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Prepare for emergency

EMO PEI offers a presentation entitled 72 Hour Emergency Preparedness on being prepared to care for  [ ... ]

A Course in Miracles

Every Friday evening at 7 pm a group meets for an in depth study and discussion of the text “A Cou [ ... ]

100 Mile Shopping

Finding fairs and wares close to home

by Peggy Miles

Elly Cash, production manager, Right Off the Batt PotteryI’ve decided to partake in the 100 Mile Diet—except I’m going to apply the concept to my holiday shopping this year. That means I’ll be “shopping local” and aiming to purchase gifts, holiday décor and table trimmings that have been produced on PEI.

It’s craft fair season on the Island and what better place to get everything I’ll need for a homegrown holiday season but the Three Oaks Craft Fair in Summerside? It takes place November 6 to 8 and features approximately 150 new and returning vendors. Selection is vast, with crafters filling every nook and cranny of the school.

In perusing the vendors list, I am pleased to discover that there will be lots of great gift items to choose from—pottery, glass art, candles and something called “Walnut Wonders.” I’m intrigued. I am happy to see that well known Island authors David Weale, Julie Watson and Clinton Morrison will be on hand with published works. There’ll also be greeting cards to take care of my Christmas correspondence needs, and fresh greenery, which will really spruce up my home’s interior (pardon the pun). Party preparation will be made easy with fudge, apple cider mix, preserves and gourmet dips. Tip for first time visitors: stop by the cafeteria to find the ever popular shortbread cookies and carrot cake, sugary goodness regular fair-goers are familiar with.

But hang on…I’ve just discovered that the traveling fair known as Ten Thousand Villages is coming to town the exact same weekend. It’s a non-profit organization that works with thousands of talented artisans from low-income countries, acquiring their wares at reasonable prices, and selling them at festivals and community centres across North America.

Will this blow my concept of buying local this year? Well, perhaps. But as much as I think shopping local is an important social and economic practice, supporting the mandate of Ten Thousand Villages helps to bring awareness to important global issues. The organization communicates that it’s all about “commerce with a conscience,” helping individuals from around the world to “be gainfully employed in a job that brings dignity and joy.”

I am familiar with their product offerings, and recommend checking out their selection of world music. They also have funky jewellery, cool hand woven baskets, and chocolate bars that taste like nothing I’ve ever had before.

As a consumer with a conscience, I feel good about supporting both of these events.

Ten Thousand Villages will be set up in Summerside on Friday, November 6 from 10 am to 8 pm and Saturday, November 7 from 10 am to 5 pm. You can check it out right after you finish at Three Oaks, since they’ll be set up directly across from the school at the Summerside Presbyterian Church.

The Three Oaks Craft Fair takes place Friday, November 6 from 11:30 am to 9 pm, Saturday, November 7 from 10 am to 6 pm, and Sunday, November 8 from 12 noon to 5 pm.

The Scarecrows of Summerside

Fall harvest and Halloween inspire the community to populate with pumpkin people

by Peggy Miles

Creative team members George and Nick Maros (missing Chris Coleman) with their creation Braveheart—the College of Piping entry on display at Kool Breeze Farms.Don’t be silly, Toto. Scarecrows don’t talk.” You might agree with Dorothy, but think about the fun of spending an afternoon in conversation with straw-stuffed mannequins in a land far from home. Why disappear into dreamland when you can get the same experience in Summerside over the next few weeks?

This small city’s population is on the rise—at least for the month of October, as a plethora of pumpkin people invade the community.

Let me take you on a virtual tour, sharing just where you’ll find these creatures of autumn. Let’s begin at Kool Breeze Farms on the edge of town, just east of Reads Corner. Kool Breeze bills itself as “PEI’s largest garden centre and seasonal Christmas store.” As you make your way up their driveway, you’ll be greeted by scarecrows aplenty, all part of the garden centre’s annual Scarecrow Contest, which officially kicked off in September. The public was invited to design and display their most creative straw stuffed citizens and burlap buddies. Picture traditional scarecrows alongside quirky hobgoblins dressed as accountants. Located in a field adjacent to the greenhouses you’ll find farm equipment, animals and more, all constructed out of round towering hay bales, a bit of colour and a few embellishments. The scarecrows will be on display at Kool Breeze until October 26.

