The “kitchen party” is a NL folk tradition that first evolved as a shared pastime among family, friends, and neighbours in rural outports and remote fishing villages. It played an important role in shaping the social fabric and cultural identity of outport life.
From these social gatherings emerged a repertoire of performance, stories, and songs to help pass long and uneventful evenings. Drinkers and carousers would crowd around their woodstoves or step dance across the floor.
The principal melody instruments at the kitchen party were the accordion and fiddle. In their absence came ‘The ugly stick’, a traditional Newfoundland musical instrument fashioned out of household and tool shed items. Typically a mop handle with bottle caps, tin cans, small bells and other noise makers.
This tradition of household entertainment continues to thrive and remains an important part of our cultural heritage. On any given saturday night across the province, makeshift jam sessions still unfold in kitchens, living rooms and basements.
In 2013, CBC Radio One’s Weekend AM hosted a transatlantic kitchen party, building on the historical connections between Bristol, England and Newfoundland and Labrador. Click here for the experience.
Today’s kitchen party has truly taken on a life of its own, moving out of the kitchen and into larger venues. But there’s still no better way here in NL to get to know a crowd of strangers than through a good old fashion kitchen party. Here are a few of the more notable ones.
Woody Island Resort — Woody Island
This old-fashioned kitchen party is included with the Woody Island tour package. Their party involves live entertainment with a guitar, an accordion, and even an ugly stick or two thrown into the mix.
Guests are welcomed to bring along their own musical instruments and play along. The audience is most often energetic with lots of dancing and singing.
Nothing gets people moving like a great Newfoundland and Labrador or Irish song. Some of the most popular songs at the Woody Island kitchen party include: Mussels in the Corner, I’se the By’s, and Salt Water Joys.
Quidi Vidi Brewery — St. John’s
NL’s largest craft brewery hosts a kitchen party Friday evenings beginning at 5:30. It is a boisterous event featuring live local music by the Brew Crew band. Their foot stomping performance will surely have you up on the floor in no time.
Eight brands of Quidi Vidi Brewery’s award winning beers are on tap for you to sample. A guided tour of the brewing facility is also highly recommended.
A visit to the area alone is well worth the trip. It is essentially a rural fishing outport in the heart of St. John’s. Now how many major Canadian cities can boast such a thing?
Ocean View Hotel & Anchor Pub — Rocky Harbour
Ocean View Hotel is located in the heart of spectacular Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site. They recently won the H. Clayton Sparkes Accommodator of the Year Award in NL and for good reason.
At their kitchen parties (held Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday nights), you join local recording artist Dave Shears and you get ‘screeched in’ (become a certified honorary Newfoundlander). Come sing/play along with the band using some of their homemade traditional NL party instruments.
Be sure to also check out the Anchor Pub which features live traditional entertainment seven nights a week from June through September. All summer long, the Anchors Aweigh band lead a host of talented entertainers creating one of the region’s signature entertainment experiences.
Aunt Edna’s Boarding House B&B — Little Bay Islands
The picturesque community of Little Bay Islands (population 80) is tucked into Notre Dame Bay on the northern coast of Newfoundland. Here truly authentic rural outport kitchen parties are held at Aunt Edna’s parlor every Saturday night.
People just drop by and have a great night of music, songs and stories. Musicians come from all over for these parties. It is a wonderful experience that showcases local songwriters and artists.
Be sure to ask Sharlene, the owner, to break out her bohran, the Irish drum, with the impromptu band.