In 1949, anthropologist Marius Barbeau recruited Margaret Sargent, a young classically- trained musician from Ontario, to work for him at the National Museum of Canada.
As the first ever musicologist to be employed by this institution, Margaret’s first task was to transfer Barbeau’s wax cylinder sound recordings to magnetic tape.
While working on Barbeau’s massive collection, Margaret became interested in collecting folk songs and proposed to him the idea of going to Newfoundland to do research.
With Barbeau’s support, in 1950, she spent eight weeks in the province, collecting folk songs, fiddle tunes, and other folklore materials mainly in St. John’s and Branch.
Despite launching the first Canadian-funded research into Newfoundland’s folk song traditions, little is known about Margaret’s activities for the National Museum, mainly because she published nothing of her Newfoundland work. Instead, her successor Kenneth Peacock is often viewed as launching this research.
Although Peacock later visited the province six times, eventually publishing a three-volume collection, Songs of the Newfoundland Outports (1965), it was Margaret who initiated the Museum’s folk song research program in that province.
But the interviews with Margaret, as well as her field notes and tapes, provide a detailed account of her Newfoundland fieldwork and of the kinds of material she was able to acquire during her one summer there.
It highlights the fieldwork challenges she faced while in Newfoundland and how her groundbreaking research paved the way for Peacock’s later work.
A more detailed account of Margaret Sargent-McTaggart’s years at the National Museum of Canada can be found here.
Margaret Sargent McTaggart ended up living in Vancouver. She passed in 2020 at over 100 years old.
Her son, Bruce, grew up sharing her passion for folk music, and is a member and regular attendee at the Rogue Folk Club.
His desire to help to raise awareness of his mother’s work led to his participation in this project.
The centerpiece of this evening of celebration is the Newfoundland folk band Rum Ragged.
Formed by Aaron Collis and Mark Manning, Rum Ragged takes a bold approach to the distinct folk music of their home, Newfoundland.
These new champions of East Coast music enliven and enlighten audiences with both songs and tune sets, which they deliver with an honest swagger that is far beyond their years.
With reverence for their roots and a creative, contemporary edge, this young band has quickly become known as the finest purveyors of their great living musical tradition.
These 2021 Juno Award nominees take a bold approach to the distinct folk music of their home province.
Since its inception in 2016, Rum Ragged has maintained a rigorous tour schedule, performing at some of the world’s premier folk, Celtic and roots venues all while managing to record four acclaimed, award-winning studio albums.
Mark Manning has said that Margaret Sargent McTaggart would have been the first person to travel to his home area on the Rock to collect music. The band is going to add a few of the tunes she collected to their regular set in her honour.
This important evening takes place at The Rogue Folk Club’s regular venue, the Mel Lehan Hall at St. James on Friday, Nov. 10. Opening the night will be the fiddle duo Twin Embers featuring the talented Annika Wilson and Danie Lenny. They will play a short set of Newfoundland tunes to get everyone in the mood.
While tickets to the in-person show are sold out, the event will be livestreamed and can be enjoyed by anyone in Canada. To buy a ticket to watch at home, go here: https://www.roguefolk.bc.ca/concerts/ev23111020