Sean McCann bringing people together in song at Oliver Theatre

Come for the Shanty

Sean McCann is one of the founding members of the band Great Big Sea, one of Canada’s most famous bands, bringing the most qualified tribute to the 30th anniversary of the band to Oliver’s Venables Theatre.

The Great Big Sea was a Canadian folk rock band from Newfoundland that performed from 1993-2013. This year McCann decided to do a tour all across Canada with 50 dates, called the Great Big Sea 30th Anniversary Tribute Show.

“It's a good concert, with everyone singing together. I believe music is a strong medicine but the song is never more potent than when it's sung together face to face in a room with a bunch of people, that's powerful,” McCann said.

The show includes many songs McCann chose from the band's catalogue, but it also includes stories and behind-the-scenes commentary.

“I think I have put together quite a cool show, it kinda gives you a sense of where the band started and how it ended,” he added.

McCann said that he asked the other band members if they wanted to do an anniversary show, but he said that they couldn't come to any sort of consensus or agreement.

The band reuniting for a show may not be totally out of the question though, he said, “I hope there will be a Great Big Sea show at one point, but it won't be this year. Having said that, I think the world wants one really bad and I am doing my best to give them one.”

“The thing about the band is it's a feel-good band. A party band for sure but a very positive band. And I think it's the kind of band and the kind of music that people really need right now,” McCann added.

The Great Big Sea’s music was heavily influenced by traditional Newfoundland folk songs and sea shanties drawing on the rich Irish, English and Scottish history of Newfoundland promoting communal harmony in music.

“Well the sea shanties were designed specifically to make really difficult tasks doable by working together in time and in harmony, that's their specific role, that's what they were designed for.”

In an entertainment context, McCann said while they are not hoisting sails or digging holes, “We are singing together, and we are coming together, and in this day and age that's a bit of an effort, we have kind of forgotten how to do it. Especially out of the pandemic.”

“I think sea shanties and folk music are the kinds of songs that come back when we need them. When we need to be grounded. Reminded of where we came from. And that's why they work so well now, and they have a real role to play again. They work.”

Despite a lot of the Great Big Sea’s songs being about drinking culture, McCann is now 12 years sober and has the strength of his fans to keep going.

“I have been able to tread back into that catalogue without any fear because the audience has my back now. They know me, they know my story, they didn't know me before, they didn't know who I really was, but they know who I am now.

"The fact that I can get up and sing “The Old Black Rum” for them because they want to hear that song and I will do it because I know they got my back. They will take the words and sing it for me.”

McCann described his outlook as standing for “sober, clear-minded, educated, and forward-thinking Newfoundland."

"I think we should aspire to be our best and rise to our highest capacities, and not aim for our lowest,” he added.

“Newfoundland is a beautiful place. The reason there are so many songwriters that come out of that place is because it's an inspiringly beautiful place. It punches above its weight with poets, playwrights, writers and actors; it's so beautifully rugged.”

McCann did say he appreciates British Columbia, “I love being outdoors, I love hiking, I love kayaking, I love running, I love everything about the outside. That's where I find balance, [and] inspiration, and honestly, that's why I came back to British Columbia, it's a beautiful place. It's a gift to be able to travel across this great country.”

“Just to be here for a week, to breathe your air, see your beautiful coastline, and see your mountains, that's a gift.”

Sean McCann will be performing the Great Big Sea 30th Anniversary Tribute Show at Venables Theatre Friday, May 12, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at Venablestheatre.ca

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