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2019 Island Fringe Festival

Now taking applications The 2019 Island Fringe Festival takes place August 1–4. As always, t [ ... ]

Be an In-School Mentor

Who can be a mentor? You can! Kids need real people with real experience to help them realize their  [ ... ]

Touring Australia

Connecting Prince Edward Island to the land down under

by Teresa Doyle

Teresa Doyle (front left) at Woodford Folk Festival in AustraliaThere’s a reason why Island musicians love Australia. In fact a few good reasons, the first being The Woodford Folk Festival. Paper Lions, Ward MacDonald, Richard Wood and Gordon Belsher, Irish Mythen, and other Islanders have played there. 

This year my son Patrick Bunston and I were invited and The East Pointers were back by popular demand. Patrick and I would just tell people we were from East Point Island, enough said!

Woodford is impossible to describe. It is so massive, so creative, so life affirming with a program the size of the PEI phone book. The festival is a tent city with 2000 performers, 35 stages, lectures, a postal service, folk medicine, crafts, a strong environmental ethic and a hippie vibe. We chose to stay in tents on site to take it all in.

Over 120,000 people attend the six day event and despite these massive numbers it always feels laid back, safe and fun. Hundreds of people take part in the opening and closing ceremonies spending months building gigantic puppets and creating dance and choir pieces. It was awe-inspiring.

For the ceremonies we joined our fellow Islanders to marvel at the beauty and imagination of the human spirit. Patrick and I did six shows in all ranging from children’s music to kirtan (chanting). Our favourite was the Canadian songs of Happiness show with the The East Pointers, Digging Roots, Small Glories and Alysha Brilla.

After the intensity of Woodford, Patrick and I were happy to spend a week near the beach in Maroochydore at the home of a friend I made in India last year. It’s wonderful to share these adventures with my son. Patrick returned to university in early January and I stayed on for a few more weeks to play at The Cygnet Folk Festival in Tasmania.

Tasmania has a strong connection to Prince Edward Island through the writing community and the Institute of Island Studies. Tassie has a Maritime vibe. The land is hilly and lush with lots of beautiful farms. Cherries and apricots were in season.

At Cygnet I was asked to do a master vocal class on chanting. One of the attendees invited me to spend a few days with her after the festival. She worked with the Dali Lama for several years and had great stories to tell and taught me a number of Tibetan songs that I will be sharing at my chanting classes (Tuesdays at The Vessel, 171 Great George St, 4:45 pm).

Other trip highlights were performing in small towns like Maryborough and Nanango, meeting an Aboriginal shaman named Gootala Doyle with enough Irish blood to give him green eyes, and a trip to Lady Elliot Island at the south end of the Great Barrier Reef.

Australia is an incredible country and a month is just a taste. We felt very at home there, like being with distant cousins for the first time. We were warmly welcomed and can't wait to return.

The heart of India

Teresa Doyle recounts her latest travel experience

Submitted by Teresa Doyle

Russill Paul and Teresa Doyle in southern IndiaWesterners have been flocking to India for eons to experience all the flavours and colours of this amazing place. My journey was not as a tourist but rather as a student of Vedic chant, the oldest songs on the planet. I’ve long been interested in how people use their voices is cultures around the world and the vocal traditions of South India are perhaps the deepest and most complex.

I went to study with Russill Paul. I first met Russill a decade ago in New York, later in Montreal and did a three year program with him online. Russill was born in Chennai to a Bollywood actress. As a teenager he became a young rock star but soon left that lifestyle to renounce the world and become a monk. Five years later he fell in love, left India and became a professor in California. For the past twenty years he has traveled the world sharing his knowledge of music and philosophy. I was part of a group of his students who gathered at a remote ashram on the banks of the Cauvery River in Tamil Nadu in southern India. The ashram is a curious mix of ancient Christian and Hindi influences and is home to a full fledged dairy farm.

