Anita Best – 2003
This year we honour two individuals who have much in common, although they come from different ends of the country: Anita Best and Phil Thomas. Both have published major song collections, both have worked long and well outside the academic establishment (although their work is well respected in university circles), and both are singers and well-known public advocates for traditional song.
Anita Best’s involvement in folklore and ethnology in Canada has encompassed a range of activities B as performer, collector, archivist, scholar, teacher, and advocate for Newfoundland traditions. Few if any have attained her range of activities, yet in each category she has made contributions that equal or better the work of those who have specialised in those areas. To the general public she is best known as a singer who has appeared on CBC television with Pamela Morgan, broadcast on provincial and national radio shows, and made several fine recordings currently available on CD. These include The Colour of Amber (with Pamela Morgan), a solo unaccompanied album entitled Cross-Handed, and a collaboration as featured soloist with the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Choir (Rock within the Sea: Folksongs of Newfoundland). She is a regular performer at folk festivals both within and outside her native province. Her Amber Music label has performed the valuable service of reissuing, among others, the albums made by the celebrated Newfoundland group Figgy Duff.
Ms. Best has also been instrumental in creating and hosting radio programs featuring Newfoundland traditional music, and in organizing and mounting various successful festivals celebrating Newfoundland culture and song. Her activity as a collector of Newfoundland story and song is best known though her joint publication with Genevieve Lehr, Come and I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985), but more of her fieldwork can be consulted in the Memorial University Folklore Archives. MUNFLA is only one of several archives where, as a professional archivist, she has done valuable work documenting and organizing collections of Newfoundland folklore. Her own research on Newfoundland folksongs, and on the tale tradition of Mr. Pius Power Sr., is a model of sensitivity and informed interpretation. More recently she has begun teaching traditional Newfoundland music at the School of Music at Memorial University, passing on her knowledge to a new generation of Newfoundlanders.