The unmistakable sound of traditional Newfoundland music has been a staple of this province’s culture for decades. Whether it’s enjoyed on the weekend radio shows, at a wedding or party, or just in your shed, Newfoundland’s Celtic-influenced music has a place in the heart of all Newfoundlanders.
Traditional Newfoundland music can be identified by a number of elements. It usually contains some combination of acoustic guitar, tin whistle, bodhran, banjo, fiddle, and accordion. Though in 1996, one of Newfoundland’s most popular groups, The Celtic Connection, surprised us all with a dance remix of the classic Celtic song “Peter Street.” It paired electronic drum samples and synthesizers with traditional Newfoundland sounds, fitting in with the eurodance craze of the time. An unlikely but welcome pairing!
How the Remix Came to Be
Although the eurodance sound of this Peter Street remix was not typical for music coming from Newfoundland, it was fairly common at the time on the global stage. The genre reached the height of its popularity in the mid-to-late nineties. The Rednex version of Cotton Eye Joe, which was released just 2 years prior, paired a banjo and fiddle with a similar dance remix style and became a worldwide smash hit.
So how does a band from the Southern Shore of Newfoundland end up releasing such a track? The Peter Street dance mix was released on the Popular Records label (even on vinyl!) which had dealings with world-renowned dance music acts like Eiffel 65, Whigfield, ATB, and more. Physical mediums like CD and vinyl were still the predominant method of music sharing at this time. Therefore, it took substantially more investment from a label to distribute and promote music. It wasn’t as simple or cheap as e-mailing around an MP3. To even reach this point meant someone at the label had believed in the track.
The Celtic Connection’s Jennifer Trainor told us that the idea originated from a soundcheck where the band had been toying with a dance beat.
They eventually found themselves in a Toronto recording studio working with a talented engineer who helped craft the song into the remix we now know and love.
Legend has it that a low-budget video was even created for the track, though it seems to be lost.
The Song’s Success
The Celtic Connection have released countless local hits. They’re an iconic, talented Newfoundland band, so it’s expected that any release of theirs would see success. However, releasing such a different style track could have had any number of outcomes. Turns out, locals embraced the Peter Street remix wholeheartedly! While it wasn’t the type of song to be featured regularly on the traditional Newfoundland music radio shows, the track still went on to see plenty of local success.
Shane Cashin of 2020 Entertainment has spent decades as a DJ on the local scene, and hosted a dance music radio show on CHMR in the 90s-2000s. He recalls receiving the Peter Street Dance Remix promo single himself and hearing local DJs play it at clubs. He noted that the Peter Street Dance Remix, Cotton Eye Joe, and Pipe Dreams from the Yakoo Boyz (also Canadian) made for a popular triple-threat. Side note: Pipe Dreams was the goal song for the St. John’s Maple Leafs back in the day, and a variety of other sports teams in Canada.
It’s difficult to gauge the reach of this specific track outside of Newfoundland and Labrador. Canada did have a dance music radio chart at the time, and it doesn’t seem the song charted there, although any traditional Newfoundland band charting in Canada would be a stretch. It’s possible the promos were shared around the world and got played at clubs in any number of countries. We’ll never really know for sure.
A Newfoundland Dance Hit
In any case, The Celtic Connection’s Peter Street Dance Remix is an undeniable hit to Newfoundlanders. It has regularly received play at downtown clubs in St. John’s. The rafters at Memorial Stadium were shook by it during hockey games. The old radio station Magic 97 regularly spun it during the Celebration Road Show and Celebration Saturdays throughout the 90s. To this day, the song continues to be a floor-filling mainstay.
It’s available on The Celtic Connection’s “Best Of… 10 Years Together” album on all popular music platforms, including Spotify.