Profile by Jane Ledwell
I feel very fortunate that I do enjoy performing so many types of music, and so many genres and instruments,” says Christine Anderson Gallant. By that measure of fortune, she’s a rich woman. In addition to her work as Executive Director at the Indian River Festival, as Music Director at Trinity United Church, and as a parent of five grown or growing children, she continues to perform piano, harp, vocals, and flute—most recently in the house band for summertime Celtic Storm performances in Summerside.
“These hybrid careers are great,” she laughs, “but you reach a point you can’t do everything.” Two years ago, this meant giving up a much-loved role as director of the Summerside Community Choir, but, she says, “Family is first, and work is after that. I don’t know any musicians who can make enough income for a big family on music alone. I’m lucky my entire work life is immersed in music.”
Christine’s husband, Peter Gallant, is a music teacher, so it is perhaps not surprising their five children are also fine musicians and several are pursuing careers in music. “They heard music constantly, but we never forced it, though. It naturally spilled over to them,” Christine says proudly. “They love it and embrace it as part of their lives. I would never deny their musical creativity.” She says, “As a family, any time we make music together, it’s a tie that binds us as a family, because it is at once expression and comfort and letting emotions release.”
Christine recalls her own musical beginnings: “My parents loved music and wanted us to have music training. For the longest time, I wanted a career as a classical pianist.” While she was introduced to choral music at university, she only took an active role when she first filled a leave at Trinity United Church in Summerside then became director of the Summerside Community Choir. “Choral music is unlike any musical experience,” she says.
“The Summerside Community Choir expanded and stretched me as a musician, and I found my own voice as well. It was very surprising. And even though I was dyed-in-the-wool as a classical musician, I found out I am most comfortable singing folk music and old-time American music. I started playing Celtic harp 10 years ago and again was immersed in traditional music.”
Those expanding musical horizons have served her well as she has grown into the role of executive director at the Indian River Festival, the internationally known music festival that features concerts in the scenic St. Mary’s Church. Like Christine, the Festival is rooted in classical but enriched by many genres. “The performer determines the audience. We love that. If the Festival was one genre only, it would only be one narrow group of people in the audience again and again. We want to throw the doors open widely to all audiences and say, ‘Experience music in this venue.’
“As a musician, I have a unique perspective,” Christine says. “I’ve developed my gut instinct on what kind of music will suit our space… The space at St. Mary’s becomes an active part of a performance, and the best performers are those who will work with that space, and make it part of the performance.
“Fundraising is part of life for non-profit community organizations,” Christine says, and a fundraising concert with the Spinney Brothers will be a highlight at Indian River this fall. “It will be a great way to kick off the Thanksgiving weekend with traditional, authentic, southern-flavoured bluegrass. The band is fronted by brothers, so you get the added bonus of family vocals that are always amazing. Classical musicians think they have it all covered in terms of technique, but how they [the Spinney Brothers] play with that blazing technique is amazing to me. Vocals and strings are amazing in that venue. Nothing is covered, nothing is lost.”
Of pure and pared-down shows, Christine Anderson Gallant says, “More and more, this is the kind of show I don’t want to live without.” She will continue working and performing to keep doors wide open for musical experience.