Leading the charge for the resurgence of the recitation in NL, local troupe From Stage to Stage prep for their seventh showcase at the hallowed LSPU Hall
The art of the recitation has been passed down from generation to generation in Newfoundland and Labrador. Those who carry on the tradition, the storytellers and master orators, are, in many ways, keepers of our history, of a lost art made anew through their contributions to the craft.
From Stage to Stage are at the peak of the recitation renaissance in Newfoundland and Labrador. Comprised of Dave Paddon, Dave Penney, Hubert Furey and Harry Ingram, the foursome have taken the recitation from humble beginnings in speakeasies and kitchen parties, propelling it to big stages across the island with an avid fan-following that has stretched seven years and counting.
Penney and Ingram sat down with The Herald ahead of the groups’ seventh engagement at the hallowed LSPU Hall in St. John’s to talk group history, rising interest in recitations and more!
Looking back at the last seven-plus years, it can be said that From Stage to Stage have really revitalized interest in the art of the recitation here in the province. Have you seen a substantial growth?
Dave Penney: It has grown exponentially. When we first planned our initial show we were kind of doing math on paper to see how many each one of us would have to get from our families in order to break even.
But we ended up, through a lot of publicity and people not being quite sure what it was and coming anyway, we managed to sell out at the last minute at our first show but we didn’t know where it was going to go from there.
We figured, oh well, they seen it once, they won’t want again. We get regulars now that are asking constantly when is the next show? So I mean it’s definitely grown.
Where did the inspiration come from to assemble a group centered around recitations? It hasn’t been a familiar practice historically to perform in groups.
Harry Ingram: We used to go to the Crow’s Nest a fair bit to kind of hone our craft. Just kind of throw out a recitation here or there. There was a monthly song circle down there and we really enjoyed that. Roger Lockyer came up with the idea (to form a group). You’re all doing it anyway, why don’t you all get together and try a show?
Dave Penney: When people were doing recitations it was more at parities or cabins or whatever. Maybe somebody would do a scatter recitation in the middle of a set of music or something like that. But it certainly wasn’t common or ever done, a show of all recitations.
Talk me through the makeup of From Stage to Stage. You’re all quite different in your delivery and compliment each other well.
Dave Penney: Generally it’s four different (styles). We each have our own personalities, our own writing style and delivery. So we each have our own individual style. It’s almost like four different shows. The hours seem to fly.
Hubert is so well versed. He has, I suppose you could say, the greatest vocabulary of us all. He’s sort of the Rex Murphy of the group in that regard. He’s the man with the vocab. Dave (Paddon) seems to have the most outlandish stories, the most outlandish plots. Harry always has a poignant piece or two, a traditional piece. And then I sing. So that’s how I differ.
As with any live performance, especially something as fluid and complex as storytelling, I’d imagine there are moments where you blank. Talk me through how you deal with goofs like that on stage?
Dave Penney: Now we’re more at the point that there are techniques you learn of how to get back on track. Now we are able to roll with the punches better than we could when we first started.
Harry Ingram: We’re more comfortable with our screw ups. If you stop you don’t freeze up and say ‘Oh my God what am I gonna do?’
You know all these people are standing in front of you. That’s the moment where it’s like ‘ooops, where was I?’ And then you catch it and the audience are with you and they laugh with you.
From Stage to Stage return to the LSPU Hall on Tuesday May 28th for an evening of laughs and new material that pay homage to, and salute recitations in Newfoundland and Labrador. The group will tour out of the province for the first time this June when they perform at the Festival of Small Halls in Prince Edward Island.
For tickets and more on From Stage to Stave visit the LSPU Hall box office or go online at rca.nf.ca