Last Sunday evening, I arrived at the Rock Barra Retreat as the hot sun hung low in the sky, as the crickets chirped and as the waves gently crashed on the shore.
And anyone who has had the pleasure of enjoying a time at the Rock Barra Retreat will know the feeling of peace that comes over you when you step out into the paradise of tranquility that was so wonderfully donated to the Island arts community by Sam Sniderman many years ago.
For those who have been perhaps “living under a rock” when it comes to Rock Barra, though, the site is a private artist’s retreat located near the northeast corner of the Island. The property is a gorgeous 20-acre site complete with incredible views, immaculate red cliffs, a freshwater pond, many meditative walking trails through the woods and fields, one of the best beaches on P.E.I. and various accommodations.
In 2003, the Daniel Day Lewis production The Ballad of Jack and Rose was filmed there, and left behind on the set was a large bermed (partially underground) building with a sod roof, which now functions as a studio that provides a great space in which to present workshops and performances.
And this past Sunday at about 7:30 p.m. (after I savoured a pacifying stroll through the forest and to the cliffs), I walked in through the doorway with “Thanks Sam” written on it, into that building that is the home for the now-annual and much-loved Rock Barra Songs & Legends of the Northside Concert Series hosted by Teresa Doyle. And I came in just as the music was about to start.
A renowned Island singer/songwriter, Doyle has just released a new album this year entitled Song Road, which was inspired by her travels through places like Mexico, Africa, the Yukon, the Caribbean and more. In keeping with Doyle’s firm grasp of a range of eclectic styles in performance and recording, Song Road is a soul-warming saunter down a cross-cultural path, remaining firmly footed in the music and stories of P.E.I., while exploring and celebrating the true gift of the song in all of our lives.
Doyle performed an opening set of several songs from this new album and others — including Jimmy’s Jig, Lazy Holiday and Peach of a Beach Day — to start off the evening of music, as the setting sun streamed in with its orange light through the windows of the studio upon the attentive crowd gathered round before her.
It was then time to enjoy the music of acclaimed British/Canadian guitarist/singer October Browne, whose career has now spanned more than 30 years of playing internationally as a soloist and accompanist. We were treated to a seven-song set of both vocal and instrumental tunes that displayed the deep capacity to convey emotion in Browne’s music. Whether it be in the intricate plucking of guitar strings or in the raw and delicate delivery of lyrics through her unmistakable voice, Browne can powerfully enchant a listener, and did so wonderfully in her 40-minute performance that night.
Following an intermission of tea, cookies and fresh peaches, we then enjoyed the delight of a ukulele/vocal performance by Katlin Doyle, who (in her first time ever performing) warmed and inspired our hearts with three tunes, including two originals that resonated with passion for working toward a better world for all.
Doyle and Browne then wrapped up the night with a lovely selection of songs that they delivered together as a well-woven duo.
The final Rock Barra Artist Retreat concert of the 2013 season takes place this Sunday at 7:30 p.m., featuring Ian and Diane Farr and friends.
For more information on the beauty that is Rock Barra, visit www.rockbarraretreat.com.
Next week: I’m heading to the TD P.E.I. Jazz and Blues Festival.
Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at email@example.com or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.
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