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Musicians Swap Meet

James Cecil of The Landing organizes a new event in Summerside

by Michael Nesbitt

Artists build strong relationships with their tools, and often hang onto them long after the devices have served their initial purpose or the artist has moved beyond their usefulness. Musicians are counted among those who ache to part with the gear that has seen them through their early years, development of skill and changes in style.

But what if that used gear could find new life, helping another musician tread the same path? Would it not rejoice to once again see the light of day outside that storage cupboard, and fairly sing to once more handle the notes its creator intended?

James Cecil thinks so, and has organized the PEI Musician’s Swap Meet for October 2 at the Veterans’ Convention Centre in Credit Union Place at Summerside to give used equipment that chance for new life.

A musician and owner of The Landing in Tyne Valley, Cecil encountered such an opportunity in Hawaii and thought it might be a good idea for the East Coast music community as well.

“A music store in Honolulu had a swap meet in their parking lot every year. People came from all over to attend, and it was a great success. I never failed to find something I was looking for,” he recalled.

A musicians’ swap meet is like a flea market for musicians, or those with an interest in playing or performing whether in small bands or big bands, for school music programs, in an orchestral arrangement or individually on a stool. Participants can buy, sell or trade used or vintage instruments, amps, PAs, effects pedals—anything related to “live” music applications.

These days, many people looking for equipment might turn to the internet, but there is a lack of interaction with that option, both with instruments and the artists who used them.

“It’s a good social opportunity to meet with the owners of the equipment and to network with musicians of all genres,” Cecil notes.

“It doesn’t hurt to make a little money, too, which can be turned around to buy something else of interest!”

The event takes place 12–6 pm and is designed for equipment associated with live music. Artists are invited to sell their own music as well. Cecil is willing to take consignment items—maximum 3 per seller—at a 15% commission, but knows that the real value is in connecting sellers and buyers directly.

Display tables are available at a cost of $5, while General Admission is $2. All proceeds, over costs of the event, support development of the new Prince County Blues Society.

Following the swap meet, a Saturday evening social is planned starting with an Open Mic (maybe some new-to-you equipment can get its first play), followed by live entertainment with The Blueprints.

Registration and information are available at 432-1234.

The Landing Re-opens

New owners of Tyne Valley pub to offer live music again

by Michael Nesbitt

James Cecil, new owner of The Landing Oyster House and Pub in Tyne ValleyThe Landing Oyster House and Pub is once again open for music, dining and the pleasures of an intimate venue.

James Cecil and his partner, Julie Coffey, gave up the Pacific-edge paradise of Victoria, BC., to invest in the pastoral pleasures of PEI. “I was working in a group home, a community support worker with disabled adults, and Julie was a surgical tech at a hospital,” he notes of their backgrounds. “We thought we would do something less stressful, like open up a pub-restaurant,” he laughs.

The economic reality of PEI versus other, more populous, locales is what weighted their decision. Cecil figures such an opportunity would have cost three or four times as much in Alberta or Toronto, for example, putting it out of their economic reach. Their decision was tipped by the hope that The Landing would be a semi-retirement plan: they had lived in a lot of different places and are hoping that the move to PEI will be their last one.

They recognize the challenge of running their facility in this village, but have decided to keep it open through the winter. They maintain the name because of its familiarity with the locals, an effort to build on the level of success it was able to achieve for former owner Matt McGuire.

As for why they would choose such a radical shift of careers, it turns out to be much less surprising. “I was, actually, an entertainer. I played music for a long time, most of my adult years,” Cecil revealed. He played keyboard and harmonica with bands in locales as far-flung as Hawaii and Wisconsin. He came to the Island last May and happened to participate in jams at Baba’s Lounge in Charlottetown, experiences that heightened his interest in the opportunity The Landing presented.

“I met The Blueprints, and jammed with them, and really got a good feel for the place. There are a lot of great musicians here,” he recognized, adding that Coffey is a singer as well.

