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Early Views

The Macnutt collection at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery

by Treva McNally

For many years Charlottetown lawyer James Macnutt collected historic maps depicting the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Prince Edward Island and by 1991, when he donated his collection to the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation, it was the largest collection of its kind in Canada. As a complement to the maps, Macnutt then began collecting views of the same region.

A view is a visual depiction of history. When North America was being explored, people in Europe were curious about this new continent so artists rendered views of the land and people to satisfy that curiosity as well as to encourage emigration. The Macnutt collection which was shown this past winter in the Confederation Gallery contains nearly one hundred of these historic views from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries portraying life in the "New World," especially as it relates to Prince Edward Island.

Macnutt is impressed with the bold colors used on the walls in the gallery to display his collection which, in addition to being historically significant, has been mounted to create an appealing exhibit. The views begin with a 1590 engraving showing the perils of crossing the Atlantic, surely a frightening prospect in the 16th century. Intaglio prints of some of the earliest views of natives in Canada were published in 1623, based on drawings by explorer and map-maker Samuel de Champlain. There are four very attractive colored engravings of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick based on Bartlett drawings done in the early 1800s and they attracted my attention from the moment I entered the gallery. I also enjoyed the depictions of members of royalty including Prince Edward and Queen Charlotte.

Many items in this exhibit are important both for what they represent historically as well as for the process used to produce the image. Processes used include etchings, engravings, woodcuts, lithographs and mezzotints. A most impressive portrait of Queen Victoria was created using a chromolithography method developed expressly for reproducing this print from plates created in Montreal and distributed throughout the British Empire.

Several views of Charlottetown and Summerside are intriguing. In one of the earliest printed scenes of Charlottetown, Province House is shown with the first story painted a pale blue, and an 1878 map of Charlottetown shows the city essentially ending at Euston Street. A series of eleven lithographs by Henry Buckton Laurence, printed in 1870, are particularly appealing and show life on Prince Edward Island in the 1800s. This series includes a well-known scene of sledding at Government House.

James Macnutt has assembled an interesting and important collection of views of early Canada, particularly of Prince Edward Island. The show ran until March 16 at the Confederation Centre Gallery.

Pops Music

The PEI Symphony and Barachois

Review by Treva McNally

There was hardly an empty seat in the Confederation Center when the Prince Edward Island Symphony Orchestra presented its Pops Superspecial! in February with special guests, Barachois. Following a decision to present the pops concert in the winter instead of the fall, the Symphony enjoyed a sold out show during what is traditionally the lowest attended month of its concert season, and the audience enjoyed a heart-warming performance during one of the grayer months of the year.

A pops concert is just that-popular music performed by a symphony orchestra and it is a treat to listen to it. If you're not a fan of classical music, you might think you don't recognize the featured music, Peer Gynt Suite No.1 by Edvard Grieg and Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 by Franz Liszt, but both pieces have both been in the scores for many movies, including The Majestic, Moscow on the Hudson, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. These familiar melodies make for very enjoyable listening and the audience responded appreciatively as the Confederation Center was filled with the beautiful rich tones of sixty skilled musicians. The orchestra was led by James Mark, Professor of Music at Mount Allison University and Conductor of the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra. His warm personality and obvious pleasure in what he was doing spilled over to the audience who enjoyed his interaction with them.

The guests for this concert were Barachois and before the concert began, it was difficult to imagine these foot-tapping Acadian performers being backed by a symphony orchestra. But from the moment they joined the orchestra on stage, the resulting electricity was felt by both the audience and the performers. Many symphony goers had never seen Barachois perform, and many of the Barachois fans in the audience had never been to a symphony and both audience groups were impressed by what they saw and heard. The Barachois members are excellent musicians, but being backed by the Symphony added a depth which enhanced their distinctive sound. At one point, when Chuck Arsenault was singing an old sixth century French song, he turned to the symphony musicians behind him and looked amazingly at them because the result of his voice blending with the orchestra was so effective. He later jokingly asked the symphony musicians if they wanted to go on tour with Barachois.

Barachois received a standing ovation at the end of its performance, and the Symphony received a sustained ovation that brought its conductor back for extra bows. They all deserved the ovations-it was a first-rate concert.

