Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Black Fly Song

'The Black Fly Song' was written by Wade Hemsworth. It was believed to have been written in 1949 while he was visiting northern Ontario with an Ontario Hydro Electric Commission survey party studying the feasibility of a dam on the Little Abitibi River, which flows north towards James Bay; however, in a 1996 interview, Hemsworth said he wrote it in Labrador. Like most visitors to forested northland in summer, the survey party suffered from the toxic attentions of 'the little black flies.'

The song was published by Southern Music (Canada) in 1957 and was included in Canada's Story in Song (Toronto 1960), compiled by Edith Fowke, Helmut Blume, and Alan Mills; in Singing Our History (Toronto 1984) by Fowke and Mills; and in the collection The Songs of Wade Hemsworth (Waterloo 1990). The composer sings it on his LP Folk Songs of the Canadian North Woods (Folk FW-6821) and the CD The Songs of Wade Hemsworth (Blackfly Music 1995); other versions have been recorded by the Travellers, Rick Avery and Judy Greenhill (J & R JR-001) and as 'The Black Flies of Ontario,' by Omar Blondahl.

It was heard in the film Tempo Canada 66 and in the 1991 NFB animated film Blackfly. The latter, which was directed by Christopher Hinton and included the singing of Kate and Anna McGarrigle, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1992. A French version of the NFB film (Mouches noires) was produced in 1992.