Bandmates named Alumni of the Year

Great big alumni

(September 23, 1999, Gazette)

By Victoria Etchegary
Special to the Gazette

The four members of Great Big Sea have been named the 1999 Alumni of the Year by the Memorial University of Newfoundland Alumni Association.

In nominating the band, Dr. Donna Hardy-Cox, a Memorial alumna, wrote, "Members of Great Big Sea Alan Doyle, BA '92, Sean McCann, BA '89, Darrell Power, BA '91, B.Ed. '93, and Bob Hallett, BA '90 are symbols of the province; rooted in tradition, thoroughly modern, and with much promise for the future."

All four group members met, and assembled as Great Big Sea, while arts students at Memorial.

The group's list of awards and accolades since their arrival on the music scene in 1991 is impressive. The group has won the East Coast Music Awards Entertainer of the Year Award for four consecutive years (1996-99). The group has also won six other ECMAs including Album of the Year in 1998 for the album Play and six Music Industry Association of Newfoundland and Labrador awards.

The group's members are often cited as the best spokesmen for the province, a responsibility they don't take lightly according to Petty Harbour native Alan Doyle.

"Whoever is prepared to proudly wear the Newfoundland flag on their sleeve must also be prepared to be considered a spokesperson for the province," Mr. Doyle said. "As traveling artists, we often serve as Europeans' and Americans' first impressions of Newfoundland. We're pleased to see that folks such as those at Memorial feel that we are doing okay so far."

Avid performers, the group spends considerable time on the road, away from their home province.

"The best part about being a member of Great Big Sea is the opportunity to perform traditional music around the world," noted Mr. Hallett. However, he's quick to add that the "worst part is the tedium of getting there."

Mr. Doyle notes that the band's enthusiasm and energy is not hard to maintain, especially following long stints on airplanes and at airports. He says it's sometimes because travel can be so cumbersome that the band can "cherish the 90 minutes on stage."

Audiences worldwide are treated to the band's unique sound of Celtic rock, folk and traditional music.

"From the beginning we knew that Newfoundland folk music deserved to be on a world stage and we were confident that if it were presented properly, audiences would enjoy it. The pop success the band has enjoyed is a far greater surprise," Mr. Doyle said.

Their success continues. The band's latest album, Turn, which features seven original tunes, has already sold 130,000 copies since it was released June 22, 1999. Their other albums include Great Big Sea 1993, Up 1995, and Play 1997.

The distinction of Alumni of the Year is a new award for this group, one they are pleased and honoured to accept. Mr. Doyle said that being named Alumni of the Year "is a much appreciated nod from a learned group that, as my transcript marks will show, do not hand out praise lightly.

"I am sure we are in good company as there are many deserving of this recognition. I am honoured."

The award will be presented to the band at the Alumnus of the Year Dinner to be held later this fall.