December 9, 2022


Art Is Experience

Harry Hibbs’s music evoked memories of N.L. Now his accordion is making its way home

Tale Transcript

If you lived in Atlantic Canada in the 1960s or ’70s, you can expect to possible don’t forget the title Harry Hibbs. 

Frequently referred to as Newfoundland’s favourite son, he was a star musician known for bringing the province’s standard tunes to mainland Canada. His tunes also warmed the hearts of Newfoundlanders dwelling away from household in Ontario at the time.

Now, more than 30 a long time soon after his dying, a St. John’s woman and Harry’s household are working to return the musician’s accordion to its roots on Bell Island, N.L.

“I feel the tunes, you know, it truly is section of our tradition. It really is section of who we are. It really is section of what we grew up with. It really is reminiscences of our household,” stated Linda Hickey, a large supporter of Harry’s, who is top the work to convey his instrument household.

“[In] my possess private impression, he is the finest bellow bender on a button box that has at any time been.”

Look at | Harry Hibbs performs on Television set in the seventies

Harry — also known as His Nibs — was born on Bell Island in 1942, but moved with his household to Toronto at the age of twenty, soon after his father died. When Harry grew to become injured in a manufacturing unit incident in the late 1960s, he turned to tunes and commenced participating in the accordion for are living audiences.

He was an overnight strike. He went on to file more than a dozen albums.

Harry died of most cancers in Toronto in 1989.

The ‘holy grail of accordions’

For the final several a long time, Hickey has been gathering goods to make an show in the musician’s honour at the Bell Island Neighborhood Museum. It has however to open up, owing to the pandemic, but Hickey is hopeful it can transfer forward future yr.

With the assistance of Harry’s brothers, she snagged his accordion so it could turn into section of the display.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God. Like, I have the holy grail of accordions below in my house,” she advised The Current’s Matt Galloway.

Linda Hickey has been accumulating goods for a museum show in honour of the late Newfoundland musician. Her hope is to convey his accordion, pictured below, to the area museum in Bell Island, N.L., in which Harry was born. (Submitted by Linda Hickey)

It stayed in her closet for safe preserving for a although. But when the pandemic strike, Hickey made a decision to convey it out from hiding and share photos of it online for all to take pleasure in.

“All of a unexpected I started out finding aficionados, I get in touch with them, calling me saying, ‘Can I get a picture with it? Can I see it? Can I contact it?'” Hickey recalled.

Even popular Newfoundland accordion players like Ryan Baker, Mark Hiscock and Paul Hamilton needed a transform, she stated.

So Hickey commenced permitting musicians to enjoy it, and publishing movies of their performances on social media, in which she stated people tuned in from as much as Sri Lanka, Australia, Ireland and Scotland.

Look at | Mark Hiscock performs the music Amongst Two Trees on Harry Hibbs’s accordion

“It was incredible, mainly because people were being expressing, ‘You just gave me a little piece of household,’ or, ‘I don’t forget that music my mother … employed to enjoy it,'” Hickey stated. 

“It evoked reminiscences in people who were being pretty much all over the planet.”

For the time being, Harry’s accordion is now being held on display at Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial museum, The Rooms, stated Hickey, in which a His Nibs tribute display was also held before this yr.

Marty Hibbs, Harry’s younger brother and former supervisor, stated Hickey has been instrumental in the get the job done to commemorate the musician back again household in Newfoundland.

“We will not have any household, so to converse, up on the island,” he advised Galloway. “So it truly is truly remarkable to hear … what is actually occurring from Linda.”

He stated his brother’s tunes meant so substantially to people — particularly to expatriate Newfoundlanders who experienced moved to Toronto for get the job done as their province’s mining economy dwindled.

Marty Hibbs labored as his brother’s supervisor. He claims Harry’s tunes reminded people of how substantially household meant to them. (Submitted by Marty Hibbs)

“There was this ‘Newfie, go home’ attitude. They weren’t incredibly effectively appreciated for their difficult get the job done,” Marty stated of how people were being treated in the town. 

“They felt out of put here…. and [Harry’s tunes] truly created these people recognize how substantially they missed and liked their roots.” 

Audiences ‘couldn’t get more than enough,’ claims brother

Marty remembers his brother’s rocket to fame as an amazing roller coaster journey. 

In a yr of Harry’s very first overall performance in 1968, “anything just was a blur,” Marty stated. By the following yr, he has released his very first album, been given a gold file, and experienced his possess Television set display airing across Toronto and Hamilton.

And at Harry’s concert events, you could really feel the ground rattle. 

“The real ground shook. You could really feel it mainly because most people was carrying out the Newfie stomp. It was amazing,” stated Marty. 

“They just needed more and more. They could not get more than enough of it.” 

Points haven’t altered.

Harry, left, with his brother and supervisor Marty. Harry gained several gold information, and even experienced his possess Television set display. (Submitted by Marty Hibbs)

As COVID-19 continues to maintain people aside, Hickey stated she believes Newfoundlanders are even now getting pleasure in Harry’s tunes.

“We just did these two reveals at The Rooms below in St. John’s and … [people] were being rocking in their seats, and their feet were being tapping, and they were being clapping their palms,” she stated, describing that COVID-19 restrictions essential people to continue to be seated.

Hickey stated one woman broke out in tears all through the display mainly because Harry’s tracks introduced back again so a lot of reminiscences for her.

“I feel it was just great [timing],” stated Hickey, referring to how difficult the pandemic has been for absolutely everyone.

“Ironically, I feel Harry’s up there expressing, ‘I’m heading to force out my possess little bit of stuff from the heavens … all through COVID occasions.'”

Penned by Kirsten Fenn. Created by Mary-Catherine McIntosh.

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