Heading toward Summerside’s downtown core, there are more hollow heads to be found waving from the side of the road and hiding behind street lights. If you start to get the feeling that multiple sets of eyes are gazing upon you, well, they are! Just park yourself on the nearest bench to settle your nerves. Don’t let the man with the orange head sitting next to you cause you to get flustered. The city-centre display is initiated by Downtown Summerside and received an award from the International Downtown Association last year for their scarecrow project. This year the outdoor scarecrow display takes place from October 1 to 5, but you can spot them in storefront displays all month long.

Continuing along toward the All Weather Highway, there’s no way you’ll be able to accidentally drive by Compton’s Vegetable Stand. Compton’s veggie shed is surrounded by bright orange gourds of all shapes and sizes, plus an entire village of pumpkin people. Business Operator Sheila Compton estimates she has been setting up her community of pumpkin heads for over 15 years and enjoys doing it because “It puts a smile on everybody’s face.” Before her fall friends get staked in the ground, she spends a lot of time sourcing and making outfits for each one, ensuring they are presentable for visitors.

I suggest grabbing your family, friends and camera, and exploring Summerside’s fall festivities taking place all this month.

MacGillivray Appointed

Kendra MacGillivray is the new executive director at the College of Piping

by Peggy Miles

Kendra MacGillivray

You can tell that the word “relationship” is a central theme in Kendra MacGillivray’s life. I recently sat down with the College of Piping’s new executive director, and it was soon apparent that a strong sense of connection with the people, places and things around her is important.

She’s a person who instantly puts you at ease and has a smile that makes you feel like you have formed an instant connection. The College itself has a pleasant atmosphere with friendly staff and bright rooms, and something about MacGillivray’s dark blond curls and rosy cheeks makes her fit right in.

Many may identify her as a talented fiddler, highland dancer and performer. She is that, but as she suggests, her experience as an entrepreneur—both managing her own career as well as running a music school—will serve her well in her new role. Having a business degree from St. FX and being involved in the world of commerce have taught the College’s new leader about the importance of marketing and promotion, as well as how to deal with a range of different personalities.

MacGillivray is looking forward to building her connections with fellow College employees, instructors and supporters. She indicates that she’s received great support from her team whom she praises for helping her through this transition period. She prides herself on being a “great listener” and has her sights set on being a motivator to staff and students.

MacGillivray reflects that the events and programs hosted at the facility don’t come together overnight and take an “incredible amount of hours” contributed by many people. She has a genuine appreciation for the collaboration that occurs to make the College what she calls a “cultural place that passes on Celtic traditions, enriching people’s lives.”

I ask how she plans to carry on late founding Executive Director Scott MacAulay’s legacy. MacGillivray knew MacAulay personally and she clearly has great respect for the foundation he laid. She plans on continuing “all the hard work he’s put into it.” And in the process she’ll use her own experiences to enhance what already exists. She’d love to see fiddle lessons taught at the institute, and a long term goal is to offer instruction in Gaelic singing.

For now, MacGillivray has been asking lots of questions and gaining knowledge that will help her to develop a solid plan to lead the College into the future. She is passionate about teaching and performing and indicates she’s “not going to let that go,” yet is still working out the details of balancing that with other managerial demands.

Just new on the job, she, along with her TV personality husband Bruce Rainnie and CBC weatherman Boomer Gallant, recently took the College stage for a fundraising concert in aid of the local food bank, where she was “flooded with welcome.” She says it was the perfect combination of bringing together everything important to her. Sounds like Kendra MacGillivray’s relationship with the College of Piping is off to a great start.

