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Ryan's Fancy: Songs From The Shows
About Ryan's Fancy & The CBC TV Shows

Jack Kellum

I guess I first met Ryan's Fancy at the Legion in Pleasantville, St. John's, in the autumn of 1973. I was a newly arrived CFA television producer who at the tender age of twenty-nine had uprooted his wife and two young children from their comfortable suburban existence in beautiful downtown "Ontario" to travel to a new life and a new home in Newfoundland. At the time, the early 70s, Ryan's Fancy was enjoying a growing popularity in Atlantic Canada, particularly at the Strand Lounge in St. John's. The boys too, had uprooted themselves from their native Ireland and had chosen to settle in Newfoundland, pursuing both careers in music, and their individual dabblings in academia at Memorial University. One of the first challenges thrown at me upon arriving in St, John's, was to get a CBC National Network Series out of Newfoundland as quickly as I could. That somewhat by chance meeting at the Pleasantville Legion, was the beginning of a wonderful professional and personal relationship with Denis, Dermot, and Fergus, that has spanned nearly three decades, at least three television series, many Network Television Specials, and still exists to this day.

From 1974 to 1983, the Ryan's Fancy television shows, in various configurations, traveled extensively throughout Atlantic Canada. We journeyed from Charlotte County, New Brunswick, to the banks of the mighty Miramichi; from Dorchester Penitentiary to Ingonish, Cape Breton; from Orwell Corner, Prince Edward Island, to Change Islands, Newfoundland; and from Voisey's Bay, Labrador, to Branch on the Cape Shore. It was always our philosophy to take the show to the people and let the people be our special guests.

In 1999 and 2000, the local CBC Television station in St. John's rebroadcast some of the old Ryan's Fancy shows as part of an innovative series called "Rewind". The re-runs generated a great deal of interest and nostalgia. It was noted by many just how timeless the shows were and how well the music had survived the test of time. This collection of songs is a response to that renewed interest in the music of Ryan's Fancy. With the disbanding of Ryan's Fancy in 1983 I had placed most of the pre-recorded music tapes and field tapes from the shows in the care of the Folklore Archives at Memorial University in St. John's. The Archives have been the source of much of the material used on this recording.

I personally feel that Ryan's Fancy's arrival in Newfoundland was a pivotal event in the emergence of modern Newfoundland culture. As the trio played to packed houses night after night in the Strand Lounge in St. John's, young Newfoundlanders re-discovered traditional music. It was the music that their parents and grandparents had played and sung and danced to; music that for more than a generation had been deemed "un-cool" but was still very much alive at kitchen "parties" or parlor "times". Ryan's Fancy popularized the traditional music and dragged it kicking and screaming out of the closet for the enjoyment of all. The momentum generated by their arrival has not stopped: The Irish Descendants, The Punters, The Fables, Great Big Sea, and others, all credit Ryan's Fancy with lighting the spark.

Although the lads have not performed together as a group since 1983, music is still an important part of their lives. Denis Ryan, although being a successful investment manager living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has released two CDs. Dermot O'Reilly owns and operates a recording studio, in Torbay, Newfoundland and performs on a regular basis. Fergus O'Byrne lives in St. John's, Newfoundland, tours extensively throughout North America and Europe, and continues to be an influential force on the East Coast music scene.

Great memories:

Jack Kellum

Executive Producer Performance Programs
CBC Television
Halifax, Nova Scotia

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