Great Big Sea performed its first concert on March 11, 1993, opening for the Irish Descendants at Memorial University in St. John’s, N.L. This year, the band celebrates their 20th anniversary. To commemorate the event, Great Big Sea has released XX, a retrospective box set of favourites, rarities and new material, including this new song called “Heart of Hearts.”
Just a couple months ago, Great Big Sea celebrated its 20th anniversary with an intimate concert at Danforth Music Hall in November. CBC Music was on hand to record the party, and you can view it in its entirety via Concerts on Demand. Here's the band playing "Heart of Hearts."
Great Big Sea will kick off their 20th anniversary tour on March 5 in California. The Canadian leg starts March 9 in Victoria, B.C. They promise that it will be the biggest and most ambitious tour of their career, taking the band coast to coast several times — much like Great Big Sea’s early years, when they performed almost 300 days a year singing songs like this one from 1993, called “Excursion Around the Bay.”
Great Big Sea's bandmates developed their performing stamina as they honed their skills in the raucous pub scene of St. John's. Co-founders Sean McCann and Bob Hallett were performing Newfoundland folk music to an audience of partying university students and off-duty fishermen. In 1993, the two hooked up with Alan Doyle and together they created Great Big Sea with the intention of combining their original music with the traditional sounds and instruments they performed while growing up. Here’s a favourite from their early pub days, called “Mari Mac.”
"There were a thousand amazing songs in our backyards," Doyle notes in the band's bio. "If you are a Newfoundland musician, they're available and accessible. Most folk musicians would love to have a body of work like this to draw on. We're proud of these songs and very much love the place they come from."
Drummer Kris MacFarlane joined the group in 2002, and the next year Murray Foster came onboard as bassist. Throughout the years, Great Big Sea has stayed true to its original musical plan. Its mixture of original material and traditional songs has earned Great Big Sea thousands of followers who sing and dance along with the band through each performance. Here’s an example, called “Ordinary Day.”
Infectious melodies, hard work and a genuine love of music has propelled Great Big Sea forward for 20 years. Just as in their early days of struggling to be heard in their hometown pubs, Great Big Sea has proven that they’re up for the task. As Doyle reflects, “Years ago we really hoped in our heart of hearts that we were making something that we could do forever. And even though we wouldn’t have said that out loud, that’s what we hoped. And that’s what we still hope.”
Watch more performances from Great Big Sea's Toronto concert on CBC Music's Concerts on Demand, or click through the related links below.
Great Big Sea live in Toronto
Great Big Sea live in Edmonton
CBC Music Exclusives: The Blue Rodeo Silver Anniversary Concert
on Feb 14, 2013