We are in Toronto. This morning at 4:30AM we met at the Moncton airport- 7 minutes from Dieppe so that was the easy part! Our friends from JCA sent us off- of course there were tears because we’ve shared so much together through this exchange.
Here are some highlights from the past few days:
Thursday, July 7: We boarded our buses with our friend Mario driving one of them, and headed up the coast to Bouctouche. Now all you french speakers, say “Bouctouche” out loud. aha! HERE, in Acadia, it’s pronounced “Bahk Tooosh”. This was an Acadian community from like the 1760s. Charming houses, tidal marshes, birds, blue red white and yellow painted dorys (open rowboats)… lovely. We stopped at Irving Gardens and chapel and wandered through the gardens- the rain started lightly. It was a nice break from the fast pace of the week. The Irving family, originally from Scotland, started in the logging business in New Brunswick. Now, Irving family businesses own most of the province! From lumber to electricity, to petroleum to french fry production (apparently their fries, under the name “Cavendish Farms” label, are wonderful)… the family businesses are extremely influential. We had the opportunity to sing in the beautiful wooden Irving Chapel- the acoustic was GORGEOUS!
It was a bit windy, and quite cool out. We were all thankful for our CSMA coats! We ended up getting way more wear out of our jeans and coats than we ever imagined.
From there, to Pays de la Sagouine. This is kind of like an Acadian version of Burnaby Village Museum, except way more. La Sagouine is the washer-woman character in Antoine Maillet’s novels that depict Acadian heritage and life in the old days, through the eyes and musings of iconic Acadian fictional characters. First, you walk along this long curving boardwalk over the water, towards this cute island covered with traditional style Acadian homes. From the moment you arrive, you feel like you have jumped back in time, and all the people who work there, are dressed and interact with visitors, like the characters they depict! VERY FUN!!! You wander around from house to house, where you get invited to a “Le kitchen party” or you end up walking in to a show or dancing to a band… all super fun. Highlight for me (Diana) was when we were at the kitchen party, and the guy starts singing the same Reel a Bouche that we know!!! He was blown away and so were we- because when we choose repertoire that says it comes from a traditional Acadian song… one can only hope that it’s the real deal. Reel deal. See what I did there? Jeff”s punster humour has apparently rubbed off!
Anyway, there at Pays de la Sagouine, WE were one of the shows! The actors set it up on the stage- which was made to look like a barn- as though Citrouille, the town goofball, was trying to write a show and write a song. We were listening like mad to the rapid fire French language and Acadian Chiac, trying to hear our cue! When it was our turn, the kids were pretty much frozen cold. Our fearless chaperone Marni was the coldest of all, because our adults give the shoes off their feet and the coats off their backs, to singers who have forgotten their uniform bits!!!!
We opened with Thulele Mama Ya, then Reel A Bouche. We joked around about “is there anyone here who plays spoons?” and our bus driver Mario- a spoon virtuoso- came up to join us. The audience- all french speakers- LOVED our performance, and were stomping their feet and grooving along to our Acadian piece. THAT performance for me was a highlight. Our friends in JCA joined us for Partons la Mer est Belle, Bravo Monsieur le Monde, and Sail Away. Sail Away had become a favourite on the tour- we just love singing it together! And now that singers all have their own set of spoons… we’ll have to keep it in our repertoire.
After we left the island- and imagine that we are pretty much immersed in Acadian French/ Chaic all this time- we headed to Dune de Bouctouche. This is a 12km long sand bar that goes out along the bay, is about 2000 years old! There is a very long board walk, and super soft sand. “I like long walks on the beach” takes on a new meaning with 50 young people, cartwheeling, giggling and dodging Lion’s Mane jelly fish! Many of us were expecting “Dunes” like Oregon… but this was more like a long sand spit. Marni is reminding me that once again, we JUST wrapped up at the beach as the rain began. Lucky again!
