CODROY VALLEY – Gordon Cormier is a much beloved stalwart on the East Coast Music Scene, particularly on the West Coast where he still resides in his native Codroy Valley.
Cormier has been performing since early childhood, onstage at age 4 or 5 at the Chignic lodge.
“I remember in Grade 1, one of the nuns picking me up and taking me out and sitting me in the chair in the hallway and going back in and getting my accordion and said, ‘Now play for recess,’” laughs Cormier. “Music has always been my heart and soul.”
Cormier figures he plays around 17 different instruments, but the accordion was his first love. His latest instrument is the pedal steel guitar and he’s also got a 24 channel state of the art mixing board on the way so he can continue to record music from his home studio for himself, other bands and individual artists.
“It’s a hobby for me. Music is more of a hobby now. I still love to get out and play with the band.”
The band is called The Breeze Band has been together for about a decade and tends to perform mostly for fun, although they did perform at last year’s Strawberry Festival in Deer Lake.
One of the fiddles in his studio once belonged to his great uncle, Johnny Archie MacDonald.
MacDonald bequeathed the fiddle to Cormier in his will because of one particularly memorable visit to the Cormier home. When MacDonald went to pour a cup of tea, Cormier grabbed the fiddle and started to play.
“I had never picked up a fiddle before but picked it up and started playing a tune called Cock of the North,” recalls Cormier. “He said he’d never seen that before.”
Music runs through the Cormier clan as effortlessly as water flows through the Grand Codroy River. His mother was a MacArthur and that clan has a similar legacy. Cormier’s niece is Mallory Johnson, who is currently being managed by famed country musician Sammy Kershaw.
“When you grow up and it’s all around you, you can’t help but play.”
The family’s music group, The Cormiers, have toured around North America and their achievements include 6 MUSICNL awards and an ECMA (East Coast Music Awards) 2008 nomination as Group of the Year. Gordon Cormier has also performed as a solo artist for the past 35 years and he shows no signs of slowing down.
“I’m putting together a virtual jamboree,” reveals the entertainer. “The festivals are cancelled this year because of COVID-19 and everybody’s hurting because of that, because there’s no live music, and not only the people that love live music are missing that, the musicians are missing having that place to go play and share their talent.”
The Codroy Valley has held an annual folk festival for years, where Cormier not only performs, but also helps run the sound system. With that on hold for 2020, he came up with the idea of the jamboree not only to help musicians and their fans reconnect but also in support of the Minnie White Museum.
White, who passed away in 2002, remains a legendary figurehead and inspiration to Newfoundland and Labrador musicians. During her career she was awarded the Order of Canada, appeared on television programs such as On The Road Again, was inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council Hall of Honour, and was nominated as Instrumental Artist of the Year at the 1995 ECMAs.
The 2020 Codroy Valley Virtual Jamboree will take place on Facebook and YouTube likely nearer the end of August. Cormier wants to keep the focus on the valley area musicians, which he estimates to number around 70 or 80 performers.
“I’ve gone around and videotaped already quite a few different artists,” says Cormier. “I’m up to about 30, 30 or 35 that are in there already, and it’s going to run over a 2 or 3 hour span.”
Viewers will be invited to donate, with half of the funds going to the museum and the other half to the musicians themselves.
“They normally don’t get paid and they never ask to get paid,” says Cormier. “I’m always looking at ways to push new talent, new music.”
He says many of the musicians have already told him they don’t want to be paid and to put their share of any donations towards the museum instead. Cormier believes the virtual jamboree has the potential to become quite large.
His personal Facebook page where he performs live for one hour on Saturday nights has earned him new fans from around the world, including a lot of the United States, Europe and Australia. He plans to switch his performances to Wednesday evenings soon though. Cormier just hopes the featured musicians will earn some new fans of their own.
“If we’re going to draw people to this area, not only Codroy area but all the way right to Rose Blanche, we need to make more awareness of what we have to offer.”
In a way, COVID-19 has helped Cormier to focus on finding new, original ways to promote valley musicians while still pursuing his own passion. Were it not for the pandemic, he doubts he would have come up with the idea for the virtual jamboree.
“Music has always been my life. It’s not what I do. It’s who I am.”