Otto Kelland, CM (1904-2004)

Newfoundland’s great troubadour Otto Kelland enjoyed a lifelong passion for writing poetry and songs. He was raised in a musical home, easily learning accordion, and later, violin and mandolin, by ear. As he notes in the forward to his self-published collection Bow Wave (Dicks and Company, St. John’s, 1998), “In order to use my method of composing original tunes, one has to be able to write verse, particularly rhymed verse. Which is something that, fortunately, I am well able to do.”

Over the course of his lifetime, Kelland published several collections of his poetry and songs, of which the most famous is Let Me Fish Off Cape St. Mary’s, written in April, 1945. The nostalgic text, with its abundance of local expressions and images, was penned in an afternoon; the tune followed that evening. So compelling is the paring of words and music in Cape St. Mary’s that the song has entered the listening public’s subconscious to the extent that it has often been taken for an authorless folk song. Such mistaken assumptions, together with instances of plagiarism of his work, were a source of deep frustration of Otto Kelland in the course of his career.

The care and attention to detail Otto Kelland brought to his avocational musical pursuits were also manifest in his occupational life. A skilled mariner, he was particularly highly regarded for his masterful craftsmanship of scale model dories and schooners, which he built for the Government of Canada. In recognition of a life time devoted to the cultural heritage of his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Otto Kelland was invested with the Order of Canada in 1994.


Let Me Fish Off Cape St. Mary's (Arranged Daley)
Let Me Fish Off Cape St. Mary's (Arranged Zwozdesky)


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