From October 31 to November 4, Agnes Walsh and Anita Best will be in Iceland representing Rattling Books. Their performance schedule will be posted here sometime in October when it has been finalized.
Agnes Walsh is the author of In the Old Country of My Heart, a collection of poems produced as a single Audio CD (58 minutes) by Rattling Books in 2003. The poems on the CD are complemented by the pump organ music of George Morgan and two unaccompanied ballads sung by Simone Savard-Walsh. Agnes also narrated two stories for Rattling Books in the collection of short stories entitled In the Chambers of the Sea by Susan Rendell.
As a writer, Agnes was recently honoured by the City of St. John’s when it made her the City’s first Poet Laureate, a position Agnes will hold for several years. In the spring of 2007 Brick Books will publish a new collection of poems by Agnes. Brick is one of Canada’s premier Poetry publishing houses. Agnes Walsh is also the founder of the Tramore Theatre Troupe on the Cape Shore of Placentia Bay, an effort dedicated to preserving and presenting the oral history of that area.
AudioFile Magazine in the U.S. said of In the Old Country of My Heart:
The tones and timbre of Agnes Walsh's voice seem to emanate from the heart of North America--from the most ancient parts of the continent. She reads her poetry with maturity, wisdom, and assurance. Like so many good poets, Walsh draws from her native soil, in this case the Placentia Bay area of Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula, to discover universal and personal truths. In her final selection, "Oderin," Walsh laments, "There is not enough time to understand all I need to know." Isn't that always the way it is? A number of musical selections for voice and pump organ round out this haunting volume of contemporary poetry. B.P. © AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine [Published: APR/MAY 05]
Agnes Walsh has long had a special interest in Iceland and Icelandic writing, particularly that of Nobel Prize-winning author Halldór Laxness for whom she wrote a poem, When I married Halldór Laxness, included on Agnes’ Rattling Books CD. Along with Stan Dragland, Agnes also adapted a novel by Halldór Laxness for the theatre. Their play, The Atom Station, was performed at the LSPU Hall in 2004.
Anita Best is the voice on Rattling Books release of Merrybegot by Mary Dalton. She was accompanied on that recording by Patrick Boyle on trumpet. Anita also read two of the stories in the Susan Rendell collection In the Chambers of the Sea released by Rattling Books. As a narrator, Anita is known for her exquisite voice which she is best known for using as a singer of unaccompanied traditional Newfoundland songs.
Patrick Kavanagh, author of Gaff Topsails had this to say about Anita’s reading of Merrybegot in his review of the Rattling Books audio edition in Books in Canada:
Non-Newfoundlanders will benefit from Best’s dulcet tones and clear enunciation. Uncharacteristically for many rural natives of the island (and for its urban comedians), she pronounces her dental fricatives. Despite the wealth of localisms – one short verse includes the words ‘cuffers’, ‘gommils’, ‘omadhauns’, ‘bosthoons’, ‘ownshooks’, and ‘nunny-fudgers’ – it is hardly necessary to have the book in front of the eye in order to apprehend each syllable.
As with the printed version, neither is a glossary needed, for context combined with Best’s melodic intonation conveys the broad meaning of unfamiliar terms. Thus this CD can function somewhat like a language learning resource (and at the same time it achieves that rare feat of providing accurate pronunciation for archaisms).
Although Best’s delivery is accessible to all listeners, by no means has it been ‘flattened’. She is equipped with a distinctive and natural Newfoundland lilt; she doesn’t need to lay it on. When she describes a firearm – ‘She had me shoulder beat all to pieces’ – Best scorns the authority of the printed page and pronounces the verb properly: ‘She had me shoulder bet all to pieces’.
Furthermore, although no ear would ever mistake her voice for that of a male, its robustness sustains credibly those monologues that originate in the speech of men – stories about fishing, construction work, or the loss of a beloved wife.
As a singer Anita “has been recorded on any number of albums and has two complete works to her credit, The Color of Amber, with Pamela Morgan, and Crosshanded. It is Crosshanded, Best's accapella rendition of twelve traditional Newfoundland songs, which has established her as one of the leaders in Newfoundland music. Anita Best's beautiful singing and careful interpretation has enriched and extended an art form she has devoted her life to preserving.” (from http://www.ambermusic.ca/artist_anita.htm)