North Country Chorus
Tours the Canadian Maritimes
"A really great trip the people, the concert sites, the landscape, the history." Such were the accolades of the North Country Chorus singers for their recent concert tour of the Canadian Maritimes. With accompanist Jean Anderson and under the choral direction of Alan Rowe, the 39 singers and 15 friends and family members left Wells River, VT, on June 19 and traveled by bus to St. Andrews by the Sea in New Brunswick. After dinner at the Garden Cafe we enjoyed walks in the 27-acre Kingsbrae Gardens before going on to Saint John.
History abounded there with the Carleton Martello Tower, the Old Loyalist Burial Grounds, and out in the bay, Partridge Island, once a quarantine station for thousands of Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine. At the Reversing Falls we witnessed the massive tides of the Bay of Fundy forcing the Saint John River to reverse direction. Our group was also treated to a concert at the Loch Lomand Villa, a large retirement community sponsored in part by the Saint John Lion's Club.
The following day brought three highlights: a visit to Hopewell Rocks with the chance to see the famous "flowerpots" carved by the Bay of Fundy high tides; a walk on the ocean floor at low tide and to experience the incredibly deep, rust colored mud flats; traversing the 13 km long Confederation Bridge, known also as the "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," in a high-posted coach which provided a panoramic view during the crossing to Prince Edward Island and Charlottetown.
Our accommodations for two days were in the lovely, historic "Inns on Great George." Highlights of our stay on PEI included a visit to the Lucy Maude Montgomery Museum and the setting of Anne of Green Gables, luncheon at "The Spot O' Tea", being sung to and singing for the internationally known Canadian singer, Catherine McKinnon. Incidentally, Ms McKinnon's husband is Don Harron, scriptwriter, producer and actor, possibly best known to US audiences as Hee-Haw's K-O-R-N newscaster, Charlie Farqueharson. The PEI visit was ended with a concert and reception at the Murray River Baptist Church.
We continued via ferry to Nova Scotia and the Canso Causeway to Cape Breton. We visited the Alexander Graham Bell National Museum, an amazing tribute to Bell's achievements as an inventor, teacher and humanitarian. For the North Country Chorus, the next day's tour of the Cabot Trail provided not only sunshine but perfect visibility. In Cheticamp our stop at St. Pierre Church provided the opportunity to test the cathedral-like acoustics.
On Sunday the Chorus sang concerts during the morning services at Ephrain Scott Presbyterian Church in South Haven and the Knox Presbyterian Church in Baddeck. Following the second service the parishioners presented a Celiedh. Our members were given Scottish tartan badges of Nova Scotia and Baddeck and a special recording of carols made by Ian McLeod titled "Tidings of Joy".
Leaving this beautiful country, the Chorus moved on to Halifax, Nova Scotia, with its many attractions, particularly the 17-acre Victorian-style Public Gardens featuring gorgeous rhododendrons, nesting ducks, and ducklings of varying ages. The city's rich history came alive at the Citadel, the Old Town clock, and the Maritime Museum. Museum exhibits document the "Great Explosion" on December 6, 1917 and the Titanic tragedy. As the base of rescue operation, the Halifax cemetery contains the graves of many Titanic victims. Saint George's Round Church is still undergoing repairs after a tragic fire to its mid section. At a reception following our special concert at the Ship Harbor Parish Church, the warmth and hospitality of our Canadian neighbors was amply demonstrated once more.
Acadian history was brought to life traveling through the amazing agricultural area developed by early Acadian farmers with its multiple dikes for farmland expansion. The stop at Grand Pre National Park, with the opportunity to learn about the particular lifestyle, beliefs and history of the Acadian people gave a vivid background to Longfellow's epic poem "Evangeline"
After leaving the university town of Wolfville and going along Nova Scotia's southern shores, a visit was made to Peggy's Cove before reaching the lovely White Point Beach Resort at Hunt's Point, and for the "dring" a chance to at least wade knee deep in the Atlantic waves, to enjoy the number of rabbits also inhabiting this beautiful, rustic spot, and for a final festive dinner gathering.
We accepted the invitation from the hosts of the celebrated Privateer Day to a special full-dress rehearsal of the skits commemorating the days of government-sanctioned pirate activities in the early 1800's. This activity protected British trade routes from "interference" by the United States as well as the earlier migration in by New Englanders choosing to remain loyal to the Crown in the 1780's . At the historic Astor Theatre on opening day, the Chorus gave its final concert followed by a reception at the Curling Club, the chorus in concert dress, hosts and new friends in period dress. The ferry from Yarmouth to Portland, accompanied by a whale, gave a wonderful ending to another memorable concert tour for the North Country Chorus.