A little nap time on the bus ride back to Crandall University, where we were to rehearse with the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra and NB Pops Orchestra. You need to understand the context here: for WEEKS I’ve been keenly pep talking the choir “we are going to be singing this song with ORCHESTRA for the Atlantic Nationals Car Show!” and they’ve been looking at me like “ya whatevs” because the songs on paper, don’t seem great: Do Re Mi; Partons la Mer est Belle (the long verses in French seemed impossible to learn); and Bravo M le Monde. BUT… when we all got into the rehearsal room, and the VSO-sized orchestra began to play the intro “storm music” for Partons.. and then we got to sing… it was AWESOME in the real sense of the word! Full body, full on intensity of sound. Goosebumps. And to see singers faces and eyes get that “holy sh*t!!! I’m singing with this!!!!” look on their face… was priceless and unforgettable.
We had been scheduled to have a picnic pizza dinner at the park after the rehearsal, but because of the rain, it had been a frantic scramble for our hosts to find a “Plan B” (you have to pronounce it “Plahn Bay”- en français)
As luck would have it, René, one of the host dads, is coordinator at Aberdeen Arts centre- it was once a school run by nuns, and it was where JCA began more than 40 years ago, (Mario attended it). This beautiful old building in Moncton became our dinner spot. Singers went home with families- some went on to Kitchen parties! Our adults went out for dinner to a place called Tide & Boar. Get it? Tidal Bore? Tide & Boar? We had the BEST chips- PEI potatoes. We’d been told to have the Poutine. This one, was fries with carmelized onions, cheese curds, heaps of roasted pulled pork, and option of gravy and ketchup. Totally yum.
Plane is loading, so more later!!!
Friday, July 8: Moncton performance & Honour Garden
Friday morning had us meeting at 7:45AM at Moncton city hall for our sound check on stage with the NBYO. When we arrived to the humongous concert stage that was set up on Main Street, there was a palpable tension in the air as production crews, sound techs, performers and organizers scrambled around to get everything set up. I believe there were set for 140 people (including us) on stage, and each instrument mic’d… plus Canadian rocker Kim Mitchell had HIS band’s stuff pre-set at the back of the stage… it was tight for space! We were initially concerned that mics hadn’t been ordered for the choir, but by the time the performance came at noon, all was good.
After sound check, we headed over to the Acadian Museum where we engaged in a fun collaborative surrealist art-making; learned about the Acadian WW 1 war effort and reviewed Acadian culture and history. The WWW 1 war effort display was interesting. Even though there were many Acadians who conscripted, apparently there weren’t enough Acadians from the area to form a full Battalion. So they were divided up among the other Battalions- mostly English- where it was difficult for them to communicate. In Europe, the Acadian soldiers ended up as loggers in France to help the war effort. In the museum’s “Acadian culture” displays, we marvelled at seeing a photo of Jeunes Chanteurs d’Acadie prominently displayed! They are INDEED ambassadors for Acadian culture and the future.
Back to Moncton City Hall for lunch on the 6th floor, where we had a view of the historic downtown area.
The “NB Pops” concert was hours of orchestral music featuring the various levels of youth orchestras in the “El Sistema” program. This method of instrumental music education, that began in Venezuela, has gained a lot of publicity because made tremendous opportunities possible to under privileged youth. The NB director, Tony Delgado is a graduate of the Venezuelan El Sistema, and has had a big impact on the instrumental scene in New Brunswick.
The young players’ renditions of Beethoven 5 and Carmen were remarkable!
We finally got our call, and off we went to the stage. GULP. Imagine singers at the back of the stage, on risers, with a full orchestra set up- chairs, stands, mics- between me on the podium and singers on the risers. And a keyboard off to my left that the choir could barely hear. When they sang, I could barely hear them, they were so far away!! We just had to TRUST the mics and sound techs, and do our best. I’m happy to report that listeners could hear the choir and all went well. I’m so proud of our singers and their performance, but most fun of all was having both choirs together, singing TOGETHER. Yay!!!!! And we were all so warmly welcomed by the audience too.
By this time, things at the Atlantic Nationals car show were really getting busy, and gorgeous classic cars were lining the streets.
We were escorted by Isabelle, one of the JCA parents who is Moncton’s Communications Manager, down to the river front to view the Honour Garden that had just opened June 4, 2016.
