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Writing Symposium

The PEI Writers’ Guild will host a writing symposium this summer. Sponsored by Innovation PEI, wit [ ... ]

Cute as a…

12th year for button making event at Confederation Centre Art Gallery The CCOA Gallery in Charlotte [ ... ]

Thanks for the Memories

Don Messer's Fiddle

Review by Treva McNally

Summerside really knows how to throw a party, and the Jubilee Theatre is a beautiful place to do it. Where else for opening night would all the theatre patrons be treated to fresh crepes with strawberries and cream prepared in the lobby by chefs from Seasons in Thyme? It was a lovely idea.

The occasion was the world premiere of Don Messer's Violin, starring Frank Leahy and featuring Don Messer's violin, given to Leahy by Messer's daughter. The premise for the show is a rehearsal for the first television taping and it is interspersed with scenes many years later of Don Messer watching television while Knowlton Nash is announcing that CBC has canceled the show. As we listen to Nash report how angry viewers are and that the cancellation it is being debated in Parliament, it made me wonder why CBC continues to tamper with shows which have achieved great popularity and loyalty, such as Don Messer's show or Compass, and then be surprised when viewer numbers are down. But I digress.

The show has all the people viewers loved on the old TV show-Don Messer, Marg Osburne, Charlie Chamberlain, the Islanders and the Buchta Dancers. Frank Leahy, who plays Don Messer, is an incredible violinist who has captured Don Messer's quiet personality and his perfectionism very well. Melodee Finlay really looks like Marg Osburne, and when she sings "Smile the While" with W.J. Matheson who plays Charlie Chamberlain, the memories of Marg and Charlie came flooding back.

Choreographer Jim White has assembled six very talented performers as the Buchta Dancers, and they almost steal the show. Christian Barry and Shawna Vanomme are standouts, both singing and dancing, in a troop which includes Kerry Gage, Melanie Phillipson, Jay Schramek and Brent Moss. The dancers' step dance numbers held the audience spellbound, and their multi-crinolined routines were so reminiscent of the original dancers.

Although the sets are minimal, it is a very attractive show. In the second act, Don Messer and his band are dressed in red tartan jackets and the dancers are very colourful. As they move into the Irish and Scottish medleys and then the barn dance numbers, the show really picks up speed.

There is a scene in the show where Duke Neilson (Randall Kempf) explains that although Don Messer and the members of his band were all accomplished musicians who could play any style music, Don would never let any other type of music be incorporated into his repertoire because it wasn't what the audience was expecting and he didn't want to disappoint his audience. It was a good practice because I expected the show to be nearly entirely traditional Don Messer music and I was a little disappointed that only part of it was. The other music is good but the Messer-style tunes were wildly applauded by the audience, giving me the feeling that perhaps some others wanted more too. If you closed your eyes when Frank Leahy plays Messer music, you would swear you were listening to the original. After you've heard the finale and encore of old Don Messer tunes and are walking out of the theatre, you know that Don Messer's violin is in good hands.

Emily Belongs


Review by Treva McNally

Many people were surprised this year when they discovered a scene from Emily, rather than Anne, on the cover of the Confederation Centre Program. But with this summer's show, Emily proves she belongs on the cover just as much as the little red-headed girl who has brought so much fame to PEI. I saw Emily last year and, like everyone else, enjoyed it but found it too long. After some reworking in the off-season, it's still the same great show but now it's shorter and the story line is clearer.

The cast is excellent. Trish Lindstrom takes over the role of Emily this year and she captures perfectly the passion and the seriousness of the role while still allowing the vulnerability to show through. The actors playing Emily's three friends are all back from last year's show-Jeff Madden, Raquel Duffy and Mike Nadajewski-and they are as good as ever. The entrance of the wild haired, barefooted Ilse is a great mainstage moment and Duffy does it so well. The other actors in the show are uniformly good. Denise Ferguson and Kristin Gauthier as Emily's two very different aunts both give moving performances, and Hank Stinson is gentle and passionate as Cousin Jimmy.

