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Men of the Harvest position

Men of the Harvest, a male Gospel choir, is seeking a pianist-musical director beginning in Jan [ ... ]

Diversity Workshop

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Living Library

Summerside Rotary Library is a well-used community resource

by Peggy Miles

Summerside Rotary Library staff Rebecca Boulter (left) and Susan Harris.My typical Saturday might include a few errands—groceries, dropping off recyclables, and leaving my dog eared copies of Style at Home at the magazine exchange table just inside the front doors of the Summerside Rotary Public Library. I’ve used the services of the library on and off since I was a kid. But in the last few years I haven’t made it much past the magazines.

As part of a group representing a number of Summerside community organizations that meets monthly to discuss our respective activities, one of our group members (Susan Harris, Senior Library Technician at the Summerside Library) recently mentioned how her facility is busier than ever.

Summerside Rotary LibraryWhich caught my attention and shifted my perspective. I thought I had outgrown the library. I was beginning to think libraries were going the way of the Polaroid camera and rotary telephones.

So I requested a meeting with Susan and her colleague Rebecca Boulter, Literacy and Public Services Librarian, and they quickly set me straight.

Library services have expanded far beyond the facility’s four walls. If you have a valid library card, you can go online to renew and place holds on books. And library staff can access books from across Canada, so if you’re searching for that favourite childhood book and can’t find it on the library shelf, chances are staff can arrange to get it in for you. And students—for times when the library is closed and you’re working on that late night project, check out the library’s Info Track System, which allows access to thousands of books and articles online.

The Summerside Library has a variety of in-house programs as well, including a lap sit program for babies, toddlers and their parents, pre-school story time, and a summer reading program. They also have a book club that meets monthly, and are in the process of starting up a junior book club. Library users can lend out CDs and DVDs, and read newspapers and magazines in the library’s cozy surroundings, which once existed as Summerside’s railway station.

Last year the Summerside Library had an average of 250 people per day through its doors, and circulated over 106,000 items. And in the summer months, the facility sees a significant increase in traffic from tourists.

I asked how the public would be affected if the library wasn’t there. Library staff indicated that it would severely affect its regular users, many of whom use the facility’s computers on a daily basis. For some there would be “no access to books at all,” since library services are free to the public.

Staffers Susan and Rebecca share that the library is a “welcoming community space” where families come for weekly visits, seniors peruse the book shelves and teenagers sprawl out to do their homework. “I have never shushed anyone,” laughs Rebecca.

And what can the public do to show their support for their local library? “Visit often, borrow often, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!”


Back at Church

Trinity United Church in Summerside offers community concerts

by Peggy Miles

A few months ago I graced the doors at my house of worship, and the minister greeted me excitedly with a “Hello! How are you?”. His comments came after a very long absence at the church where I once spent many hours as a Sunday school student.

I admit, I am not a regular parishioner. But for me Summerside’s Trinity United Church offers a familiar retreat. Although I don’t get there often, when I do I’m there for the music because gosh darn it, they’ve got rhythm.

They’ve also got a beautiful setting that provides a wonderful backdrop for enjoying melodic sounds. Trinity is a fair sized church and when you walk in from the back, you’ll see that it’s filled with pews, bordered by multi-coloured stained glass windows. Your eye will go directly to the dark wooden vaulted ceiling, and then be drawn to the stage at the front, where century old organ pipes frame the back wall of the pulpit and a beautiful grand piano sits.

Christine Anderson Gallant, Music Director at Trinity, as well as conductor of the Summerside Community Choir, shares that acoustically Trinity is “one of the best places for choral singing.” And in the last few years Trinity has gained a reputation of having a strong and varied musical program which blends traditional with contemporary.

Trinity’s talent will be on display at the December 20 Sunday morning service as the senior choir performs its annual cantata. Entitled “The Winter Rose,” the cantata will take the melodies of traditional Christmas carols and Celtic tunes, blending them with narration. As outlined in the score written by composers Joseph and Pamela Martin, “…the rose remains a vital expression of love and peace both inside the church and the outside world…the rose’s delicate beauty is usually reserved for the most meaningful expressions of the heart.”

This musical offering is sure to delight the ears of the Trinity congregation (the general public is also welcome), but will also provide a visual sensory experience. The cantata’s message of divine love will be accompanied by a visual presentation appearing on screens placed around the sanctuary. Service starts at 10:30 am.

The church also offers itself as a venue for a variety of community concerts, including one at 3:30 pm on December 6 with the Summerside Community Choir. The theme of the concert is “Winter, Fire and Snow” and will explore the beauty, mystery and silence of winter. Included in the performance will be songs that portray winter images, such as one tune based on the poetry of Robert Frost. The program will feature carols arranged by Canadian composer Donald Patriquin, and there’ll be a medley of old English carols, as well as spirituals. Guitar, percussion, flute and cello will accompany many of the songs. And the Three Oaks Senior High Choral Ensemble will be a guest performer under the direction of Shirley Anne Cameron.

I can’t wait to pass through the doors again, slide into a pew and enjoy the sounds.

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.

Events Calendar

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