You may recall that 2 years ago, on June 4, 2014, there was that horrible tragic incident in Moncton where a crazed sniper sent their shocked city into lockdown for hours. Sadly, 3 RCMP officers lost their lives trying to protect the community. We thought we were going to see the new memorial statues, but the visit ended up being much more profound than that. Isabelle told us how she was out walking her dog the night that she got the first phone call from the Mayor, and the second phone call from CNN! She told us how the community banded together during the crisis, and she explained how the memorial park came to be. Because she was involved in the creation of the Honour Garden, we felt like we got a lot of inside scoop about the symbolism and design of the memorial. The 3 fallen RCMP officers are depicted in bronze, in eerily life-like detail. Each faces a different direction to symbolize their personal history, and each statue contains many symbols and artifacts to represent these lives taken too soon. Isabelle invited us all to “get right in there” and touch the bronze and look closely at the symbols and artifacts. We needed to process the experience, so we did what we do best: we sang. We all made a circle around the memorial and sang Bravo Monsieur le Monde. It was a beautiful, moving, heartfelt 4 minutes.
I’d had in my brain that I wanted us to sing GTO next to a real GTO car back at the car show, but by this time, everyone was completely emotionally and physically drained. So we instead let singers explore the car show in small groups.
When we met up again, singers were excited to trot off with their host families because there were all kinds of exciting plans for the night! Escape rooms, kitchen parties, ice cream… lots of fun. The adult travellers were excited for the night out too, because Kim Mitchell was slated to play at the same stage we’d been singing on earlier in the day!!!! Patio Lanterns? Rockland Wonderland? Rock Song? THAT Kim Mitchell!!!! Free! And by then, having been at the stage much of the day, we adults knew the best vantage points from which to see the show up close without being deafened nor crushed.
Kim Mitchell and his band did not disappoint. In fact, he even stopped for a moment to tell the crowd how he had heard our concert earlier in the day, how impressed he was by the passion, artistry and intensity of the young musicians and went on to talk about the importance of music learning. You DO totally ROCK Mr. Kim Mitchell. Thank you for that.
On the 20 minute walk ‘home’ to Dieppe, to our hotel, we passed a sweet house for sale. Central location, heritage character home. $89,900. No, I did not forget a zero. $90K and we can buy a house here on the Moncton/ Dieppe border. So we 9 adults thought we’d just buy a house here, chip in $10K each.
Saturday, July 9: Market, Sheep Dogs, Parlee Beach
Our last day together. I could feel the heaviness in the hearts and see it on singers’ faces today. Everyone was trying to be brave and keep smiling, but we all knew this was it. And thankfully, we got to SLEEP IN today!
At 11AM we met the bus. Originally, we were slated to be at the famous Parlee Beach all day. But it was cold and threatening to rain, so we bundled up and headed out on our “Plan B” (pronounced Plahn Bay) adventure. First stop, the Saturday Farmers’ Market in Dieppe. This indoor market was bustling with musicians, food, flowers, veggies… Yum yum and more yum. Some of us got to have more traditional Acadian food like fish cakes, poutine à trou and chowder. Others headed for ice cream and maple sugar treats.
Back on Day 1, our bus driver JP had told us how he had a sheep farm and had champion sheep herding dogs. He had invited us all over, but at the time, we didn’t think it would work out in the schedule. But by now, needing a Plan B because of the weather, it seemed perfect. So off we went to Scoudouc (near Shédiac) to JP’s house.
2 big yellow school buses pulled up in to his yard, and were warily eyed by about 15 ramlets (4 month old rams) plus their big ram daddy leader. Meanwhile in another field, were the ewes. It was so cool and interesting to see the sheep dogs’ INTENSE faces as JP and his wife whistled or called commands. And by golly those sheep went wherever the dog herded them. Remember the movie “Babe” about the cute pig and sheep farmer? It was kind of like that. We learned about dogs being “left handed” or “right handed” (imagine throwing a ball to a dog, and they run it back to you- they will always grab and turn back a preferred side) and how trainers had to teach them to be able to turn and run the other way if needed. Very very interesting and fun for dog lovers to see these intelligent animals in action. Of course a few people were asking about the lamb chops and mutton sausages also sold at the farm…
We arrived at Parlee Beach for some fun. It was 15 degrees cold. Had it been sunny and warm, the beach would have been PACKED, but instead we had the long stretch of soft sand all to ourselves. Not surprisingly, some of the singers were not to be deterred by the weather, and they went for a dip in the Atlantic! Many played in the sand and ran around together.