Emily has great music that plays in your head after you leave the theatre. "Murray Pride" sets the tone for the whole show, while Aunt Laura's song, "The Ace of Hearts", lets you feel the pain of losing someone you love. "This Island" is my favourite and could serve as an anthem for both the show and Prince Edward Island. I was disappointed when the audience sat down when the cast sung it as an encore this year because last year the audience had enthusiastically remained standing. This may have happened because in the last few minutes of the show, the pace seems to slow down, letting the audience lose its momentum going into the finale.

I always preferred Anne to Emily in the books by L. M. Montgomery, and I liked Anne better on television, but I thoroughly enjoy Emily on stage. It has an intensity that Trish Lindstrom has captured beautifully, and the music is good. This show has proven it can share the spotlight on mainstage with Anne for many years to come. It would be interesting to add Blue Castle as a third show and make it an L.M. Montgomery Festival.

Great Garden of the Gulf opens

by Treva McNally

Two weeks before The Garden of the Gulf Juried Exhibition opened, I went to the Confederation Centre to see the more than 150 pieces of art submitted for judging. My knowledge of art is limited, but I decided to pick out thirty pieces and compare them to the thirty selected by the judges. There was an incredible variety to choose from: woodworking, rug hooking, sculpture, wood carving, water colours, huge murals, tiny computer art, fabric art, acrylics and oils.

My first choices were two prints by Ann Dow Lee, then a photograph by Tracey Arsenault. Next I selected a little piece of computer art by Trisha Clarkin, two water colours by Andrew Henderson, and a pencil drawing by Gladys Watkins.

I wanted a representative collection, but how do you choose between a hooked rug and an abstract painting? Then I spotted an artist I can identify without looking at the label on the back. Elaine Harrison, my high school English teacher who taught me so much about poetry and literature many years ago, had entered two primitive acrylics. I chose "Old Enterprise," her painting of a woman in front of a wood stove.

Hilda Woolnough had two pieces, and I selected one called "Silver" from her Alchemist Series. Then I discover John MacCallum's two huge murals of gladioluses, set up facing each other with a garden path between them. After picking out a few more, including two water colours by Debra Rapel and an amazing sculpture by Carl Phillis, I finally had my collection.

Terry Graff, the curator for the show, told me that this is the sixth year for the exhibition, and the quality just keeps getting better. All artists whose works are hung will be paid an exhibitor's fee, and there will be a $100 prize for the People's Choice, sponsored by ARTSatlantic. As well, the Province of P.E.I. will be acquiring some of the selected works for an art bank.

On February 20, I went to the opening of the show. What a difference it was to see the works hung, rather than crammed together leaning against the walls. There were pieces I hadn't even seen earlier. How could I have missed the batik by Sylvia Ridgway and the pinhole photography of Mary Carr Chaisson? And how could the judges have not picked the photographs by Tracey Arsenault or Lorne Martin, or John Burden's digital rendering of Milton Acorn?

But the collection they chose is wonderful. It's unbelievable that so small an Island can have so much talent. And I picked more than half of the final thirty artists, confirming my belief that good art should be obvious even to the untrained eye. I would like to think that most of my choices were in the running to make the final cut but, even if they weren't, it was an enjoyable exercise and the result is a marvelous show. Go see it yourself and vote for your favourite.