Secrets of Marriage

The Fourposter

by Peggy Miles

This summer’s production of The Fourposter at the Montgomery Theatre in Cavendish deals with the resilience and contrasting rigidity of marriage. The clever romantic comedy is brought to life by Margaret Smith as Agnes and Kevin Curran as Michael. The play begins as blushing bride Agnes is carried over the threshold by her groom Michael into their bedroom and thus the four poster bed. It’s the year 1890, and over the next two hours the story of their marriage is played out in the setting of their boudoir until 1925 when it’s time for the couple to move on.

The play is not simply a tale of a thirty-five year marriage filled with adoration and devotion. Yes, there are moments of love struck youth as well as affection and longevity, but there is also anguish and disloyalty. Smith effectively hones herself as Agnes and portrays a range of emotions from giddy innocence to haughty righteousness as well as concealed vulnerability. Michael, played by Curran, successfully portrays his character as a bumbling romanticist who brims with melodrama. He has a likeable soft side, in contract to Agnes’ sensible nature. Together they do justice to playwright Jan de Hartog’s theatrical production and hold the viewer’s attention.

Even though the story spans over three decades, as an audience member it’s easy to keep up with the transitions through time. The story contains many of the markers of married life—parenting, ageing, infidelity, and partnership.

Amusing is the quirky changeover routine where Smith and Curran perform a few brief dance steps set to period music, followed by the two performers moving set pieces off stage before they reappeared for the next scene.

As much a focal point as the characters themselves are the costumes worn by the performers. Smiths’ character is outfitted in replicas of LM Montgomery’s clothing including a stand-out floor length white wedding dress that is elegant yet modest. The play offers a lesson in fashion, as characters move from humble fashions common in the late 1800s, to more elaborate garments as the couple encounters financial success, and then a more conservative wardrobe with age.

Also worth mentioning is the programme that is handed out at the door. It’s a great take-home piece and includes several educational insights on Island life and L. M. Montgomery herself. I especially enjoy the “secrets of marriage” perspectives from several notable Island folk.

The Montgomery Theatre at Avonlea Village is a wonderful setting in which to honour the legacy of Lucy Maud Montgomery through plays from the life and times of our most famous Island author. Retired church pews and a few wooden chairs act as audience seating and the setting can’t get any more intimate as most of the audience members are just feet from the actors onstage. Visiting newlyweds and those celebrating golden anniversaries will all enjoy The Fourposter.

Highland High Spirits

Highland Storm

by Peggy Miles

I’m not a clapper. You know—like when you’re at a concert and the onstage performer starts clapping their hands over their head to get the audience to join in? I prefer to sit quietly and take it all in.

But I have to say, I simply couldn’t help myself at a recent viewing of Highland Storm: The Gael, showing at the College of Piping in Summerside. By the final number, the charm exuding from the energetic performers overtook me, and I found the palms of my hands being forced together in rhythm, as I tapped my toes along with the rest of the audience.

Before I saw the show I had already heard rumblings from the Summerside locals about how great it was and comments on how it had really developed from years past. After seeing the show, I understand what all the buzz is about.

Right from the opening number, the colour and vibrancy of the performers—pipers, drummers, step and highland dancers—grab your attention.

There were lots of fundamentals you’d expect to see: bagpipes, kilts, and Gaelic singing. And if you’re a fan of those elements, you’ll be pleased with what you’ll find onstage. With 2009 being the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robbie Burns, the Burns set featuring My Heart’s in the Highlands and Auld Lang Syne resonated with me (and the ‘fog’ that mysteriously appeared onstage added a cool effect too).

Contemporary (and cleverly cheeky) performances existed as well. The “Drum vs. Step” piece in the first act was a fun little number slightly reminiscent of a West Side Story dance scene. But of course all ends well as drummers and step-dancers (clad in jeans) share handshakes at the end.

Probably the performance I liked best was “Dueling Pipers,” where two macho bagpipers battle it out—nose to nose at times—in an attempt to win the affections of a young lady. The colourful and lively Acadian set was also a favourite.

And I would be remise if I did not mention the talented house band featuring songstress Patricia Murray, as well as the skillful fingers of Brad Fremlin on keyboard, and Roy Johnstone on fiddle. Each was able to hold their own in the spotlight, and as a threesome they provided a well-rounded backing sound throughout the entire performance.