The time to bid a fond adieu to everyone together, came at 4:45pm.
How do you muster up the words “good bye” after such an intense, fun-filled adventure, life changing week??? Adults too, made some friends and connections with our hosts. All of us, so totally filled with gratitude at the experiences, friendships, music and memories made possible because of this Experiences Canada exchange tour and by the generosity of our hosts.
Singers can tell you how they spent their last night in New Brunswick. Apparently their were more kitchen parties, nice dinners, Lobster eating contests at Shédiac Lobster Fest… fun fun fun.
And now, on the plane, we all are trying to keep it all together when we are so full of emotion and fatigue and excitement at being home to our families.
Please know how totally fabulous Children’s Choir singers were this week. Never a complaint nor an issue. Group leaders totally responsible and reliable. Singers acting responsibly and respectfully. An absolute joy and privilege to travel with this group.
Have fun hearing all the stories from your singer!
À bientôt mes amis!
It’s now 10:00pm and we are all glowing after another wonderful day.
We started with a drive to Shediac, and had a visit to the Lobster education centre. Then a boat cruise around Shediac Bay, a photo op at the huge lobster sculpture, then back to Dieppe for the Mercredi Show.
The chaperones and adult travellers are chomping at the bit here, to share their highlights of the tour so far, so I’m going to turn it over to them:
Andrew: This afternoon, waiting for the concert, we had a percussion jam- me, Mario, Barry, Anja (who PASTED the bell part!) Alyona, Emerson, Taryn came and hit some stuff. Jamming. Finding the pocket. That was the highlight. We know how hard that percussion part is, and just jamming together was great.
Taco: My one highlight was showing the singers how to put their sarongs on. (editor’s note: he demonstrated the sarong wearing).
The conversation here has just disintegrated into laughing at the games we play on singers who leave their items behind in places. If we find stuff, we keep it hidden until a singer admits they have lost something. We let singers feel that sinking awful pit in the stomach feeling of “OMG I’ve lost my _______ (cellphone, wallet, new purchase, dress shoes, retainer…)” for a few moments and then we break the news that actually we found their stuff left behind. These singers are amazing, intelligent, talented young people, and we aren’t mean or scolding about it… the natural consequence of feeling that sinking feeling, is enough to help these singers learn to be more mindful. Truthfully, these kids have been phenomenal on the trip so far. We’ve tested them by hiding a singer to see if our student group leaders are paying attention, and they realized we had a missing singer immediately.
Barry: (editor’s note: no matter what he says, Barry is all about the amazing waffle fries. It’s those PEI potatoes!). Ava’s solo in Can You Hear. This goes back before the tour. Every time we have one of the singers who has come through the choir all those years, then stand there and do such a good solo, a cappella. To watch them grow up in the choir- to see them make all that progress.
Andrea is feeling the pressure to come up with a good highlight now. Barry has us all feeling verklempt.
Elise: just the lobster facts… I mean all those interesting things! (conversation has once again gone off about all the crazy lobster stuff we saw and learned today. Yes. You really CAN quiz your singer about lobster mating.) Blue lobsters. 200,00o eggs and 1% survive. (more giggling about Lobster-ology)
Marni: I have to share my yesterday memory: the way L.M. Montgomery described how the island of PEI was all rubies, emeralds and sapphires (red earth, green landscapes, the ocean. And all the lupins that line the roads!!)
Jeff: Not being in charge! Obviously is I’ve been on lots of music tours. So getting to know the kids and not worrying about being in charge- not worrying about uniforms and all the details. Being able to stand back and see how the singers interact and to be able to stand back and ENJOY watching the singers on the tour. Watching the relationships and the connections and the music evolve.
