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Notes From The Road
by Catherine MacLellan

A fiddle workshop with Tim Chaisson at the Haliburton Winter Folk Camp in Ontario (photo: Barb Fraser)As always, I’m gearing up to leave the Island again for a little voyage, this time to Ontario and am also thrilled for the East Coast Music Week to be hosted here in PEI. It’s been a long hard winter and with each day getting longer and brighter, I can feel the shadow of cold, winter darkness falling away.

This winter was full of surprises and bumps in the road but it was also sprinkled with moments of inspiration and community. I was lucky to attend the Haliburton Winter Folk Camp in Ontario as part of a PEI-themed weekend. I traveled alone down the long highway trail to Ontario to facilitate workshops alongside Teresa Doyle, Tim Chaisson, Chris Gauthier, Eve Goldberg, Tom Leighton and October Browne. It was a fabulous adventure.

The weekend was held at a lakeside camp, usually with hundreds of children running about, but for this camp it was inhabited by about 70 adult folk music players. Each night at the camp, after the daytime workshops, we would have concerts performed by the teachers and then more free-form song circles and jams for all the participants. The opening night was a highlight for me as I sat back and listened to Chris, Tim and October play traditional tunes for hours.

I was honoured to host the songwriting workshop and had a lovely group of about 10 people. We worked on different exercises to encourage inspiration and creativity. Often in these sort of situations, I would get my group to work on their own individual songs, but as we were holed up in a little cabin with frigid temperatures outdoors, we instead worked in smaller groups and wrote one song as a collective. It was wonderful and we ended up with a fantastically funny song about folk camp. I always find that facilitating songwriting workshops brings as much growth for me as for the rest of the participants.

Back at home, I had the great fortune of being a part of the International Women’s Day concert at The Guild. The audience was packed full of lovely people who brought as much to the show with their energy and excitement as the performers did. The show itself was a grand spectacle of amazing women who all brought their unique perspectives and creative songs. I have to say that my favourite moments were Meaghan Blanchard singing The Dress Song by Jack Marks and Irish Mythen’s ability to get a standing ovation in only 15 minutes. To end the night, we sang one of my new favourite sing alongs, Pete Seeger’s If I Had a Hammer. The crowd erupted into song with all of us performers on stage. It was a great night and a lovely reminder of just how much talent we have here in PEI.

As part of the board for the Friends of the Dunk, we’ve been gearing up once again for the beginnings of the outdoor shows held there, although it is hard to imagine with all of this ice and snow still piled outside of my door. April’s Young Performers Show will luckily be held indoors and will feature 3 young bands that I can’t wait to see. After that we head into the season for the Fiddlehead Social during the May long weekend. I’m crossing my fingers that this year we are blessed with warm, dry weather. Regardless, as with every other year, we will be there rain or shine. In fact, some of those rainy and cold outdoor events have been some of my favourites because it shows the hardcore, resilient nature of the performers and community that support these events. Still, with winter being shuffled slowly along, I am imagining swimming in salt water and days too hot to work.

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