This show not only upholds the College’s reputation as a cultural pillar of Summerside, but really makes the performing arts institution shine. My eyes were captivated by the intricate choreography and colourful costumes, while my ears were delighted by both lively sounds and sweet soothing harmonies. And the young performers really excelled—so full of personality!

You’ll walk away from this show in high spirits, the sound of bagpipes resonating in your head. I give this show a rousing tilt of the tam in approval.

Highland Storm: The Gael plays Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings until August 27 at the College of Piping in Summerside.

Highland Storm Returns

by Peggy Miles

Stephanie Cadman will be artistic director of this year’s Highland Storm.

Highland Storm will return to the College of Piping in Summerside this July and August showcasing a larger, louder, and livelier production. The show will weave together music and dance and will be performed in the College’s amphitheatre all summer long.

The production will include close to 30 performers made up of drummers, pipers and dancers. The house band features the well known local talent of Roy Johnstone, Brad Fremlin, and Patricia Murray.

For audiences who appreciate Celtic traditions and the swirl of the kilt they won’t be disappointed. But the festival will also have modern elements including costume changes of jeans and t-shirts.

In tribute to the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scottish poet Robbie Burns, there’ll be a unique segment featuring Burns poetry set to dance. And while the show will feature many recognizable Scottish elements, there’ll also be some Acadian and Irish interjections as well.

Stephanie Cadman is the show’s choreographer and artistic director. Cadman’s background is in musical theatre and she has performed professionally as an actress, dancer, singer and fiddler for over 10 years. Cadman has previously been active as a member of the Charlottetown Festival, performing in Anne of Green Gables and Canada Rocks. She also created, choreographed and performed in the 2006 show Celtic Blaze as part of the Charlottetown Festival. Cadman currently resides in Toronto.

As for her involvement with Highland Storm, she’s looking to raise the bar and produce a “sleek looking show.” Cadman believes a good show provides the audience with moments of gut wrenching laughter, followed by moments of tears. She indicates that this year’s event will take spectators through a variety of emotions, and she hopes that they will be impressed by how well the show flows and how professional it looks.

Many of the College’s students will be part of this summer’s event. Their chance to perform in a quality production like Highland Storm further hones their skills, and provides them with an array of future opportunities related to the arts.

The College’s amphitheatre will be refreshed this summer with a new backdrop and set pieces for the show. Side runways will also be added to the stage, allowing audiences to more closely interact with performers.

Highland Storm runs Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from July 7–August 27 at 7:30 pm.

Drum Roll, Please

Island drummers head to festival in Cape Breton

by Peggy Miles

Student Bray Schurman and teacher Moe Hashie are attending the Cape Breton International Drum Festival

Two Summerside drummers will be on their way to Cape Breton at the end of May to participate in the acclaimed Cape Breton International Drum Festival. This marks the first time the festival will have performances from PEI participants.

The event is in its ninth year and takes place at the Savoy Theatre in Glace Bay on May 23 and 24. It features a plethora of well known drummers, as well as clinics and sessions for drum educators. A tradeshow featuring percussion and drum equipment is also part of the festival.

The event has become known as “one of the world’s premier drumming and percussion events” and founders Bruce and Gloria Jean Aitkin have declared the event’s mission to be ”Education Through Performance.” The Festival is well known by musicians worldwide, and has a reputation for showcasing performers of all ages and genders.

Moe Hashie teaches at the Music Rocks Academy in Summerside and was approached earlier this year by festival organizers asking for his participation. He’s been playing the drums since the age of five, first whetting his musical appetite on his Ringo Starr drum kit. Hashie has played with numerous bands over the years and is well known as part of the popular local band Edge. He also plays guitar, bass and harmonica.

Attending the event through the perspective of an educator, Hashie has an appreciation for the valuable knowledge he’ll gain and take back to his students. As a drummer, he is looking forward to sharing in the camaraderie that drummers feel as a group. He indicates they are a supportive group of people who are passionate about their craft.

