Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Anita Best at Festival 500

Traditional singer Anita Best will be a guest of this year's Festival 500. Read her complete biographical note on the official website:

"Anita Best has spent a lifetime exploring and celebrating the outport Newfoundland lifestyle and culture. In the process she has become one of the province's most prominent traditional singers. Born on Merasheen Island in Placentia Bay (since abandoned under the 1960s government resettlement program), Anita comes from a family of traditional singers.

On the maternal side, the Reids of Tack's Beach had fine women singers, including her mother Elsie, who brought many songs with her when she moved to Merasheen Island in the 1940s. Her father Fred Best, and his seven brothers were well known throughout Placentia Bay for their forthright singing style and their extensive repertoire of songs, tunes and ditties. Anita remembers her father and uncles singing tunes for winter evening kitchen dances when she was a child. She remembers also the wonderful stories of Bride Fulford and Kate Wilson, two of the island's most extraordinary women.

When her father passed away, Anita started to feel that there was something 'missing' from her life. Her interest in traditional singing blossomed anew. She worked with Noel Dinn and Neil Murray to build a repertoire for the band that eventually became Figgy Duff. For one season, she took on the role of lead singer in the band, and for years after she was no longer a performing member she continued to bring traditional songs and tunes to the group. But she wanted to return to Placentia Bay, so in 1977 she settled in the community of Southeast Bight with Pius Power Jr., a fisherman who also happened to be a traditional singer [...]"

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Anita Best is a narrator for Rattling Books. She features on Mary Dalton's Merrybegot, Susan Rendell's In the Chambers of the Sea and Robin McGrath's Coasting Trade.