As soon as we arrived we dived into learning a complex set of Vedic mantras that date back more than 3000 years. Learning these chants allowed us entry into temples that are generally closed to Westerners. The temples of South India are a sight to behold, some complex sites to rival Vatican City, others remote mountain top locations. The remote ones are more interesting, usually involving a climb of three or four hundred steps cut into the mountainside. Our studies were rewarded by participating in rituals that have been performed in these temples for more than a thousand years. The locals seemed rather surprised to hear us chant their ancient Sanskrit songs.

Curiously Russill and I noted similarities between Sanskrit and Gaelic words, Celtic and Vedic customs and rhyme schemes. When I sang a keening song from Ireland he heard a strong link to Tamil folksongs. This link is one of the reasons I’ve long been drawn to Indian music and I'll continue to explore this connection. There is a theory that the Celts came from India.

For the second half of the month we stayed put at the ashram and maintained silence when we were not singing. Russill taught us a vocabulary of tools to bring us into a state of mindfulness and presence. Most evenings we walked a few kilometers on the banks of the Cauvery to prepare for our climb up Mount Arunachala near the end of our trip. The temple at Mount Arunachala is beyond description. We got there at the end of a 42-day ceremony that happens once every 12 years to re-ignite the energy of the temple and indeed the energy was truly mind blowing. The following day we climbed the mountain to a cave where India’s last great holy man spent 50 years. The whole experience was life altering and I’ll be digesting it for some time to come.

I can’t wait to return to India, the land where even the poorest of the poor has a winning smile and a sparkle in the eye that we rarely see on this side of the planet. I’ll be sharing all that I learned with my singing students in classes, workshops and Kirtans (call and response chanting concerts) around the country in the months to come.

Going political

Teresa Doyle puts her music in the service of her campaign

by Teresa Doyle

Teresa Doyle (photo: pixbylorne)Growing up on a family farm there was always music, stories, and yes, politics. The songs I learned as a child spoke of the hardships and struggles of my Irish and Scottish heritage. My Dad’s favourite was The Wind That Shakes the Barley, a song from the Irish struggles.

Like many farm kids, Dad left school very young, but read the paper every day of his life. Heated discourse was encouraged and made for good sport, people were well informed and had strong views. Little wonder then that I gravitated to 4-H public speaking and debating teams, and then on to U.P.E.I. for a degree in Political Science. I intended to be an Ombudswoman. But one song changed all that—I learned Lawrence Doyle’s, Prince Edward Isle, Adieu. Written in the 1880s, the song is still as relevant today, a lament about the rich getting richer and the young folk having to leave for work.

One night in the Yukon, I sang Prince Edward Isle, Adieu at a music party. The artistic director from The Winnipeg Folk Festival and Stan Rogers both heard the song. Stan and I became fast friends, The Winnipeg Folk Festival hired me, and that song set me on course for a lifetime in the music business.

So why politics? Why now? For me, our country has never been in such a critical state. It keeps me up at nights. There are so many attacks on the things we love —democracy, nature, our water, science

Songs are the way I know how to communicate, and I have just released a new CD, I Remember Canada. As part of my campaign I am doing open houses with music around the riding, bringing the neighbours together to talk on various issues. The Green Party is all about grassroots problem solving.

There’s a groundswell for change, for a return to a country with strong values where we take care of each other. Politicians are usually the last to sense change. Artists are like the canaries in a coal mine. It’s our job to be visionaries. I may not always know how to get the job done, but like my Dad, I have strong ideas, and perhaps a few good songs to bring to the party.

To see the schedule of events or request an evening go to www.teresadoylegreenparty.com or call me at 969-0367. To hear the songs visit www.teresadoyle.bandcamp.com.

Yukon Home Routes

Teresa Doyle reports from Klondike country

by Teresa Doyle

Teresa Doyle and Joe Jack in Dawson City at 8:38 pmSitting here, pre-show in my old local, the infamous Snake Pit bar, Westminster Hotel, Dawson City, the patrons are abuzz with the latest discovery—a dozen coffins filled with people executed at the Gallows during the gold rush days. The remains are perfectly preserved in this cold dry climate and closely guarded, their teeth are full of gold. It’s just another day in Dawson City—except for me, it’s 25 years since I’ve lived here. I’ve traveled far and wide since then, and still, Dawson remains the most colourful place I’ve ever been.