Andrea: Sitting beside the children’s choir at Anne of Green Gables, and to be able to look over down the row and see them totally LIGHT UP when Ice Cream was sung in the musical. Then tonight, when our kids sang it and the whole thing was elevated- they had incorporated the performance they saw, in to their performance tonight. They got how it all fit together. And they glowed singing it tonight.
Sunni: Knowing how tired and wound up and tense the kids were and working up to this concert tonight… and then that 5 minutes before we walked out when they got in the zone by silently going through all of their Mercredi Show set- how they pulled it all together… that was unbelievable.
More laughter about our french. More laughter about the day and the concert tonight.
Diana: I’m totally TOTALLY proud of how our singers rose to the occasion and performed SO WELL tonight. It was beautiful to have both choirs sing together. I’ll never forget singing Reel a Bouche with Mario guest soloing on spoons. So many great musical moments tonight. So grateful.
Well gentle readers… it’s late, so we’ll all sign off for the night. Your kids have been phenomenal again today.
Be sure to check out the Facebook exchange group for amazing photos.
Tuesday, we met at the University of Moncton, where we met Lisa Roy, a wonderful vocal teacher. Lisa worked with us and taught us some good imagery and sound concepts. Was great to get a good vocal warm up and reinforce tone concepts so early in the tour. She also helped us to woodshed all the words for Partons la Mer est Belle, which we have to have memorized!
At 10:30am we got on a beautiful coach bus, driven by Mario, who was one of the parent chaperones who came out to Vancouver, and is hosting 3 of our boys. Mario gave us an epic day: we headed over the Confederation Bridge to PEI. The bridge is 12 km long! A feat of engineering for sure. We stopped on the other side and took some beautiful photos with the bridge in the background. From there, we set our sites on Cavendish. Now in my little mind, I thought “Green Gables” and Cavendish was “just on the other side of the bridge”. However, it is actually on the other side of PEI- about 2.5 hours drive through beautiful rolling green hills and more quaint homes, spread out over the green acreage. Kids slept a lot 0n the way there. Jet lag and has hit hard! Knowing that this was “Anne of Green Gables Day”, during the bus ride, singers started braiding their hair in the style of Anne. Very fun.
When we arrived at Cavendish, we learned about the inspiration for L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables books. And right there, on the grassy slope with the Green Gables home in the background, and “Anne” joining us, we sang Ice Cream from the Anne of Green Gables musical. Totally the stuff that these tour experiences are made of: creating memorable moments by singing together, connecting to places of historical significance.
We had some quality time to explore the grounds, eat ice cream and raspberry cordial, and just enjoy the scenes and home that has been created from the journals and writing of L.M. Montgomery.
Our JCA hosts were terrific guides, telling us all kinds of interesting information. Such fun people.
From there, we went to the famous Cavendish beach. Like all of PEI the sand is RED and fine fine fine, like rusty red powder. This was right out on the Atlantic. The next stop across the water would have been Newfoundland. We could see the ominous grey clouds rolling in, and no sooner than we got our toes in the water, than the thunder started and the life guards cleared the beach for safety! We ran to the bus to try to beat the torrential rain that was on its way.
Another long bus ride back to Charlottetown. During the pounding rain, singers started singing our repertoire and teaching each other songs- it was one of those wonderful spontaneous things that choir singers do.
Dinner at East Side Marios, then on the the theatre for the musical, Anne of Green Gables.
Okay. If you haven’t seen it, you must. The singing was excellent, the acting brilliant, the dancing… AMAZING!!! It was a total blast to look down our rows of seats and to see our singers all lit up- their faces glowing with delight. When Ice Cream was sung by the cast, we all almost leapt out of our seats!
By the time the show was over and we were back on the bus, it was 10:30pm and we had a 2 hour+ bus ride ahead of us. Our friend Mario drove us safely home, while everyone slept on the bus.
An epic, memorable, wonderful day.
