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Searching for Abegweit: The Island Songs and Stories of Lennie Gallant

Review by Ivy Wigmore

Performed by
Lennie Gallant (stories, vocals, guitar), Jonathan Gallant (vocals and percussion) Jeremy Gallant (piano), Sean Kemp (fiddle), Patricia Richard (vocals, multiple instruments)

Directed by
Jac Gautreau 

Written by
Lennie Gallant

Supported by
Chris Knox (audio), Chris Perry (lighting) and Jennafer Beck (stage and projection). Jac Gautreau implemented Lennie Gallant’s design for the visual elements and the flow among them. 

The show
A deep exploration of Island roots through the filter of a native son. Lennie Gallant performs songs from the long span of his career interspersed with folklore, history, jokes and personal stories. 

The Performance
Songs and stories are presented in front of a screen featuring the exquisite dreamscape paintings of Lennie’s sister Karen Gallant, along with photos and film, much of it archival. Examples: A duet about the long journey of a relationship is juxtaposed with film of a train’s journey through various seasons and terrain — visceral stuff, that anguished cry/train whistle. The title song was combined with Mi’kmaq chant and, on the screen, a film overlay of chanter Hubert Francis and a jingle dancer. 

Best thing
The visual art onscreen was just stunning and so perfectly integrated with the wonderful music and stories. The band was on fire. Sean Kemp’s violin? Wow. 

Final thoughts
Searching for Abegweit was exhilarating, heartening, heart-breaking and haunting; the music and images are still on repeat in my head. See it!

—Playing select dates at Harbourfront Theatre. Tickets/info harbourfronttheatre.com.

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