“I fell in love with this place…130-year-old building…,” he noted of the 63-seat facility, adding that they consider themselves people-persons well suited to the demands of the enterprise. They are living in the accommodations above the restaurant as did the McGuires. “I think it’s every musician’s dream, to own his own pub and have his own space,” he laughs.

Open since October 27, The Landing operates Wednesdays 4 to 11 pm, Thursdays to Saturdays 4 pm to 1 am and Sundays from 2 to 9 pm. The menu features full dining until 8 pm, changing to a pub menu until closing. Cecil notes that he supports responsible socializing, offering free soda or coffee for designated drivers.

The Landing has already created a following for its live music and Thursday Trivia nights with Jeff Noye. Bookings can be arranged with The Landing at 831-2992.


The Gaelic Spirit

Highland Storm

Review by Michael Nesbitt

The College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada is showing another side of its personality to audiences attending the Celtic Festival event this year. Highland Storm ­ Voyage of the Gaelic Spirit is a departure from the College’s familiar ceilidh format, in favour of a theatrically-oriented presentation of the origins, development and future of a culture which is the inheritance of an Island population of nearly seventy percent Scottish and Irish ancestry.

The 12-scene production continues the Celtic Festival’s intent to showcase the talents of the College’s students. Through dance, music, song and action, backed by narrative voice-over, Highland Storm portrays the Scottish origins of the music and dance, dispossession from the homeland, development in the New World, cross-cultural influences and, eventually, resurgence ­ and by implication, the reason the College of Piping now exists. Thirty dancers, drummers and pipers fill multiple character and performance roles. While youth is evident in the performance characters, some of the dancers have more than 10 years experience in their Celtic craft. MacAulay notes that the youth orientation is part of the nature of the craft, with 21 being retirement age for many involved in competitive performing. Their efforts are augmented by College friends such as Timothy Chaisson, Elmer Deagle and Mylene Ouellette, who make up the House Band, vocalists Tracy Cantin, Victoria Gallant and Sydney Phelan, Gemini Award-winning Director and Choreography Consultant Shelagh O’Brien, who is a former champion Highland dancer, alumni Brad Fremlin and Colleen Taylor-MacMillan, as well as family and friends of college students who have invested time and effort in costuming, stage management and other duties.

This is also the first year that the show has had auditions for parts in the production.“Inspiring excellence is part of our mission statement and that plays to the mission. It is an achievement to be selected among the 30 performers from among more than 400 students,” College of Piping Director Scott MacAulay notes.

Highland Storm is fulfilling its mandate with audiences as well. Kayla and Kirk MacLeod of Edmonton had put the production on their vacation list and were pleased to have children Larisia, 13, and Kaia, 8, gain an appreciation for the music and culture presented.


Come to the Ceilidh

by Michael Nesbitt

Kim Vincent and Patricia Murray at the Ceilidh

The College of Piping in Summerside continues to expand its reputation through its summer show "Come to the Ceilidh" and free mid-day mini concerts.

Recording artist Patricia Murray hosts the event, presented Sunday–Thursday evenings during the summer in the College amphitheatre on Water Street. Though she is juggling the show with weekend concert and festival dates elsewhere in the Maritimes and Ontario, she welcomes the opportunity to be involved in the event and to have the opportunity to perform with musicians Kim Vincent and Brad Fremlin. "My style of music is based on my relationship to the College: I took Gaelic lessons here, and used to teach the bodhran, but it was mostly through the ceilidhs and concert series that I started getting into the music and performing; and I learned how to host from here. I love the environment here and really believe in what they are doing, so that is why I want to spend my time here."

Murray performs a variety of her work during the two-hour show, accompanied by Vincent and Fremlin who also individually feature their talents, but it is the College's own repertoire of talent that provides the mix for which ceilidhs are known. Skilled piping from college students like New Zealander Rowan Manson and Summerside's Nick VanOuwerkerk envelop the audience in classic Celtic culture and provide rousing backup for highland dancers. The college's band provides a bone-tingling drum beat for its numbers and Brad Fremlin's solo is only a tap short of mesmerizing.

