Getting rowdy for 30 years of Tour de Fort

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

On Sept. 20 the Tour de Fort entertainment series kicks off its 30th annual season with The Rowdymen, a trio that finds its roots in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Toronto company of the hit Broadway musical ‘Come From Away.’

The band is made up of Newfoundlanders Gerry Finn, and Greg Hawco and ‘come from away’ George Masswohl. Come from away is a term Newfoundlanders use to refer to people not from the province. Ironically, Masswohl is the only member of the band who currently resides in NL on a full-time basis, while Hawco and Finn both ply their trades on the mainland in Ontario.

According to his band bio, Hawco is a multi-instrumentalist and singer with the group. Hawco is a native of Bell Island, NL, has done a lot of composing for TV and movies. His compositions can be heard on TV shows like ‘Republic of Doyle’ and ‘Caught.’ He has also had his classical compositions performed around the world in Poland, Australia and the U.S. He also performed as the percussionist on stage at Come From Away in Toronto.

Gerry Finn, who plays guitar and sings is originally from St. John’s, NL and has spent parts of the last 30 years touring the world playing music with a variety of different bands and solo. Acts he’s toured, recorded or been on stage with include Burton Cummings, David Usher and The Carpet Frogs, among others. He’s received multiple gold and platinum record awards and had three Juno Award nominations with one win.

George Masswohl, from St. Catharine’s, Ont. has won awards for his acting and singing. Masswohl has been seen on stage at the Stratford, Shaw and Charlottetown theatre festivals. He has also worked with multiple Broadway touring shows across North America, and he starred as Gander Mayor Claude Elliott in the Canadian company of Come From Away.

The Times connected with Masswohl from St. John’s and he talked about the formation of the band.

“I was asked to come here to work for the opera company,” Masswohl said. “I’d never been here before and like most Ontarians probably didn’t know a whole lot about Newfoundland. I was here for a month, and within the first couple of hours of being here I met my (now) partner Deneen and she kept me coming back. Then the next year I was cast in Come From Away, in Toronto which is all about Newfoundland. So my whole life became about Newfoundland at that point.”

The Rowdymen will be launching the 30th annual season of the Tour de Fort concert series. The maritime-based trio is well known for their roles in the Toronto production of the hit Broadway musical “Come From Away.” They take the stage of Townshend Theatre on Wednesday, September 20. – Submitted photo

Masswohl now resides in the St. John’s neighbourhood of Georgestown which is considered one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the oldest city in North America.

Masswohl and Hawco met when they both performed in the Toronto production of Broadway hit ‘Come From Away.’ A musical about the time passengers were stranded in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland after air traffic was grounded following the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001.

“Greg and I were getting up at Come From Away charity events and doing a couple Irish tunes here and there, a cappella and people were loving it,” Masswohl said. “So I said to him, ‘we should take advantage of this, opportunity, Come From Away is going to close one day and we can do something that keeps sharing the spirit of Come From Away and the music of Newfoundland with people who have been turned on to it by Come From Away.’”

As it turned out Hawco had shared similar sentiments with Finn and he introduced his mutual friends.

“I didn’t know Gerry at all,” Masswohl said. “So Greg brings Gerry by my condo in Toronto, then the three of us got in a van and went over to the office of Steve Butler at Paquin Entertainment and they had grown up with Steve and Steve was like, ‘I love, I like this project, let’s work on it.’”

The trio started working together and eventually put on a show for 1000 people at the Toronto Convention Centre… in March of 2020.

After being locked down for some time, the group eventually started getting together physically distanced in Masswohl’s backyard to put together a repertoire for the band.

Eventually, they were invited by the owner of an Irish pub (formerly called Dora Keogh), originally from Newfoundland, in the Toronto area to rehearse as the pub was closed due to the pandemic.

“We rehearsed five days a week for the summer of 2020,” Masswohl said. “So we got really tight, and we wrote some music and really developed our show there.”

From rehearsing at the pub the group put on a live stream and then was able to take the show on the road as things opened up that fall. They also brought their show back to Newfoundland and were even invited to perform for the province’s Lieutenant-Governor.

The only recorded music the band has released to this point is a song called Bell Island Pony, about a horse used in the iron ore mines of Bell Island, a small island off the coast near St. John’s.

The band will soon be releasing an album recorded over a few days in August in the Quidi Vidi (pronounced ‘kiddy viddy’) neighbourhood of St. John’s.

Their show consists of a variety of music, Masswohl says.

“We say we’re a Newfoundland band, playing traditional, contemporary and original music,” he said. “We’ll play some traditional songs that people will know but we also play some lesser known songs. We have a few Ron Hynes tunes. In fact we’re debuting a Ron Hynes tun that was never recorded.”

Masswohl says the group’s expertise at their crafts makes for a good show.

“I think (audiences) can expect fun, they can expect to laugh a lot because we’ve got a pretty good little stage show put together,” he said. “They can expect great music, the musicianship in I’m the singer, but Gerry is regarded as one of the finest guitar players to come out of Newfoundland in a long time, and Greg is a classically trained musician who has his own orchestra in Toronto. So we’ve got a pretty solid pedigree as a band and I’ve been singing my entire life.But we’re really passionate about the music and about Newfoundland, so people can expect to really get a taste of Newfoundlandia from our show. It’s a good concert. It’s moving in many ways. And it’s funny in many ways, and it’s just straight ahead. Awesome music in every way.

The Rowdymen take the stage at the Townshend Theatre at 7:30 p.m on Sept. 20. Passports for this season are on sale for $150 at Ski’s Variety, the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre or online via