Seniors and students to perform country concert together

Conception Bay North residents will display talent at upcoming show

Melissa Jenkins
Published on May 27, 2014
Herb Davis (left), Lloyd Clarke (centre) and Heber McGurk stand on the stage at the Sheila NaGeira Theatre in Carbonear. The three men are a part of a not-for-profit concert taking place June 5.
Photo by Melissa Jenkins

Many of the residents from communities in Conception Bay who were born before the 1960s likely remember turning the dials on the family radio and tuning in to old time country music.

Singers like Hank Snow, Kitty Wells and Roy Acuff became household names, and their music became enshrined through the children of the 40s and 50s.

Herb Davis and Herber McGurk from Carbonear and Lloyd Clarke from Victoria were some of those children, toe-tapping and singing along to the tunes.

Their enjoyment began when they were very young, and continued on into adulthood. These men had the opportunity to see and meet some of their favourite performers throughout the years.


Clarke, who turns 82 this year, remembers cranking his old phonograph in the late 1930s and early 40s, listening to the music that now brings about nostalgic feeling.

He regularly dresses in a country-style fashion, including a vest over a collared shirt.

Davis, who is 74, had the opportunity to meet his idol, Wilf Carter, who played the old Bond Theatre in Carbonear.

“The theatre held (some 300) people, and about 1,600 came to see him,” Davis explained. “He sung out on the balcony…”

McGurk, who will soon be 83, began listing off different songs he enjoyed from singers, and could even list the years that some of them were born.

The three men could sing along to many of their favourite tunes and not miss a beat.

Davis reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a handful of guitar picks. Clarke followed.

“You never know when someone’s going to have a guitar and you’ll need a pick,” Davis explained.

The three men will be singing some of their favourite country songs from past at an upcoming not-for-profit show titled, “The Good Old Carbonear Opry” on June 5. The show was funded by the federal government’s No Horizons for seniors grant.

Emily Hurley, who is 21, has also signed on, although most the music came out while her parents and grandparents were growing up.

“My dad listens to this music,” Hurley explained, so she knows quite a few tunes.

She will be singing a song by Tammy Wynette and another by June Carter (Cash).

Hurley and the trio stopped by the Sheila NaGeira Theatre in Carbonear on May 27, along with Rob Button, the town’s director of recreation and tourism, and event coordinator Florence Button, to discuss the upcoming show.

The performance

Those who are taking part will be performing tributes to the singers, rather than mimicking them.

Some 20 performers range from high school students to over 80 years old and will take the stage to showcase the musical tunes from the genre.

Many may be surprised to recognize some of the songs and the original performers who sang them.

Chad Hunt from Harbour Grace is said to be a very talented singer. He is also one of the youngest performers in the concert. His talent for performing Hank Williams is second to none, said Florence Button, who was blown away when Hunt sang for the first time.

Rob Button explained when he performed during a production meeting for the first time, jaws dropped.

Another young performer is Caitlin Pike from Spaniard’s Bay, who also has a voice that some say was made for the genre.

Pike will be singing two songs by Loretta Lynn, including the popular The Coal Miner’s Daughter.

“Here we have two younger people who just love these older artists,” Florence Button said.

When the project was being brainstormed, it was decided to include all age groups.

The Carbonear Parks and Recreation committee was not sure at first if the event would even take off.

An approved plan

When the committee applied for the New Horizons last year, the members didn’t think much about it after the application was sent.

The grant is given to not-for-profit organizations that promote one of five objectives; promoting volunteerism, mentoring, elder abuse awareness, social participation and capital assistance. This show demonstrates at least three.

Many people signed on to support the project, which included Carbonear Collegiate teacher Anne Whelan, who will be performing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” at the show.

Earlier this year, the committee received an approval for a grant worth $20,792 for the production.


Experienced performers

Rehearsals began May 3, one month prior to the concert, and there have only been two major rehearsals, Button explained.

But that is not something to deter people from attending; rather, she continued that it demonstrates the skill and talent already among the group of performers.

Many of the singers and musicians have been playing these tunes for years, and all of them have performed in front of an audience before.

“These performers are dedicated to the nth degree,” Button said. “The audience will be surprised.”