Originally published in The Telegram on Nov. 21, 2015
There's a bronze sculpture near the east end of George Street, between YellowBelly Brewery and the back of the Nonia building, called "A Time." Sculpted by visual artist Morgan MacDonald, the piece is a reflection of the music and dance the province is known for, with some of our best-loved characters depicted. Positioned to face toward Water Street, with trademark hat and guitar, is the figure of Ron Hynes.
On Friday afternoon, a bouquet of roses had been placed in the statue's hand alongside his guitar frets. A tealight had been placed in the hollow of the instrument. At his feet were more candles, bouquets, gifts and simple notes of thanks. In the wet fog, drops of drizzle rested on his nose, as if he - and not the people who loved and admired him - were crying.
Hynes, perhaps the province's most treasured and renowned singer/songwriter, died in hospital Thursday evening, after a battle with cancer. He would have turned 65 next month.
As news of his death broke, tributes to Hynes flooded social media platforms. He had one gig left on the books - a show at The Ship next Thursday, which he had planned to play with his friend Colleen Power as a guest. It didn't take long for the local musical community to realize what had to happen.
"I think we owe it to Ron to finish his last gig," said musician Larry Foley.
As per Hynes' wishes, there will be no funeral, and Foley, who was close to Hynes for more than 20 years, feels the show will also serve as closure for the community.
"We need some way to grieve and mourn and celebrate his life, but at the same time respect his wishes," Foley said. "It's terribly selfish, I'll admit that."
Among the artists who will perform Hynes' music at The Ship next week are Foley and The Punters, Power, Amelia Curran, Ralph O'Brien of the Sons of Erin (who will play "Sonny's Dream"), Andrew James O'Brien, Ian Foster, Allan Byrne, Chris Ledrew and Lori Cooper, Karla Pilgrim, Chris Ryan and some of Hynes' former Wonderful Grand Band bandmates, Paul (Boomer) Stamp, Sandy Morris and Glenn Simmons. CBC's Ted Blades will host.
The cover charge for the event (which will start at 8:30 p.m. and stay acoustic-only until 11 p.m.) is $20, with all money raised going to Hynes' family.
As another tribute to Hynes, friends are also organizing a public singalong to "Sonny's Dream" in Bannerman Park at 3 p.m. today.
"All voices as one to show our respect and gratitude to a man who gave so much to us through music," a Facebook page set up for the event reads.
As of press time, Hynes' colleagues and fans were still expressing their love and condolences online. Here are some of their stories:
Ruth Lawrence, filmmaker
"I was 16 the first time I met Ron Hynes. The WGB were playing at the Red Rock Lounge about 2km outside St. Jacques. They were playing an adult dance that night and we couldn't get in. My friends and I walked in, knowing they'd be arriving early to set up. We walked up to the car and there was Ron, reading a book. Heart pounding to be in his presence, I strode up to the car, introduced myself to him, and once he smiled back, I asked if I could take his picture. He replied, "Only if I can take yours." ... That night we spied back into the club and watched their amazing sold-out show from the stage right window (that Greg Malone opened wide for us). We could see them sweat, laugh and play for the screaming crowd. We screamed and clapped along with them. It was a life-altering night. Little did I know that he'd become such a friend."
Rosalind MacPhail, musician
"I remember first meeting Ron while I was bartending at the Rose and Thistle. He used to get me to pour out a bottle of water so that he could fill it with Jamieson's before heading to the next
party. He once wrote me a note on a napkin after mentioning that my album had been on regular rotation in his CD player. He wrote, 'This is the genuine article.' I've always kept that napkin and have always held dear every moment I've shared with this great man."
Jerry Stamp, musician
"I played a few shows with Ron Hynes over the years. The one that stands out the most happened in Mississauga, Ontario. I was living in Toronto and got a call from a friend of a friend the night before, asking if I would open for Ron at some fancy pub for a crowd of ex-pats. I said sure 'cause it was Ron. I don't think people said no to Ron very often. My set went pretty good. I wasn't used to playing solo at the time, as my focus was with the band King Nancy. But folks were applauding nicely if not tamely. None of them had come to see me. Now, nobody had seen Ron in the building yet. I finished my third or fourth song and the applause was again polite, but not particularly encouraging. Suddenly out of nowhere appeared this swagger in human form. A man with a wide-brimmed hat sauntered through the room clapping much louder and more dramatic than everyone else all together shouting words of encouragement. He threw me what I can only call a southern shore wink (not the same as other winks) and as he walked by the front of the stage he said, 'They're all warmed up for you now.' From that moment on the applause in between songs was noticeably energetic, because Ron set the precedent. He did that a lot for folks like me. Young singer-songwriters in a world of pop stars and rock bands. He opened the door."
"I've known Ron since I was a baby; he was close with my parents and sang with my mom (Bonnie Oulton) a lot in the '80s. My mom passed away of cancer in May 2010. In April 2010, I was in St John's working for eTalk at the Junos and I was running into the Delta to do something work-related, can't remember what exactly. Ron was outside the door having a smoke and I saw him and ran up to greet him. I'm pretty sure I said 'Hi! How are you? My mom has cancer,' and just bawled. Poor Ron, just out trying to catch a quick dart and here I come out of nowhere to deliver bad news and immediately cry. Anyway, a month later, my mom passed away and he sang at her funeral in Nova Scotia. He walked down the church aisle from the back door with his guitar singing a song called 'Harmony Girl' because, he said, she was always his harmony girl. It was really special."