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Celtic rock group entertains enthusiastic Canora audience

In addition to their wide-ranging musical talents, the band brought a refreshing dose of east coast enthusiasm and humour to just over 100 music fans in attendance.
The Derina Harvey Band thoroughly entertained the audience at Canora Composite School on May 11. From left, were: Scott Greene (harmony vocals, electric guitar, banjo), Steve Pinsent (drums), Derina Harvey (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Jessica Blenis (harmony vocals, fiddle, viola) and Ed Smith (harmony vocals, bass, piano).

CANORA - The Canora Arts Council concert at Canora Composite School featured the Derina Harvey Band, a five-member group where everyone hails from Canada’s east coast.

In addition to their wide-ranging musical talents, the band brought a refreshing dose of east coast enthusiasm and humour to just over 100 music fans in attendance in Canora.

Comments from concertgoers included: “Great entertainment,” “Wonderful, fun and humorous,” and “So enjoyable, great sound.”

“We have been happily touring all over the place, 13 shows in 15 days in Ontario, and now Saskatchewan with 10 shows in 12 days,” said Harvey. “You live in a postcard here in Saskatchewan, are you aware of this? We drive around in this province in our Dodge Caravan, and we’re forever stopping and taking pictures of barns, fields, sunsets and all the other lovely scenery you have here.”

As the band opened the concert, Harvey encouraged those in attendance to join them for an evening of a musical “Excursion around the Bay” which happened to be the title of their first song, written by Johnny Burke.

She instructed the audience to echo back “Hey” when it came up during the song, and was clearly quite impressed with their enthusiasm.

Portland Town by Schooner Fare was the next number. It was quickly evident that Harvey has a powerful and expressive voice, and is back by a talented and versatile group of musicians. In addition to lead vocals, Harvey also plays acoustic guitar. Other group members are: Steve Pinsent, drums, who co-founded the group in in 2006 with Harvey; Scott Greene, harmony vocals, electric guitar and banjo, joined in 2009; Ed Smith, harmony vocals, bass and piano, also joined in 2009 and Jessica Blenis, harmony vocals, fiddle, viola, and she joined the group in 2018

Throughout the evening there were frequent bursts of spontaneous applause, often in the middle of a song.

The first original Derina Harvey Band song of the concert was Grow, which we all do in different ways, according to Harvey.

She encouraged the audience to continue to support the local music scene.

“Thank you so much for supporting your local entertainment committee and for keeping the lights on,” she said.

“Driving in Ontario, often we’d come over a hill and around a curve, and the town would be right in front of you. Not here in Saskatchewan, here you’ll see the town lights, but then you quickly figure out it’s a long way in the distance and it’ll be a while before you get there. But that’s OK, it’s an enjoyable ride.”

Humour is a big part of a Derina Harvey Band concert, and Harvey figured that “Sometimes we need a song that’s just plain foolish.”

Sarah, a traditional Newfoundland folk song, certainly qualifies. The lyrics include:

“One night a little after eight, I crept up to her door, and I whispered ‘Sarah, darling’ as I'd often done before.

‘Sarah! Sarah!  I'll give you Sarah!’ said a voice as down I fell a-flop and her mother saying, as she kicked me all around the shop. The old woman thought she'd killed me and I let her think so, too.

“As I lay there on the floor I scarce knew what to do. At last she said, ‘Is he live or dead? My girl I'll let him wed.’ Then up I jumps, says ‘Thank you ma'am.’”

Another original Derina Harvey Band composition is Fallen Man’s Daughter.

Harvey said it was written in tribute to the fishermen who died in a powerful storm in 1994 and “to all those who take care of their loved ones, farmers, fishermen, miners and others.”

As it says in a line of the song, “I’m the fallen man’s daughter and you are the lighthouse I saw.”

Harvey said their current tour across Ontario and Saskatchewan has been very much a typical Canadian experience.

“Touring Canada in the spring, you never know what you’ll get. We started this tour about a month ago and it was snowing. Now, it’s like summer here in Canora.”

The band played Irish River by Joseph Crofts, which includes the lyrics: “We had three million sides of blind horses' hides, We had four million barrels of bone and five million hogs, six million dogs.”

It was around this point in the song that band members suddenly started howling and barking. As Harvey put it, “This is one of my favourite things to do on stage. Wait, why am I barking like my Dad’s old dog?”

Bass player Ed Smith quickly replied, “Your Dad’s dog was named Irish, that’s what we were just singing,” and just like that, they finished the song as if nothing strange had happened.

A highlight of the concert for many was their rendition of Orange Blossom Special by Ervin T. Rouse, which they started fast and seemed to play faster and faster right until the end, led by Jessica Blenis, who made her fiddle sound just like a train.  

Harvey said she grew up surrounded by music.

 “I remember two telethons and I would have been five or six years old. With cameras rolling, in a legion in Western Labrador I sang Puff the Magic Dragon with a full country band (drum kit, bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin back-up singers; this was the family band along with a few friends). The microphone in my hand was swaying back and forth. During the sound check I fell asleep in my dad’s guitar case.”

The history of the Derina Harvey band goes back to 1998 at the College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville, N.L.

“I met Steve Pinsent – my husband, drummer and Canadian Booking Manager,” said Harvey. “We also met guitarist Scott Greene there as he was studying recording arts. Around the same time Scott’s High School band-mate, Ed Smith was attending St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. After graduation, we found ourselves migrating one by one to Edmonton in pursuit of careers in the music industry. We were working in sound production, lighting, teaching music lessons, instrument and audio sales and management, all while performing in different performance and recording projects. I was performing as a solo artist at one of my favourite East Coast Themed venues and the manager needed a band on short notice… so I formed a band made up of my friends back in 2006.

“Out of all the other projects we were working on, all the other genres we performed, this fun, back to our roots, weekend bar band had the best reception from audiences. They could see how much fun we were having and that attitude became cyclical.

“So in 2012 we started to take this Derina Harvey Band project more seriously and we released our debut self-titled CD in 2013. We started applying for showcase spots across the continent and began writing our own music. In 2016, our second CD Rove and Go was released and our touring schedule was busy enough to allow us to focus on music full time. Jessica Blenis (Graduate of MUN Music Program) joined us in 2018.”

Harvey describes the band’s music as “an energetic, heartfelt Celtic rock show full of your favourite Celtic covers and traditional tunes that we hope will transport you to a windswept coastline. We will bring you an authentic kitchen party complete with original songs all layered with harmonies, driving rhythms and soaring solos from both electric guitar and fiddle! Ballads, and shanties, stories through songs all wrapped up in a few laughs… maybe a few tears… and we’ll be sure to have a few more laughs before we send ya home.”

The group has performed across Canada and the U.S. for crowds of up to 10,000 people. Even so, the five of them still find something special about playing for folks in small towns such as Canora.

“I love crowds of all sizes but the cozy intimate rooms feel like home,” shared Harvey.” All of the band members, we are all from relatively small and somewhat remote communities. Even though we call Edmonton home these days, our roots are rural.”

The Derina Harvey Band recently completed recording a new album where “eight of the 11 tracks are original dHb songs and we are very excited about that. The new CD will be released this summer.”

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