Dr. Glenn Colton publishes new book on Canadian music

Newfoundland Rhapsody image

A new perspective on the cultural heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador told through the life of Frederick R. Emerson.

Frederick Rennie Emerson (1895-1972) was a dynamic presence in the cultural and intellectual life of Newfoundland and Labrador for much of the twentieth century. A musician, lawyer, educator, and folklore enthusiast, Emerson was a central figure in the preservation and mediation of Newfoundland culture in the tumultuous decades prior to and following Confederation with Canada in 1949.

Glenn Colton shows how Emerson fostered greater awareness and understanding of Newfoundland's cultural heritage in local, national, and international contexts. His collaboration with song collector Maud Karpeles in the late 1920s preserved some of the most cherished folk songs in the English language, and a decade later, his lectures at Memorial University College emphasized folk traditions and classical repertoire to inspire cultural discovery for an entire generation. As Newfoundland's representative on the first Canada Council and vice-president of the Canadian Folk Music Society, he played a crucial role in shaping Canadian cultural policy during the transformative years of the mid-twentieth century. Colton also reveals the meaningful creative works Emerson composed in response to the same cultural heritage he documented and preserved: his one-act drama Proud Kate Sullivan (1940) is a pioneering depiction of Newfoundland life, and the folk-inspired Newfoundland Rhapsody (1964) is one of few examples of symphonic music composed by a Newfoundlander of his generation.

Newfoundland Rhapsody explores Newfoundland society, Canada's emerging arts scene, and the international folk music community to offer a new lens through which to view the cultural history of twentieth-century Newfoundland and Canada.


"A thorough and contextualized examination of Emerson, his life, his creative work, and his family, Newfoundland Rhapsody is an important contribution to Newfoundland and Canadian studies that will appeal to both popular and scholarly audiences." Philip Hiscock, Department of Folklore, Memorial University.

"Frederick Emerson's life and work was multi-faceted, ranging from his long career as a lawyer to his knowledge of language, literature, history, and music. His devotion to Newfoundland throughout his life and work in these different areas is a central theme that emerges in this engaging and important book." Gordon E. Smith, School of Music, Queen's University.