Market Trends


A quick tour of the Charlottetown Farmers' Market

by Treva McNally

For regular customers of the farmers' Market, it wouldn't be Saturday morning without stopping in to have a cup of coffee, meet friends, pick up their weekly meat and produce, stay for breakfast or lunch, and buy something to take home for another meal. But for those of you who have never visited the farmers' Market, you might not be aware that this is the social, artistic, organic, CBC, and multi-cultural centre of PEI as well as a very pleasant way to start your weekend.

The name, Farmers' Market, is a misnomer because it is so much more than that, although farmers remain the heart and soul of the place. When you first enter, the smell of great food is the first thing to greet you. On your left is Island Taylored Meats, and they always have great sausages cooked and calling your name. On your right as you start circling the building is a booth with delicious Thai food, followed by another selling homemade soups, homemade bread and a variety of dips. No matter how hard I try to experience something different, I find it hard to resist Grandma Jawarski's cabbage rolls and perogies, and it's always a pleasure to try one of Irene's East Indian Combo platters. The last booth on this aisle is Nowell's who serve up one of the best breakfasts in town, and across from them, Shaddy's is a popular supplier of falafel and other Lebanese specialties.

Just two of the many smiling vendors you can meet each week at the Farmers' Market. Sara Taylor (above) of Taylored Meats and Lynn Douglas of Sheep's Clothing

You can also buy fresh pasta and egg rolls, organic herbs, Island flour and seven kinds of bread, Malpeque oysters, preserves, tourtiere, pate, and incredible pastries, apples, maple syrup, honey, fresh chickens, organically raised beef, fresh eggs, smoked salmon, mini-donuts, frozen ducks, smelts, and Island mushrooms. The Cabana Corner sells freshly made carrot and orange juices as well as smoothies, and Caledonia Coffee provides the welcome aroma of freshly ground perked coffee. There is lots of produce too and it is largely, but not exclusively, organic. This time of year, you'll find mainly root and cabbage vegetables for sale but in varieties you'll never find in the supermarkets.

But the market is more than just food. Lavender sachets, botanical prints, amber and silver jewelry, fantastic wreaths and dried flowers by Isobel, creations made from hand-spun and hand-dyed wool at Sheep's Clothing, Micmac baskets, Simply Basic handmade soaps and candles, Trout River pottery, fresh plants from the Branch Farm, hand forged iron, and jewelry featuring semi-precious stones all are a pleasure to look at and a temptation to buy. When you've finished shopping, you can relax with Gord and Nellie at the back where they practice Magnetic Infusium, leaning you forward in their chair and massaging your back with a variety of magnetic instruments.

The Farmers' Market is entering it's twentieth year at its location on Belvedere Avenue, and since moving there has increased the space available to vendors, added a larger eating area, and greatly increased and improved the parking area with a second entrance. The Market is one of Charlottetown's treasures and is well worth a visit. Stop in next Saturday and see why it continues to grow and prosper.

Take a Hike

by Treva McNally

Nearly seven years ago, some friends went on a moonlight hike and had so much fun that they began walking together regularly. Then, as the commercial goes, they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on. Now there are over fifty members and they call themselves the Red Isle Hikers.

Their ad says they meet every Saturday at 8:15 am behind the Sherwood Shopping Center and I was intrigued by the word "every"so I called for more details. Unless it's storming and dangerous to drive, they go out in all weather for a 10 kilometer, two-hour outing within half an hour of Charlottetown. Their age range is 20 to 65, the fitness level is average to good, and there are between 10 and 35 participants each week. It was emphasized that they are a very friendly group who laugh a lot and their goal is to have an enjoyable walk before they go out for lunch together. Several times a year they hike off-island in places like Fundy National Park and although it is free to go walking with them, there is $10 annual membership fee for those who go out regularly.

I decided to give it a try the next Saturday and it turned out to be a perfect day-the sun was shining, the temperature was just below zero, and there was hardly any wind. Shortly after 8:15, a group of seventeen people had gathered - young, old, office workers, students, and professional people, and after introductions we were given directions to that week's hike. A convoy of cars left for the St. Patrick's Road just past Hunter River in the rolling hills of central PEI where we turned off that road onto another running alongside the Trout River. It was a spectacular scene-the trees sparkled with frost and the rolling hills and frozen river were right off a postcard. Everyone walked at their own speed and soon we had formed smaller groups which gradually became quite spread out. I kept dropping back until I was part of the last group which decided to turn back early when we saw there was one last big hill before we came to the turnaround point.