Selected artists
Great Garden of the Gulf jurors Gerald Beaulieu (PEI), Marie Ulmer (New Brunswick), and Peter Dykhuis (Nova Scotia) examined 155 works submitted by 92 Island artists and selected 37 works by 30 of those artists: Rodney Birch, Mary Carr Chaisson, Susan Christensen, Trisha Clarkin, Brian Collins, Bobbi Dale, Lesley Dubey, Elaine Harrison, Andrew Henderson, Keir Kenny, Ann Dow Lee, Haley Lewis, John MacCallum, Pat MacDougall, Cheryl MacDonald, Stephen MacInnis, Joan MacGillivray, Jan Mollison, Heather Myers, Paul Ness, Carl Phillis, Deborah L. Raper, Sylvia Ridgway, Nigel Roe, Gail P. Somers, Lucy Sterezylo, Heidi E. Waterman, Konrad Wendt, Brenda Whiteway, and Hilda Woolnough.

Over the course of the exhibition to April 16, the public is invited to cast a vote for the work they think is the best in the show. The artist whose work receives the most votes over the course of the exhibition will win a cash award, courtesy of ARTSatlantic Magazine.


Dance umbrella showcases its best dancers with new choreography

by Treva McNally

 Out of more than 200 young students at dance umbrella, thirty of its best will be on the Main Stage of the Confederation Centre in February to present "Human...Nature." This twelve-year old dance school will be showcasing its young dancers in a program which also features guest artist, Judith Scherer, and dancer/choreographers, Trish Armstrong and Julia Sauvé.

The featured student dancers range in age from 12 to 17, and it's a joy to watch their athleticism, grace and love of performing as they combine ballet, modern dance and jazz set to a variety of music ranging from classical to Pink Floyd, with a little bit of country in between. Their rehearsals are incredible workouts and these young artists are tremendous athletes as well as good performers. At one rehearsals for the show, I watched them do a scene imitating models on the catwalk. They were able to exactly mimic the expressions and body language of the high-fashion models on Fashion Televison, and they had a great time doing it.

The show, which received assistance from the P.E.I. Council of the Arts and the Department of Education, combines the enthusiasm of the young dancers with the interpretive skills of the three older dancers. The company will dance to a series of works entitled "Crazy", set to the music of Patsy Cline. Julia Sauvé has created a piece for the young dancers called "Inflight" which celebrates winged creatures and flying.

Guest artist Trish Armstrong, who danced for 19 years with the Danny Grossman Company, choreographed two pieces, "Fish Kill" and "Clear Cut", which the company will dance. She was very upset by the fish kills in Island rivers which occurred while she was visiting here this past summer, and these two pieces express her passion for the environment. She will also perform a solo piece, "Vien ici, mon petit loup."

Julia and Trish will dance with student Shawna Van Omme in an excerpt from "Ecce Homo," a Danny Grossman piece inspired by paintings and drawings by Michelangelo. Island resident and guest artist, Judith Scherer, will be performing the premiere of her choreography, "Point virgule" which is set to electro-acoustic music by Jean-Francois Denis of Montreal.

Dance umbrella was started in 1988 by Julia Sauvé and Peggy Redden. Peggy, who studied to be a dance teacher at the National Ballet, is now the Director. The show is Friday, February 18th on the Main Stage at the Confederation Centre at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the Confederation Centre Box Office.

The Amazing Kreskin

The world's most famous mentalist communicates with The Buzz

by Treva McNally

Who is Kreskin? If you live in a small Canadian city and don't watch talk shows, you might be forgiven for thinking that Kreskin used to be a minor celebrity who had a TV show that ran in the 70s. You might be surprised to learn that he made 340 stage and television appearances last year, he appears regularly on David Letterman and on Regis and Kathy Lee, he performs for six weeks every year at Harrah's in Atlantic City, and he is a highly sought-after speaker for corporations and professional groups. And he's coming to Charlottetown in February.

At his web site, www., you can learn that he is an entertainer, a mentalist, an accomplished pianist, an author, and the inspiration for a play, a game and Johnny Carson's Carnac the Magnificent. He legally changed his name and now has no first name, although when one is required, he uses the initials T.A., as in "The Amazing".

I phoned him at his home in New Jersey. He's a warm, friendly man with a performer's ability to connect quickly with the audience, and I enjoyed the conversation. His charm may well be his public persona, but a person who is on the road as much as he is would have little time left for a private one.

