The Once
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The Once


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"The Once build arrangements like a shrine"

The Once s/t (Independent) Geraldine Hollett’s voice is like a deep, warm river of honey. Thankfully, her band The Once know this well and on their debut album have built all the arrangements like a shrine or alter to properly display that lovely instrument. It’s an album of tasteful covers—half traditional and half contemporary (but not obvious) classics—all with strong and somewhat dark narratives which take good advantage of Geraldine’s theatrical pedigree. In the stark a capella reading of “Marguerite” she takes on the role of the lead character and expresses her emotional breakdown to stirring effect. Their version of Leonard Cohens “Anthem” is stellar. My biggest complaint about the album, though, is the cover art. Three red rectangles and some Times New Roman lettering do not a compelling visual make… Try harder. — Patrick Canning - See more at: - Patrick Canning, The Scope

"Debut album from The Once leaves me floored, elevated"

First a caveat: there is nothing in the way of criticism I can offer on this, the debut, self-titled album from The Once. The first time I’d heard it, I was floored, the second time elevated, and every time since enthralled. Here’s why:

The album opens on a briefly mournful note with the first few bars of Sail Away to the Sea, then dusts itself off and moves on. It’s as though there is an understanding here that while the path of our lives may be difficult at times, often leading us away from the things we most cherish, we mustn’t lose sight of the road ahead.
There is a deep and real life lived in this album. From song to song, prominent themes of loss and remembrance are ultimately challenged by fierce bouts of strength and determination. Geraldine Hollett’s voice, as soft and sweet as it is dense and determined, carries us through. While many an accomplished singer can do a fine job of conveying emotion, it’s clear Hollett lives it, at times so much so that you feel yourself living it, too.
The songs comprise a refreshing mix of traditional and contemporary Newfoundland folk music along with some nice choices from larger, more established artists. All songs are arranged by The Once, with a level of instrumentation that you would expect describes a band of far great than three.
Most of the dozen or more instruments are handled gracefully and articulately by Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale, who also lend their vocals to some incredibly haunting, at times beautifully cascading harmonies.
Our bittersweet journey with The Once draws to a close with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Anthem. In tones both certain and understated, The Once leave us on a resonating note of perseverance.

For a debut album, The Once demonstrate an impressive and mature range of talent, including the wherewithal to work with the best and the brightest in their field. Rising star in the music production world, Mark Neary, mixes nuance and subtlety with big, bold strokes deftly and to perfection. Right down to the design and packaging of the CD, this album gets every detail right.
I expect to see many great things from The Once with this, their debut album, being the first offering from what will no doubt be a long and successful career.
You can find The Once at Fred’s Records and O’Brien’s Music Store in St. John’s or by contacting the band by e-mail. The Once are expected to show up on iTunes soon, too, along with a previously unreleased track.
For more information on The Once, including photos, show dates and streaming music, be sure to check out their website. - Darcy Fitzpatrick, The Signal - St. John's Blog

"The Once – Vancouver Folk Music Festival – Preview"

The Once are a folk trio from Newfoundland that are named after a “unique Newfoundland phrase that means ‘imminently’. Much like the artist that we featured last week Sidi Toure, The Once are newcomers to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. They are described as sounding like a “heavenly mix of Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch”, yet this doesn’t fully describe the feeling that is transmitted while listening to their latest album Row Upon Row of People They Know.

Row Upon Row of People They Know is the follow up album to their first self-titled album and has garnered much critical acclaim. It has brought this unique trio to a place in which they are arguably within Canada’s top performers.

“Lead singer Geraldine Hollett, has an instrument of rare power; she is a singer who can still a noisy room.”

Hollett performs alongside multi-instrumentalists, Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale which showcase an assortment of instruments including the guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bouzouki, to name but a few.

While The Once’s instrumentation sounds impressive, the thing that you remember the most from listening to Row Upon Row of People They Know are the stories. Wow, what a way to transport you to another place and time.

The particularly poignant Valley of Kilbride tells the story of a Newfoundland Soldier that makes one feel as if you are sitting around the kitchen, listening to a tale of your brave family member; a story that transmits all the sadness and longing of that moment.

The story telling of The Once will be perfectly harnessed and transmitted across the stages of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival because the intimate gatherings across the many stages of the festival allow for the concertgoers to connect with every word and moment in a truly unique way. You never know what you are going to get with the festival’s mixes of musicians. Let’s get excited together to see The Once at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, July 13-15 2012. - Laura Necochea, Vancouver Weekly

"Once Upon a Time"

The Dictionary of Newfoundland English defines "the once" as: "as soon as possible, right away."

Used in a sentence, one might say "Let's go see The Once the once."

The other "The Once," of course, is the young folk trio of Geraldine Hollett, Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale, which is taking Newfoundland's folk music scene by storm.

Their self-titled debut record, released in July, has spent a number of weeks in the top position for album sales at Fred's Records in St. John's.

In a period of just five weeks the band has sold nearly 1,000 copies, a visibly excited Hollett tells me as she, Churchill, Dale and I discuss the band, their album and early success.