As we sat in the restaurant after, we agreed that it had been a very enjoyable morning. I asked if there were any other groups who walked shorter distances and was told the only other hiking group they knew of was in Summerside. I guess I'll just have to build up my endurance a little so I can go the whole 10K. If you like fresh air and walking, this group is very welcoming and you can see the Island while meeting lots of nice people. For information, call Joan at 892 1241 or Colleen at 569-3311

Tracing Roots


At a workshop on writing family history

by Treva McNally

We are a generation which embraces genealogy. However, after straining over microfilm, tramping through cemeteries and searching through archives, what do we do with all the information we've collected? When I saw an ad recently for a session on writing family history, it definitely caught my attention.

Called "Now or Never: Let's Write that Family History," it was sponsored by the P.E.I. Writers Guild and led by Island author Deirdre Kessler. To get the participants writing immediately, Deirdre started by asking us to write down the one thing that had to be included in our family history. The lure of free land brought my grandmother's family with their eight children to Saskatchewan by wagon train from Arkansas in the early 1900s. That action three generations ago transformed itinerant American cotton pickers into successful Canadian wheat farmers.

Next she asked us to write a very short story from our family repertoire. I remember my mother telling me how her mother and aunts would long for some of the food they had eaten when they were young. She remembers her mother saying, "Oh, how I would love to have some okra" and my mother trying to figure out what okra was. They lived in rural Saskatchewan, miles from the nearest store and a continent away from the southern food my grandmother missed.

Those exercises had gotten us started, so she next asked us to imagine what we wanted our story to look like, how far back it would go, and in what person it would be written. Family skeletons were discussed and she suggested we write about those in "invisible ink," alluding to them but not in detail to avoid hurting people. That led to the question of whether we were writing a story or a history, and Deirdre reminded us that it is our story and we can write it the way we want.

We discussed language used by our family, and we all wrote down expressions or words from our family. I remembered the expression "Land of Goshen" as the equivalent of "My word!" when surprised or exasperated. Next we were asked to list family traits that describe our family. I thought of my great aunts and uncles and their gentleness and kindness, concern for children, love of music, and creativity. The session got us started writing while reminding us to think of the things unique to our family which add interest to our story.

The P.E.I. Writers Guild holds regular workshops on different aspects of writing, and if the other writers are as interesting as Deirdre Kessler, the workshops will be well worth attending. Check out their website at www.peiwriters.ca for more information on this talented group.

Do I have a bid?

Taking part in the auction

by Treva McNally

Auctioneer John SellarsAn ad for John Sellar's auction sale in Kensington caught my eye recently so I decided to take in his sale. For many people, auctions are a favorite form of entertainment and they scour the back pages of the Guardian faithfully for those little boxes advertising "Important Auction" or "Estate Auction." There is always the lure of finding an undiscovered treasure that would bring "oohs" and "aahs" on The Antiques Roadshow, or finding that perfect something for their home at a fraction of the retail cost. Even when they don't buy anything, they enjoy listening to the auctioneer, several of whom are among the best entertainers on P.E.I. Among the assortment of old dishes, hooked rugs, furniture and picture frames displayed in the hall at the viewing before the auction, I spied a small ivory match holder and a bean crock I wanted for my collection so I registered and picked up a bidding number. If you are new at auctions, you don't have to worry that you can bid by mistake by scratching your head or waving to a friend-you need that numbered card to bid.

Auctions have a rhythm and auctioneers try to establish a quick tempo so that you'll get caught up in the bidding. Early on, Sellar held up a rather dirty depression glass candle holder and when no one would start the bidding, he called out "The first $1 takes it home." I quickly held up my number and got a real bargain because it was in perfect condition and cleaned up beautifully.

When the crocks came up and several sold for $15-20, I was concerned because $10 was my limit for the one I wanted, but when no one else bid, I got it for $5-another bargain. Then the little ivory match holder was held up. During the viewing, very few people had even noticed it but unfortunately for me, the auctioneer talked it up and brought it to everyone's attention. With lots of people bidding, it became too expensive for me and I had to drop out of the bidding.

One of the more interesting items for sale, an antique doll house, sold for only $55. Large as it was, I hadn't noticed it during the viewing so didn't bid because it's always risky bidding on something you haven't looked at closely. Auctioneers will generally point out flaws but not always and there is nothing worse than taking something home you paid too much for that you don't like.

For nearly four hours, the crowd of several hundred people enjoyed themselves as antiques and treasures were sold. The auctioneer was genial, the bidding was lively, and I came home with two good deals. That's a lot of entertainment for $6 + taxes!