This is the final stop on my Home Routes Yukon tour. Tonight’s show is sold out, so we added an impromptu happy hour show here at my old local. Lots of familiar faces, five of us who worked on The White Pass and Yukon Route railroad in 1975. There are lots of tears when I sing my song for dearly departed rogue Ronnie MacPhee, Maritime fisherman and gold prospector.

This tour has been stellar start to finish. Two weeks of full on sun, music, food, friends, wild life, mountain roads. I spent eight summers and a winter here as a young adult. Every curve in the road brought back memories.

Home Routes is not for the faint of heart—twelve shows in two weeks, breaking camp every day, 3,500 kilometers, lots of wild life—moose, caribou, coyotes, foxes. It was my favorite tour ever! Playing with harmonica master George McConkey in Dawson brought me full circle. George played with me at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1980, my first big break after singing at the The Farrago Folk Festival where Home Routes founder/director, Mitch Podolak heard me and hired me for the Winnipeg gig, literally setting me on my life long journey in music.

Overall highlights? Sharing the stage with Mayo Native elder Jimmy Johnny; visiting the tiny cabin of First Nation’s elder, Joe Jack’s grandmother. On this visit, Joe Jack told me stories about his grandmother, her life as a medicine woman. And then there is the food and the music: feasting on smoked salmon, moose stew and other Yukon delicacies; all the wonderful Yukon musicians I shared the stage with; and meeting extra-ordinary people willing to open their homes and hearts to bring live music to their isolated communities. They loved my eclectic mix of Gaelic, swing, Celtic, Latin and country tunes.

I’m so grateful to Mitch for bringing me back to the Yukon and a treasured time in my past, I can’t wait to go back!

Hello from St. John’s

News from Sound Symposium in Newfoundland

by Teresa Doyle

Hello from Sound Symposium, in St. John’ Newfoundland. This is hands down the best festival I have ever attended. I have been to a ton of folk festivals but this is so much better. There is a great mix of genres…some folk, cutting edge classical, jazz…dancers, filmakers, art installations…and the town itself that is a “piece of work.” The cab drivers alone are worth a visit. All have degrees in Nfld humor. Suits Kate [Poole] and I to a tee!

The music has been amazing. Highlights include Trichy Sankaran, maestro of the mrdangam, a double headed East Indian drum. Other favorites are SAFA, a Persion Trio, and Autorickshaw, jazz East Indian fusion.

As for Kate and I, we have been very busy. We did a concert set opening night. We did an improvised set with extended vocal techniques, digeridoo, djembi, water phone, singing bowls, sruti box and water drum. Our piece evoked the four elements of earth, water, fire and air. We were very well received and have been invited to do a number of other events with different performers. Hear our concert later in the year on CBC Two New Hours.

Bill Brennan and I did another concert set on Tuesday. He played keyboard on my Orrachan album. We did some ancient Irish Gaelic pieces together. Tonight 35 of us are creating a massive improv together. Our part is with an opera singer and saxophone. Tomorrow night I am performing an improvised piece with Suba Sankaran of Autorickshaw. It is rather cool to weave Celtic and East Indian vocals. The Celts did indeed originate in The Himalayas so there is a thread. I find some common ground in the vocal ornamentation.

As for the Sound Sculpture project at Rock Barra—Kate and I will be hitting the ground running on that as soon as we get back. We have a ton of new ideas, We are collecting some very cool stuff and meeting lots of great folks around the eastern end of the Island. We are beginning to discover that dairy barns have some useful items for our sculpture—stainless steel is very useful, it resonates very well. To that end we are putting out the call to farmers and fishermen for old stainless steel bulk tanks, wooden barrels, bells of any kind. Some pulleys would be helpful as well. We have a great team coming together and invite interested people to get in touch—farmers, fishermen, welders, builders, musicians.

Events Calendar

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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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