Laugh in any Language

Coming Home

Review by Michael Nesbitt

In the heart of the Evangeline region, the last thing one would expect to find is an English-language dinner theatre. At Le Village in Mont Carmel, La Cuisine à Mémé makes that option available with its production of Coming Home.

This is the second year in a row that La Cuisine has added an English show to its traditional summer schedule, staging it Tuesdays and Fridays at 7 pm through to the Labour Day weekend. The three-act show is a translated version of last year's French presentation, giving the performers the opportunity to bring it to a different audience.

"I love getting back to the English versions," says actor Wayne Robichaud. "Who are you trying to sell to? You sell to those who don't already have it!" he explains regarding the appeal of serving a slice of Acadian culture to English audiences.

Portraying that culture in English does have a cost, however, in that the humour usually generated by the Acadian contrast with standard French is lost and the irony of a Mayor of Mont Carmel or St. Timothée Television is easily overlooked by those not familiar with the region.

Written and directed by Paul D. Gallant, Coming Home wraps a humourous façade around the difficult reunion of Mémé (Diane Racette) and her worldly sister Évangéline (Velma Fortune) who had fled the hometown years before. Both women have become famous in their own right but harbour jealous resentment towards each other.

The characters highlight the dichotomy between the shell and the core of the piece: the unpredictable Mayor, Gélas Richard (Robichaud) draws huge laughs as he tries to manage his stress and attempts to maximize his opportunities with reporter Edwina Deveau (Jolene Sonier), while Annette Richard (Caroline Bernard) is more somber, acting as peacemaker between the muted Mémé and Evangeline and ensuring her father maintains an even keel. The bridge is the incomprehensible exchange student Biomi Lavisilopostitusivilidi (Adrien Aucoin) who understands little of either theme.

Ten musical numbers are included in Coming Home, including three originals by Gallant. The music strongly reflects the Acadian base of the theatre and includes French and English lyrics as well as instrumental numbers. Eight of the songs are performed in a single set at the end of the show to evident audience appreciation. Tickets for Coming Home are available at the Le Village box office, 854-2227.

A Display of Talent

College of Piping: Come to the Ceilidh

Review by Michael Nesbitt

Tom Leighton, centre, has his hands full as special guest performer with Come to the Ceilidh host Mark Haines and College of Piping drummer Brad Fremlin. Photo: Michael Nesbitt

This concert series is a showcase for the talent developed at the College of Piping, with generous contributions from host Mark Haines and a variety of special guests to keep the show fresh all summer long.

Come to the Ceilidh is a two-hour show that begins at 7 pm Mondays to Thursdays until August 30. It is staged in the Mary Ellen Burns Amphitheatre, located behind the College on Water Street East in Summerside. A Gala Performance will also be held at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown September 22 at 8 pm.

Haines was involved with the College's shows last year and is pleased to now host the event. "We are trying to promote the College but we are also trying to promote the Island. If we can promote just a good feeling, with some good music, and offer everything that we have at the highest quality that we can, then I think that is reflective of Prince Edward Island."

Haines and College drummer Brad Fremlin comprise the `house band' to perform more than a half-dozen tunes throughout the event. Fremlin also joins the College Pipe Band during their numbers, beats a duet with a piper and performs a wicked solo.

Guest artists are often included as well. Haines wouldn't reveal the summer's full line-up but Tom Leighton, his regular musical partner, joined the duo for several weeks in July and Patricia Murray is slated for August. As for other guests, Haines teased: "You'll just have to keep coming to see the surprises."

In addition to the music, step and highland dance groups perform several numbers each and soloists Colleen Taylor and Kristin Shea match their talents to jigs, reels and the hornpipe. The audience also gets to learn a little about the mechanics of the bagpipe and of the history of the development of the College during the past 11 years.

Haines is effective as host, providing some welcome humour and drawing the audience into the show. His shameless, emotional, intermission sales pitch for his new CD, Optimist Jig, and College's own stock of music and memorabilia was accepted in the spirit intended.

Each show unfolds in a unique manner depending on the musicians, dancers and College participants performing on the day...just perfect when you have a whole summer to enjoy!

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