The Crew of
Before the Mast
"Sailors, when heaving at a windlass, in order that they may heave together, always have one sing out, which is done in high and long-drawn tones, varying with the motion of the windlass. This requires a clear voice, strong lungs and much practice, to be done well."
- Richard Henry Dana, Jr., 'Two Years Before the Mast'
Since high school, Gary Caines (Kingston, NB) has been a member of various folk bands playing traditional Irish and Newfoundland music. Being the son of a sea captain, his fondness for shanties and songs of the sea is also tied to his Newfoundland roots. Twenty years experience in the Naval Reserve has given him an added appreciation for the role of music on the brine. Gary is the 'front man' for Before the Mast and he also serves as its artistic director.
Involved with music since youth, Bob Burgess (Grand Bay, NB) started singing in university musicals. While living in Montreal, he sang popular and traditional Irish tunes with his band "Celtara" and lent his tenor voice to chorus and lead roles with the Montreal West Operatic Society (a Gilbert & Sullivan community theatre) for several years. Since returning to Saint John, he has performed Irish traditional songs with Comhaltas and popular standards with Men & Music. He is now happy to be "singing the notes no one else wants to sing" with Before The Mast. Bob is also the group's tech/sound guy and he has done all of the recording and mixing of BTM's music.
Greg Marquis (Quispamsis, NB) has been a folk and Celtic music fan since the 1970s when he belonged to the Saint John Folk Club. He often performs with Comhaltas and his knowledge of folk tunes is invaluable to Before the Mast. A professor at UNB Saint John, he is also researching the history of popular music in New Brunswick.
Paul-Emile Chiasson (Rothesay, NB) has been in choirs since his childhood and has studied piano since his youth from the Royal Conservatory of Toronto. Growing up in Antigonish, NS, Paul-Emile was exposed at an early age to Celtic and traditional Acadian music. His love for this music has continued to develop, performing over the years in various concerts, festivals, etc … He brings a love of the sea and it’s music from his Acadian roots.
With roots in the fishing community of Dipper Harbour, Rick Clark’s (Saint John, NB) lifelong interest in songs of the sea, folk music, traditional Celtic music, and his developing interest in the Bodhran led him to join the local Comhaltas group. For the first time in many years he has had the opportunity to sing regularly with a group, and to sing and play at public performances. However, the main focus of Comhaltas is on traditional Irish tunes and Rick wanted to do more with voice, so when offered the opportunity to join Before the Mast and sing with the crew, he jumped at the chance.
Born in Trinidad, West Indies, Roland d'Abadie (Fredericton, NB) has a family history connecting him to early sailing ship builders in Europe, the battles for Fortress Louisbourg and competitive sailing in the West Indies. Roland started singing with school choirs in Trinidad then church choirs in Ontario. Since moving to New Brunswick he has sung with the Saint John Chorale, is a member Comhaltas and joined BTM in December 2008.
When he was younger, Dale Peters (Saint John, NB) enjoyed singing in high school musicals and then in local operettas. He was also part of a folk group while attending university. After graduation he and his wife taught in a small outport community where he developed an appreciation for traditional Newfoundland music. When he returned to Saint John, he joined a number of choirs and for the past few years he has sung with both Men & Music and Before the Mast.
The New Guy , Jim Stephenson ( Saint John NB ) has always loved messing around in boats. Almost everything he reads is about seafaring . His mother's family was a very musical one and he has dabbled in piano, low brass and choir. He has jumped at the opportunity to combine the sea and music with Before the Mast.
My musical talent had never bred envy in others, but out on the Atlantic, to realize what it meant, you should have heard me sing. You should have seen the porpoises leap when I pitched my voice for the waves and sea and all that was in it. Old turtles, with large eyes, poked their heads up out of the sea as I sang “Johnny Boker” and “ We'll Pay Darby Doyl for his Boots”, and the like. But porpoises were, on the whole, vastly more appreciative than the turtles; they jumped a deal higher. One day when I was humming a favorite chant, I think it was “Babylon's a-Fallin'”, a porpoise jumped higher than the bowsprit. Had the Spray been going a bit faster she would have scooped him in. The sea-birds sailed around rather shy.'
- Captain Joshua Slocum, Sailing Alone Around the World, first published in 1900.