Hashie will be bringing one of his students, Bray Schurman, to participate. Schurman has been playing the drums for four years with Hashie as his instructor. The fifteen-year-old says his friends think the experience he’s about to embark upon is pretty cool. He’s looking forward to taking it all in, and using the occasion as a great opportunity to watch and learn from the best.

Both drummers will be participating in the showcase portion of the event (Schurman in the junior program). The showcase gives local drummers a chance to share their talents on the main stage and serves as a reward for their dedication to the craft of drumming.

Hashie and Schurman will be exposed to drummers like Horacio Hernandez—who’s performed with Dizzy Gillespie and Carlos Santana—and Virgil Donati—who’s recorded and toured with the likes of Tina Arena and Steve Vai. Also, Mike Clark, who’s been called “the most sampled drummer in hip hop,” appearing on tracks by Prince.

Hashie and Schurman are busy rehearsing for their showcases and looking forward to the experience.

Island drummer Nathaniel Lamoureux has been selected to play the convened show stage during the Cape Breton International Drum Festival May 23 and 24. Lamoureux, in his mid-twenties, can be seen and heard playing with a who’s who of the Island music scene. He regularly plays with dance favourites Joey Kitson and Big City, Vintage 4.0, up and coming Meaghan Blanchard, John Connolly and Tim Chaisson. Nat’s skill gets noticed and gets him substitute shows with the Charlottetown Festival.

Musical colleague Tim Chaisson classifies Nat as a pocket drummer with a playing style that consists of a simple, solid beat that lacks the flair of flamboyant fills. “I like to set a groove so deep that the tempo never wavers,” says Nat. This creates a comfortable “pocket” for the rest of the band to play in.

Years of piano lessons gave Nathaniel an ear for music. As a child he taught himself guitar and was able to teach himself drums at the age of twelve.

“This is an excellent opportunity to showcase and be educated in the presence of world class drummers,” says Lamoureux, who said he would like to thank Island drum maker Amiel LeBlanc for his endorsement to play the festival.

Art at Westisle High

Programs provide a creative environment for students

by Peggy Miles

Melanie Gallant (left) and Sydney Ellis show off their artwork at Westisle High School

I recently visited Westisle High School to learn more about their art programs. As I watched students hang gallery-style artwork on the brick walls and ride unicycles in the lobby, I couldn’t help but hear the theme song to the old TV show Fame running faintly through my head. Westisle is located in Rosebank, near Elmsdale, and serves students residing between Richmond and North Cape. And there’s definitely a creative vitality in the air.

The school has a visual arts program, as well as a crafts course where students can experiment with paper making, jewellery and more. The school has concert, jazz and vocal bands, and there’s a busking club that meets once a week to juggle, ride unicycles and have a few laughs. It’s also the only school on PEI that offers an art history course.

I interviewed a couple of students who had taken the art history course, and they began describing the timelines of art from prehistory to present day. I was impressed. Their art teacher indicated that when course students go on field trips to art galleries, they don’t feel intimidated and are armed with the knowledge to critique the art on the gallery walls.

Almost every kid that passes through grade 10 takes the graphics program. Some of their work was being hung in a corridor when I arrived. One image was an example of photo manipulation, where the photographer has placed several images of herself in the same photo, all of them (her?) watching TV.

When the school was built in 1979, the administration made a conscious effort for students to have an outlet for their creativity. Today’s teaching staff agrees that the art programs foster confidence and artistry within the students, and a broader perspective on the world around them. The students tell me participating in the art curriculum is a nice break away from a traditional classroom.

These students may not be seeking the limelight like in Fame, but they are succeeding in the arts. Former Westisle students are involved in the animation and film industries, the fashion world, and as artisans. Some have gone on to study at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design and one Westisle alum runs her own textile art business in the art mecca of Lunenburg.

Comparing Westisle students to the kids in Fame might be a bit extreme. After all, those television kids knew without a doubt that they were bound for greatness. But so are the Westisle kids…they just might not know it yet.

Events Calendar

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The Charlottetown Film Society & L’Ipéen...

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