A Man on a Mission
By Curt Naihersey
I first met Edward Morneau when he was working as a barista at Perks Coffeehouse in Norwood. As a traveling musician performing in a small town coffeehouse, any kindred spirit caught our attention. After our sets, he would comment on our material, reflect on our similarities with other favored, better-known talents, and occasionally offer critique and commentary. Of course, he didn’t just do it with us, as I often observed him reflecting on other acts that were booked. After a while, it was common to sit over a cappuccino and chat about music, art, writing, and teaching. It was a nice introduction to a long-lasting friendship. It seems this Renaissance man has found his mission and his quest.
Edward Morneau brings creativity, perception and wit to any task set before him. A now-retired teacher of English, Film, Media and Theatre Arts in both Dedham and Norwood for thirty-five years, he has taught and practiced all levels of communication — artistic, educational, and commercial. His early career reveals a background in English, media, theatre, journalism, and film. Throughout his teaching career, Morneau designed extensive educational curricula in all of these areas, including a highly-touted published comprehensive study guide on George Orwell’s 1984.
In matters of the business and labor aspects of educating, Morneau has been a leader (President of the Dedham Teachers Union), for which he authored proposals and contracts and has arbitrated disputes.
As a visual artist, for most of his life, Morneau has been a collagist, assembling works using paper and other two-dimensional objects. For the past five years, he has been experimenting in digital collage making, using his own art and photography, and those collaborators, and public domain images to create abstractions and evocations of universal themes. His works have been exhibited at the aforementioned Perks and at The Ugly Mug Coffeehouse in Salem, where he now lives.
In matters of music, during the past twenty-five years he has released several excellent albums of challenging, progressive, socially-provocative folk and pop music: Flying Fan Modules, Trepanning, Before the Second Rooster, and especially the compilation, Jacquerie.
While his early recording are full-blown pop songs, honor his muses, The Beatles, Beach Boys, Kinks, Randy Newman, The Move, XTC, and any songwriter that held melody in the highest esteem—Morneau’s later work reflects an emotional and political consideration of how America’s shift to the Right threatened aspects of its democracy, its cultural beliefs, and instigates a moral corrosion of its institutions, especially the media.
The special focus of most of the songs on Trepanning and Jaquerie concerns the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the heartbreak of 9/11, the distortions of faith through the exploitation of religion, the nation’s response to those affected by Hurricane Katrina, and an examination of the soul and its capacity for self-deception.
The dark matter of its lyricism is countered by the sweet melodies Morneau creates and the attendant pop/folk and sometimes Avant-garde musicality he combines to soften these hard observations. The topics may be difficult and dated— the risk of any artist is to anchor his work in history—but Morneau explicitly thinks that it is the responsibility of artists to characterize their era through artistic expression and give meaning to their times.
Most recently, to offset these hard-edged obsessions, he has formed an acoustic Beatles cover band, Glass Onion, as well as submitting tribute material to a few compilation projects on Low Budget Records—Loving the Alien, a tribute to David Bowie, and Dylanology, a tribute to Bob Dylan.
As an outspoken activist, Morneau was the Human Rights Director for The James Joyce Ramble for twenty-five years, and has been a long time member of Amnesty International, The Southern Poverty Law Center, Kiva, and Greenpeace. He is comfortable with protest and with any challenge that demands detail and research, and in using his writer’s voice to sort out and sensitize complex issues.
As a student of the Holocaust, he has participated in Salem State University’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies travel program, and has visited Poland, Germany, the Balkans, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.
A recent written work in this area is a graduate study curricula entitled “War & Conscience in Contemporary Film.” He has followed this with an adaptation of The War Prayer—Mark Twain’s brief, but scathing indictment of war and its attendant themes of patriotic and religious hysteria, a work that remained unpublished until after his death.
What inspired Morneau to revisit this work was an adaptation published in 1971 by artist John Groth, whose evocative, minimalist pen and ink illustrations put to image what is suggested by Twain’s words. Page after page consists of unforgettable, chilling representations that deliver a visual anti-war manifesto. For his book, Morneau uses his own digital collages to provoke more contemporary thought and consideration of Twain’s powerful themes. The Syrian crisis images and the context in which he uses them are sure to cause controversy—all which should unequivocally denounce war.
The War Prayer project caught the attention of Salem State University’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. They will sponsor a library installation of Morneau adaptation this fall, from September 2018 to January 2019.
Cobbled together from It’s All About Arts Magazine, March 2018, and hastily written bios for other projects