and sweet given how frail his speaking voice is.
When all the performers gathered on stage at the end to sing Ron’s most famous song, it was the perfect end to a perfect evening of music. I’m so glad someone captured that on video so I could post it above.
I’m sure there are many places in the world where you could organize a great benefit concert for an ailing musician but it’s very easy to do here in Newfoundland. I am so proud to belong to a community where artists support each other so wholeheartedly, and where the line between “the arts community” and just “the community” is hardly a line at all.