Cathedral Parishioner Among Recent Recipients of the Order of Newfoundland

Order of Newfoundland on a ribbon

Those of us who know Carla Furlong will agree that she is a fascinating woman (one definitely deserving of being called a “lady”), with an extraordinary life story who has made quite a contribution to the cultural scene in our province of Newfoundland and Labrador, that is recognized by this award and deserves to be more well known than a passing mention.

The background information that was provided in the news release about the latest recipients of the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador says about Carla:

“Carla Emerson Furlong is a noted musician who has made outstanding contributions to the arts and culture of Newfoundland and Labrador and indeed, Canada. In addition, she spent decades as an avid volunteer in the community.

“Ms. Furlong studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music and Juilliard. She studied under famous American harpist Marcel Grandjany. Despite her studies being interrupted by World War II, Ms. Furlong graduated from The Juilliard School in 1948. During the war, she served as a Cypher Technician in St. John’s.

“In 1950, Ms. Furlong was appointed harpist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and performed with Halle Orchestra, and toured Great Britain with Vic Oliver’s Variety Show.

“Ms. Furlong was instrumental in establishing the Harp Department at the Royal Conservatory of Toronto, performed with the Toronto Symphony and the Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra, and recorded CBC Television and Radio shows. In 1962, she returned home to join the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra as principal harpist and helped establish the School of Music at Memorial University.Carla Furlong

“For more than 40 years, Ms. Furlong guided locals and visitors to learn about the architectural significance of the Anglican Cathedral. She generously gave her time to the Avalon Battalion Band of the Church Lad’s Brigade, Kiwanis Music Festival, as well as mentored students for examinations for the Trinity College and the Royal Conservatory of Music.

“Ms. Furlong was a sought-after harp instructor. People travelled considerable distances to study with her until she stopped teaching, one year ago, at the age of 99.”

I had the pleasure of chatting with Carla on occasion and was particularly enthralled by her story about playing the harp on the beloved CBC TV children’s program The Friendly Giant many years ago while she lived in Toronto, playing with the Toronto Symphony. She related that in those days the program was done live, and she would go to the studios daily to perform the iconic “Early One Morning” that was the theme music of the program. Apparently as well, the programmes were never pre-scripted, but delivered ad lib. Carla described Bob Homme (who played the friendly giant) as a “lovely man, a delightful man, but he was small—he was a short little man”.

Interestingly she later brought what I call “The Friendly Giant’s harp” back to Newfoundland when she returned here, and it’s still here in the St. John’s area.

Another story about Carla which, under the Official Secrets Act she could never talk about fully, was her work during World War II, described in the award’s news release simply as: “During the war, she served as a Cypher Technician in St. John’s.”  Apparently, during the war she was one of the local women engaged in the secret monitoring of German naval radio communications off our coasts related to the supply convoys to England that gathered in St. John’s (a Newfoundland version of the Bletchley Girls).

But Carla’s greatest contribution to our province has been her noted career locally as a harpist and long standing teacher of harp and piano. She also played a role in the development of the School of Music at Memorial University and that contribution is recognized by scholarships at the school in her honour.

Congratulations Carla on a life well lived, and on the latest and well deserved recognition.

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