Sunday, 2 August 2015

PEI Hooley Ceilidh at Avonlea Village in Cavendish, PEI

a social event at which there is Scottish or Irish folk music and singing, traditional dancing, and storytelling.

One thing Google forgot to mention in their definition of a Ceilidh is that it's synonyms with entertainment on PEI and has been for decades along with the fact that you haven really, fully experienced PEI culture until you've partied like an Islander. These showcases of outstanding local talented are littered across the province, but for me, at Avonlea Village in Cavendish, there's something truly special. The PEI Hooley, with Gary Chipman and friends is a lively and spectacular display of the music which has been a foundation of Island culture for as long as your great-grandmother's grandmother can remember!

Lucky enough to be at the inaugural Ceilidh, I was thrilled at joining in on the musical fun and visiting Avonlea Village all at the same time. A fantastic venue, the Hooley itself is held in a historic church which was once frequented by L.M Montgomery herself while the surrounding 'village' will woo you with it's pickets and charm. The old-fashioned buildings are home to local artisan shops and culinary treasures while displaying all the romance of the sweet Avonlea that was described as beloved Anne's Hometown.

As you're greeted at the Church's entrance, the first impression of Island hospitality is a precursor to what the next two hours have in store! Delight, humor, warmth and genuine down to earth charm. All this housed in the open Church, it's ceiling free so that you can marvel at the architectural beams above. Seated throughout the intimate building, everyone is part of the community there and that fact is Illustrated at hostess Marsha Weeks introduces any special Ceilidh goers and gets everyone acquainted by discovering where we were all from. Luckily enough there was a spry woman, 101 years young at our show. There must be something in the Island air since she didn't look a day over 25, well...75, but who's counting?

As for the main event, each PEI Hooley Ceilidh features Gary Chipman, an award-winning Island Musican and charismatic entertainer with a songbook as open as his heart. As a fiddler and vocalist his reputation precedes him with, treating guests to everything from the classics to Stompin' Tom and Don Messer style fiddling. He's the quintessential PEI entertainer and a stellar headliner for the Hooley!

Along with his friends Blair Coughlin, Rodney Savidant and Brad Fremlin, they wake the imagination with warm maritime tunes which hail from across the Atlantic provinces; their music painting a spirited portrait of life in the maritimes. Each song opening your ears and hearts to the sound of souls of Maritimers, deeply connected to the lives and emotions at the core of Atlantic life. Some of my very favorites being the Tennessee Waltz (our hostess Marsha even joined fiddling a reprise) and the electrifying Orange Blossom Special!

A rare treat during the show was Brad Fremlin playing the saw. Yes, you read that right, the saw; typically known as a hardware tool and transformed into a delicately beautiful instrument for the night. With a soft, almost lilting soprano tone, it enchanted the crowd as a reverent hush filled the church. Fiddle bow to saw, a serene rendition of Amazing Grace was Brad's most appropriate selection for such a venue.

One special feature of the Hooley is that each show is unique with special guests! For this first show Joey Kitson joined in with his two exceptionally talented children Annie and Julien! A real family affair, there's sweet music in the Kitson blood that ranges from the deep rooted folk genres to rock classics and even blues. They display a special kind of diversity which leaves listeners in awe.

With a range of instruments that include fiddle, piano, guitar, vocals, mandolin and Joey's Trusty harmonica! Both thirteen year old Julien and fifteen year old Annie amazed with their singing and passion for music. Julien soloing with his guitar and showing off his pride in his heritage and undeniable talent. Especially skilled on the guitar, his performance was that of someone beyond his years. His Sister Annie on the fiddle and piano were wonderful and her heart felt rendition of Snowbird.

The two of them are a real testament that you're never too young to live out your dreams!

Of course, no Ceilidh would be complete without dancing! Jordan Chowden was our high energy step dancer who had people in the audience swooning with excitement! Truly defining the phrase 'fancy footwork', he's a truly accomplished young man and already has an impressive reputation, even able to boast as 9th in the world for bagpipes!

The spontaneity of the the whole program excites and the talent inspires. The whole crowd was clapping, singing and stomping along to the music! With Island mood and hospitality from beginning to end, the church was alive with laughter and happiness! Everyone feeling welcome and embraced like family, wherever they're from, for this time we're all Islanders partaking in a purely Island tradition!

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights you'll find this must-see show starting at 7:30 PM and I recommend it to both visitors and Islanders alike!

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