To Tell the Truth

Nils Ling brings his new one-man show to the Jubilee Theatre in Summerside

by Treva McNally

When Nils Ling needs new material for a show, he doesn't have to look any further than his family for inspiration. His first show, The Truth about Daughters, has been very successful and he continues to perform it across Canada, the United States, and later this year in Europe.

I met with Nils recently to discuss his new show, The Truth about Love and/or Marriage and to learn how it came about. He said that ever since Daughters, he was constantly asked what his next show would be, and he always replied The Truth about Love and/or Marriage. This response always elicited a chuckle, but in reality, Nils had not written a word or even thought about the content-he just liked the title. Then last fall, after performing Daughters at the Imperial Theater in Saint John, he was offered an opportunity to book his new show at that theater during the winter, so he had to start writing it. Being married for twenty-five years, the topic of love and marriage didn't require a great deal of research and the new show quickly came together. He presented it in a workshop in Charlottetown to make sure it worked, and has since performed it in Saint John, New Brunswick and Orangeville, Ontario.

When asked what his family thought of being the subject of his shows and commentaries, he said being referred to publicly has always been reality for his family so they have nothing to compare it to. He also said he has always been careful never to mention his children by name so that anyone who knew his children would not know which one he was talking about, adding that by not identifying the children specifically, it makes it easier for the audience to identify with the story and relate it to themselves. He knows when he has been successful at this when people in the audience nudge each other as if to say, "See, it's not just us that these things happen to!"

The new show is the story of a political columnist who finds himself forced to confront his feelings about love and marriage when he is arbitrarily re-assigned to write a column about relationships.

Nils Ling, a long-time CBC broadcaster, syndicated columnist, and humourist, also wrote Maritime Star which played at the Jubilee Theatre in Summerside for two seasons.

His shows work well in venues which seat 500-600 people, and because there are so many communities in North America with theaters this size, he hopes to perform these shows for many years to come.

Laughing in the Thrones

Menopositive!

Review by Treva McNally

Women who are in the throes of menopause (and those who live with them) might be surprised to know that their condition can actually be funny in the hands of playwright J.J. McColl. And when Pam Stevenson, Catherine McKinnon, Virginia O'Brien and Laura Smith get together on stage, hot flashes, irritability and aging are hysterically funny.

Menopositive! premiered to enthusiastic reviews at Victoria Playhouse late last fall and earned a featured spot this year in the Confederation Centre's early season. Directed by Marlane O'Brien, the preview night attracted a large, predominantly female crowd who reacted to it with howls of laughter. As word of mouth spreads that it is not just about women, that it is a very funny show about taking stock of our lives, the number of men in the audience should grow as it did in Victoria last season.

The premise is three 50ish women getting together for the first time in thirty-five years to perform at their high school reunion. Pam Stevenson gives an outstanding performance, both dramatic and comedic, as a failed writer. Her vignette of an elderly woman traveling the world giving advice to married women is comedy at its best.

Catherine McKinnon is a veteran entertainer who can perform drama, music, and comedy. Her voice is a little deeper than it used to be, but she still can handle a song beautifully. As an Hungarian cleaning lady who joins the show when another character is needed, she has my favourite line in the play. When she leaves the dressing room to get ready to go on stage, she closes her eyes and quietly psyches herself up with the line: "I am tall, I am thin."

Virginia O'Brien plays a women who has made home-making her profession in spite of a less-than-committed husband. She starts out rather slowly in a confining role, but gets to explode in the second half as she acknowledges her pent-up frustration and anger with the help of her old classmates in one of the best scenes in the play. Laura Smith rounds out the quartet as a successful business women with a childhood secret. Many of the songs in this show are especially suited to the smokey voice of Smith who is well-cast in her role.

This show works well in the small Studio Theatre (although it would be a kindness to the patrons of this venue if the Centre would replace its old uncomfortable chairs.) Menopositive! is a good start to the summer theatre season.

Events Calendar

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Some Upcoming Events

Mark Critch

November 14
Florence Simmons Performance Hall On November 14 at 7:30 pm, Bookmark, Charlottetown’s [ ... ]

Together Again

Kenny and Dolly Tribute Concert at the Confederation Centre November 29
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The Ennis Sisters

Newfoundland sisters on the mainstage December 1
Homburg Theatre  On December 1, Sobeys LIVE @ [ ... ]

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