A New Brunswick River, a Banjo Player and a Book That Started an Environmental Movement – CBC.ca | Start Classified

An old New Brunswick cut gets new life on an album to be released this week by Winnipeg banjo player Allison de Groot.

De Groot said she was listening to Smithsonian archive footage when she stumbled upon a folk song about the Miramichi River that captured her ear and imagination.

It was an a cappella version of The banks of the Miramichisung by Marie Hase.

De Groot said the Strathadam singer’s “amazing performance” and “rhythmic” phrasing “got her in the stomach.”

“It blew my mind,” she said.

It is now the first track on her new album entitled Hurricane Clarice, featuring North Carolina violinist Tatiana Hargreaves.

De Groot said she was also drawn to the song because of her interpretation of the lyrics.

(Submitted by Mike Bravener)

This is how they appear in a booklet of liner notes from Hare’s recording.

…Through all nature’s splendor / There’s nothing I can see / Like the rolling tide that flows alongside / The banks of the Merramushee.

Its little trout and salmon / Play day and night / The feathered crowd gather / Their beauty to show / And the sportsmen gather there / And all rejoice to see them / Where the rolling tide flows alongside / The shores of the Merramushee.

If I had brought gold and silver from a strange place/And royal robes upon me/And put a crown upon my face/I would yield all with pleasure/For formerly I would/Where the rolling tide flows ‘alongside/The shores of the Merramushee.

When de Groot and Hargreaves were recording their album in June 2021, the Pacific Northwest was experiencing an “apocalyptic” heatwave, de Groot recounted, and protests against cutting down old trees took place in the southern Fairy Creek area of ​​Vancouver Island.

“It felt really relevant in that moment,” she said.

To her, the lyrics of the hundred-year-old song suggested “trading the natural world for economic gain.”

It is possible that the song resonated with Marie Hare for similar reasons.

Hare recorded the song in 1962, the same year Rachel Carson published her book silent sourcewhich is seen by many as the initiator of the environmental movement.

Lois Corbett of the New Brunswick Conservation Council with Rachel Carson’s seminal environmental book Silent Spring. (Submitted by John MacNeill)

“It’s truly considered by many historians, activists and scientists to be the linchpin of environmental awareness in North America,” said Lois Corbett, executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.

Carson wrote about the growing, widespread, and largely unregulated and uncontrolled use of chemicals in forestry and agriculture, Corbett said.

One of the chapters in silent sourcetitled “Rivers of Death,” did a case study on the Miramichi.

Beginning in the 1950s, DDT was widely sprayed in the Miramichi area and elsewhere in New Brunswick and Canada to control spruce budworm infestations.

Salmon washed up on the banks of the Miramichi, Corbett said, and there was also a significant impact on bald eagles.

Debate as to what caused it lasted for a decade or more.

“Some people said there were problems in the hatcheries. Others said no, it’s DDT.”

Carson’s debate and book helped raise “the level of awareness,” Corbett said, and led to the formation of environmental groups, including the Conservation Council in 1969.

“Eventually the science came,” she said, and DDT was banned in 1972, but even then there were still “a lot of people” who advocated spraying.

Today, budworm spraying is done very differently, Corbett noted, using a biological agent called BT.

But there are still traces of DDT in some New Brunswick lakes, she said, citing research from 2019.

“To this day,” Corbett said, Carson’s 60-year-old book serves as a warning … about what’s wrong with willy-nilly overusing chemicals around the world.”

De Groot believes that there are many lessons to be learned from old folk songs.

“It’s not an inpatient tradition,” she said.

“We can really look into the past and take those threads into the future.”

New Brunswick singer-songwriter Mike Bravener said he’s excited to see other artists breathing new life into New Brunswick folk songs, but he’s not sure predicting the environmental dangers of economic exploitation is quite what the original author did had in mind.

“It’s a tourism song,” he said.

“I think it was only written about the beauty and wonder of the Miramichi River.”

Mike Bravener, who performed here at King’s Landing, says while the song can be interpreted as an environmental song, Marie Hare recorded it as a pitch for tourists to visit the area. (Submitted by Mike Bravener)

Bravener also recorded a version of The Banks of the Miramichi a few years ago for an album of New Brunswick folk songs called Dependent Dependent on the Pay, a second volume due out in June.

Patrick Hurley of Trout Brook is believed to have written the lyrics in the late 1800s or early 1900s.

Back then, Bravener says, the logging industry changed a lot, and people began to rely more on hunting and fishing.

“The guiding trade was huge,” he said.

Even when Hare recorded it in the ’60s, the notes say it was produced by the New Brunswick Travel Bureau.

The booklet of Marie Hare’s songs about the Miramichi, published by the NB Travel Bureau. (Submitted by Mike Bravener)

Bravener said he felt the de Groot and Hargreaves version was close to the original feel of the song. But in his own version he changed it to a major key to give it a happier sound.

“Walking the Miramichi, hanging out with the Miramichi people, knowing something about the history of the Miramichi influences the way you look at this song.

“Miramichi people are optimistic, love to have fun, work hard and value what they have – not necessarily what they hope for.”

Leave a Comment