Seated on a futon in the living room of Hollett and Churchill's downtown top-floor apartment, she tells me about how the couple met and began singing together, as she occasionally peers out the window at the rain.

It all began a little more than a decade ago, she says, when she and Churchill met at Grenfell College in Corner Brook where they were studying theatre arts.

"Phil was the first person to say to me 'You should belt it out. That's what people want to hear,'" she recalls, laughing.

The pair met Dale while working for the Rising Tide Theatre Company in Trinity.

Now, the three are singing their way into people's hearts in St. John's, around the island, and across the Maritimes.

"The chemistry was there from the start," explains Dale.

"If we had to make an effort to make music work between the three of us it probably wouldn't have gone this far, but because there was chemistry right from the start and things just clicked, we got a charge and just wanted to keep going."

The focal point of the group's album and performances are the jaw-dropping three-part a capella harmonies that characterize much of their music, an attribute that caught the attention of Festival 500 organizers, who later invited the group to perform during the 2009 choral festivities last month.

"I remember the first time (singing harmonies), we were having a few drinks and learning one of these songs, and going 'Let's sing it again,' purely for the enjoyment of hearing that sound again," Churchill says.

"From this moment on we're the tiniest choir in Newfoundland," he jokes.

With a solid cohesion and each member's strengths harvested - Hollett's strong, but silky smooth vocals, Churchill's guitar, mandolin and violin playing, and Dale's multi-instrumental capabilities, including bodhran, banjo, bouzouki, mandolin, organ, accordion, bass, guitar, percussion, and piano -the only significant missing were the means to make a record.

As luck would have it, after a performance at the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival in Nova Scotia last summer, the band received a generous offer to help finance their album from a stranger who saw their performance.

"It just capped off the whole weekend when a complete stranger believes in what you're doing so much, having just heard you that weekend, and is willing to offer up a substantial amount of money to make an album and help you go to the next level," says Dale. "It's a pretty good pick-me-up."

The album's content includes remakes of both traditional tunes like "Maid On The Shore," "Three Fishers," and "Willie Taylor," and contemporary material such as Tom Waits' "The Briar And The Rose," Amelia Curran's "What Will You Be Building," and a pair of Leonard Cohen songs, "Coming Back To You" and "Anthem."

Dale and Churchill each contribute original compositions on "Nell's song," which features the lyrics of Al Pittman's "My Handsome Lad."

"I like to say it's sort of a snapshot of where we've been and elements of what's to come," says Churchill, explaining the band's careful attention as to how to introduce their music.

"When we put out the album we were looking to show people that we're not about any one specific style of music," Dale says.

"It's still folk roots," Churchill adds.

"If we did heavy metal that probably wouldn't go over very well," jokes Hollett, prompting Churchill to add "To do a nice three-part folk version of a Metallica song, I always thought would be - 'Oh my god, what a beautiful song! What is that?'"

After sharing a laugh, the trio say they're already thinking ahead to the a followup album, which will include a more balanced mix of original compositions and cover songs.

Although, calling The Once's versions of tunes like "Anthem" and "Three Fishers" cover songs is highly misrepresentative of the work on their debut album.

"You listen to ou - Justin Brake, The Telegram


The Once (2009), Borealis Records
Row Upon Row Of The People They Know (2011) Borealis Records



Named for a unique Newfoundland phrase that means ‘imminently’, now is indeed the time for The Once.

From their beginnings as three actors who also loved to sing together, The Once has embraced a different vision of Newfoundland music. Their sounds do not come from the noisy pubs and dockside taverns that fuel so much of the Island’s energy. Instead, their music comes from a quieter and more thoughtful place. Hope and tragedy are intertwined in their music, whether they are singing an old lament from World War I, original songs that speak of love defeated, or tasteful songs from the artists whose music inspires them.

Their title of their new album comes from a poem by poet George Murray, a poem that so inspired them they built a song around it. Song For Memory speaks of the power of words and music to freeze time and emotions, to make small moments large, and large moments small. The song’s climax features the memorable line, "row upon row, of the people you know", life’s expectations writ both in a personal and expansive way at the same time.

As a trio, the band has kept it uncomplicated, depending on the power of their voices and acoustic instruments. Lead singer Geraldine Hollett, has an instrument of rare power; she is a singer who can still a noisy room, so expressive she can tell a novel-length story with a few words. Accompanied by Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale on guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bouzouki, they create a perfect blend of voice and melody. Sometimes melancholy, sometimes funny, always poignant,The Once sound like nothing else that has ever come from Newfoundland.

Their debut album has built a gradual but fervent following, and their live show is unique in its combination of intimacy and power. They have won several East Coast Music and Canadian Folk Music awards, and the country is slowly waking up to just what an amazing band they are. Since they signed to Borealis Records in 2010, they have toured through out the country and Europe, drawing huge crowds and glowing reviews wherever they go. With Row Upon Row of the People They Know, The Once will take their place amongst Canada’s finest performers.