He's also very entertaining and talkative, and it was hard to remember to ask questions. I wanted to know about his memorable performances (playing the piano at Carnegie Hall), his favourite TV host (Regis Philbin, who can make anyone feel comfortable), his work solving crimes (very depressing helping people remember things about horrific crimes), whether his friends are uncomfortable with his apparent ability to know what people are thinking (he only does his act on stage-it would be exhausting to do it all the time), and whether he could discern something about me over the telephone (it seemed rude to ask-I'll wait for the show).

I learned that Roseanne is the most difficult TV personality he's worked with because of her mental state, and he considered it a miracle that her show can be produced. He has a phenomenal memory on stage but he's very absent-minded in real life. And although he has been banned from several casinos including the MGM Grand for his card-counting ability, his friends do like to play `Pinochle' and `Hearts' with him.

A highlight of his stage show is to have the cheque for his performance hidden in the theatre. In over forty years, he has been unable to find the cheque only nine times, although it has been hidden under an audience member's upper plate, wedged into the coin return of a public telephone, and hidden in the lining of a coat. I wonder where it will be hidden in Charlottetown? I know I'll be in the audience waiting.

Somebody's Gotta Do It

Profile: Margie Carmichael

by Treva McNally

A wonderful summer for an Island entertainer would be one where you could make music, and not have to go far from home to do it. Margie Carmichael is having that kind of summer. She books the entertainment and sings at the Trailside Cafe, sings with Steve Sharratt or Roy Johnstone at several events, appears in Hold the Haggis at Orwell Corner every Monday and at the Arts Guild every Thursday, sang at the BIS and Orwell Corner with her sisters when two of them were home during the summer, will put on a workshop at the Poetry Fair in August, and is involved in the Storytelling Festival which is being held in September. As well Margie is part of Lasses All, a quartet of women who love music and have great fun playing it together. They played at various venues during the summer.

I met this multi-talented musician, singer and entertainer at the Trailside Cafe in Mount Stewart. It was my first visit there, and I was surprised by the activity at this off-the-beaten-path restaurant. The occasion was a musical evening called "Raspberry Jam" which Margie created by inviting three women to make music and entertain customers during their meal. The restaurant was busy all evening, both inside and on the deck outside, and everyone seemed to know Margie here in her home corner of P.E.I.

Although she wasn't one of the advertised singers for the evening, Margie started the evening off, playing her guitar and singing as she filled in for Sandra Gellatly who had been scheduled to perform. Next was singer/songwriter Cathy Grant who accompanied herself on the keyboard. The last singer was guitar-playing Christina Forgeron, whose strong, deep voice carried throughout the café. Christina appeared here again later in August, and said how much she appreciated the opportunity which Margie had given her to perform her music. At the end of the evening, the three women sang together and, although the trio work was unrehearsed, the harmonies were wonderful. I was disappointed when they stopped.

The next time I saw Margie was at Orwell Corner in Hold the Haggis which ran Monday nights all through the summer and continues into September. She appears with Wendell Boyle, Roy Johnstone and Steve Sharratt every Monday night, and their creation proved to be such a hit that it was added to the Arts Guild lineup in August. These four people have worked together in various combinations for years and their ease with one another is apparent. The show had comedy, music and wonderful audience participation as each of the performers had the opportunity to show off their talents: Steve's songs, Wendell's storytelling, Roy's fiddling, and Margie's comedy as Flora, cosmetician for a funeral home. When they got together musically, the results were marvelous, particularly their version of "Prince Edward Island is Heaven to Me".

Margie loves to make music, entertain and share her talents, and she spent this summer doing just that. For this Island entertainer, it just doesn't get any better.

Events Calendar

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Some Upcoming Events

PEI Symphony Orchestra

Guest conductor Dina Gilbert will lead  February 24
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February 15–18
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