Salut tout le monde! Coastal Sound Children’s Choir is on tour again this year, thanks to Experiences Canada and the youth exchange programs that they fund and facilitate. We are exchanging with Jeunes Chanteurs d’Acadie, from Dieppe and Moncton, New Brunswick. In May, JCA came to visit us, and now we are here to stay with them and tour the sights.
Yesterday, after getting on the bus to the airport at 3:30AM… we travelled across Canada by plane to Halifax, then coach bus to Dieppe. Singers were asleep on the plane and bus, napping on and off for most of the way here.
Many kilometres of green grasslands and gentle hills, and charming homes later, we were greeted- waved down actually- by our friends and their families. A quick visit and then they all went home with their families.
This morning, when the alarm went off at 6:30AM it was pretty brutal- New Brunswick is 4 hours ahead of BC. We met the singers, and off we went on two buses to Hopewell Rocks on the Bay of Fundy. Ya sure. You’ve seen postcard photos, but the actual grandeur of the experience can’t be described in a photo or words. Our guide Pierre was delightful. At the beginning of the tour, he was quite eager to get us all down to the sea floor, and hurried us along to the far end of the beach. I didn’t understand why until I realized that we were on a real race against mother nature’s tide! There are park staff nicknamed “sheep dogs” that sweep along herding the visitors back along the beach to safe areas because the tide rises so fast here it is crazy: within a couple minutes, our trail and part of the beach we’d just been on, was gone. Seriously. In fact if you stood on the waters’ edge, in 25 minutes you’d be up to your neck in water!
Pierre said it was his dream to have a choir sing in the rocks, so we sang Sail Away and Bravo Monsieur le Monde after he taught us the yoga moves to salute the tide. Time for photos- there are some beauties posted in our Facebook exchange group- then climbed back up top to do a pleasant trail walk to some view points.
Fundy facts: the water is so muddy here that shellfish can’t live- their filtration system would clog up. So there is oddly no shells on the beach, and zero smell of “ocean”. The tide comes up the Chocolate River- which really does look like Willy Wonka’s chocolate river- as a wave the rolls in. So like in Wolfville and Annapolis Valley, there are mud rivers that are dryish until the tide comes up, then they turn into rivers. Very cool.
We were able to relax in the sun at Hopewell Rocks park lookouts. Felt great to just be there, and the kids had this time to chill and explore and hang out together.
The afternoon and evening were a real taste of Acadian culture and history. We began at Monument Lefebvre, learning about the deportation of the Acadians in 1755, and the present-day Acadian renaissance.
We weren’t quite sure why suddenly things got more excited on the bus ride… but temporary tattoos of Acadian colours and flags were passed around and Lise and Isabelle, JCA chaperones, helped us apply them to our faces and arms! They kept saying were were going to have a Tintamarre and we had to get ready.
We were greeted by our friends and families waving big Acadian flags at a lovely Rotary Park where the exterior of the community hall is in the style of an Acadian home. Inside, our hosts had planned these hilarious team games that got everyone mixing up, laughing and re-energized. Then we had the Tintamarre. Imagine a room full of people wearing the Acadian flag colours of red, white, blue and yellow, making as much noise as possible on hooting party horns and ratchets, pots, pans, tambourines, foil pie plates.. anything loud and bang-y! Yes. VERY LOUD. And we all paraded around for a lap outside, banging and tooting and hooting and clapping away. “We are here! We are strong and resilient! Hear us loud and proud!” is the basic idea behind the Tintamarre. It’s a thing that is done usually on every August 15th at 6pm, and for special ceremonial occasions. We were lucky to get to experience this!
The level of awesome doesn’t stop there. We got to eat traditional Acadian dinner: rappie pie (potato dumpling dish) and fricôt (chicken soup-stew) for dinner and pets de soeur (crazy good sticky buns) for dessert. There were lots of other choices too, but the Acadian foods were the highlight since our friends had tried to explain it all to us when they had visited us. If you are foodie, you will want to check out these Acadian recipes. It was just a fabulous night of fun and connection. Our host families have worked so hard to make us feel welcome, and we couldn’t be more grateful.
Morning will come all too soon, so I’ll sign off. Vive l’Acadie!!!