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Flat Bay’s Kevin Beanland is Air Canada’s Flying Fiddler

Flat Bay’s Kevin Beanland has been playing various instruments, including the fiddle, since he was 14 years old.
Flat Bay’s Kevin Beanland has been playing various instruments, including the fiddle, since he was 14 years old. - Nicholas Mercer

Kevin Beanland did not know the man sitting next to him.

He figures he is from Corner Brook, was some sort of travelling salesman and was aboard the same Air Canada flight from Halifax to Toronto in 1989. 

Maybe the 72-year-old from Flat Bay has forgotten his name with the passage of time, or he didn’t know it to begin with.

We’ve all had stories like this. Maybe you’re waiting for a cab or sitting on a park bench when it happens. You strike up a conversation with the person standing next. You make a note to remember the conversation because it’ll make a good yarn somewhere down the line. Each time you tell the story some of the details appear as ghosts on the periphery of the story.

Either way, Beanland and the man eventually talked music. Beanland is fluent in the fiddle, guitar, mandolin and the accordion, you see.

As it turns out, the Corner Brook man had an unusual request for Beanland. He wanted to hear a couple of tunes.

Beanland relented at first, but soon he had grabbed his fiddle from the overhead compartment and let fly a couple of notes from an old waltz. His thirst for music unsated, the Corner Brook man again had a request before Beanland put his instrument away — he wanted to hear St. Anne’s Reel. It was one of his favourites.

Every time I hear St. Anne's, I’m thrown back to the south coast of this province. I’m sitting on a bench near a stage in the coastal community of St. Jacques in Fortune Bay. It's been several years since I’ve been to the festival, but I can still feel the beat resonating from the stage.

Not one to disappoint, the fiddler played St. Anne's with his usual flair and energy.

That’s when one of the flight’s crew members exited the cockpit and approached Beanland.

He asked him to sit with the rest of the crew and play. When Beanland was finished, he left the crew and went to return to his seat.

Before doing so, he was named Air Canada’s Flying Fiddler. From then until he stopped flying a couple of years ago, Beanland would have his flights covered in exchange for songs at various parts of the flight.

Beanland is in the midst of a career that includes a catalogue of over 80 songs he has written and recorded 15 albums.

He taught himself guitar at the age of 14 and quickly turned to the mandolin. He soon realized the fiddle was similar to the mandolin, except for the bow work. Still he learned that as well.

His mother would tell him he had a gift from God. She was his inspiration and kept him playing when it seemed like he would pack it in.

While working at the gypsum mine in Flat Bay, Beanland would write songs while driving the large trucks there.

In 1996, he got his big break. He started playing aboard the Marine Atlantic Ferries crossing between Newfoundland and the mainland.

From there, he started branching out into the Atlantic Provinces and beyond. He carries around a black binder that houses his accomplishments.

Inside are things like pictures from where he’s played, newspaper clippings, emails from Air Canada informing him of a limousine ride awaiting him after playing on a flight, a letter from former governor, Kathleen Blanco of Lousiana, among other things.

“I never thought I’d accomplish what I have in my life,” said Beanland. “I owe it to God.”

I’ve often heard of musicians attributing their gifts as tokens of God’s favour. However, if it is God that gives them the talent they need to succeed, it takes the right kind of person to mould it into something successful. 

It’s a partnership.

Someone who has been playing music for close to six decades can be surprised from time to time. There are times when the unexpected becomes reality it seems.

This particular instance might fit better if it was referred to as Kevin Beanland’s Rolling Stone moment.

Just as seminal American rock band Dr. Hook gruffly crooned about making it to the cover of the hallowed rock music magazine, the Flat Bay resident felt the same about reaching the cover of the Canadian Federation of Musicians monthly offering.

This past summer, Beanland found himself on the cover of the magazine titled "Sound," which included a short wrap of what he’s accomplished since he first picked up a guitar at the age of 14.

“That is one of my proudest moments,” he said pointing to a copy of the product.

In the last couple of years, Beanland has been grooming a piece of his land at his home in Flat Bay as a park where he can play his music.

He’s built a bandstand, a pair of holders for speakers, groomed the brook that runs through the property. Beanland has made benches for anyone who wants to sit and listen, as well as a lean-to where people could have a drop of tea in the afternoons.

There is still some work to do.

He’ll be playing there soon. Perhaps this fall.

I bet it’ll be a toe-tapping good time.

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