Holiday harmony at home in Hunter River

Todd
Todd MacLean
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Meaghan Blanchard. GUARDIAN PHOTO BY SALLY COLE

"This is the very last show for Harmony House for 2015," said Melanie Anderson-Taylor, co-owner of the Hunter River theatre in her introduction to the sold-out concert last Saturday night.

And that last show was called Meaghan Blanchard Christmas - a concert that has now become an annual tradition for Blanchard and her fans, friends and family there in her cozy hometown of Hunter River.

Anderson-Taylor added that they would be leaving the Harmony House bar empty through the wintertime and were hoping to sell off what remained of their bar supplies before the night was through.

"Drink the bar dry - that sounds like a challenge these boys could take," Blanchard then quipped with a grin about her two accompanists, as she took the stage and strapped on her guitar. Applause had subsided after their entrance by that point, as laughter then filled the room, and while her accompanists Thomas Webb (Blanchard's partner, on doghouse bass) and Gordie MacKeeman (on fiddle) also had a good chuckle as they got set for the first tune.

Blanchard, who has had another stupendous year in her musical career, being a national CCMA Discovery artist finalist for 2015 and riding on the wind of her recent internet viral success with her Dixie Chicks song parody called Not Ready to Scrape Ice, got the packed crowd into it right away with a swung-out version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

The Christmas faves continued with songs like Santa Baby, White Christmas and Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, as the first half also featured a well-received heartfelt original song byBlanchard all about a fond Christmas Eve scene from her childhood — red dress on, her sister at her side, singing Silent Night.

The family theme continued asBlanchard's nanny ("the woman who taught me how to sew and bake homemade bread," she introduced), Margaret Fitzpatrick, took the stage and recounted a comforting and engaging Christmas story about two little needy angel kids who were brought in by a family at Christmastime for two weeks and then stayed for four months.

The second half of the show included song highlights like All I Want for Christmas is You (complete with a zipping fiddle solo by MacKeeman), a sing along of Silver Bells and the chilling Song for a Winter's Night - along with a reciting of The Night Before Christmas by Fitzpatrick and a finale that featuredBlanchard's sisters, Bridgette and Jenna, each singing a verse of Silent Night, followed by a rollicking version of Go Tell it on the Mountain.

After a standing ovation,Blanchard returned to deliver an encore of the tune that many were anticipating that night, Not Ready to Scrape Ice — her bang-on parody of the Dixie Chicks' Grammy Award-winning song, Not Ready to Make Nice — which now has about 200,000 views on YouTube.

As crowd members sang along in laughter and enthusiasm with the lament for the onset of another P.E.I. winter, it made for a heartwarmingly fitting "all-in-this-together" closing to the night of holiday harmony at home in Hunter River.

To listen to Blanchard's viral hit song, that has even had the Dixie Chicks themselves tweeting about it, you can view it at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1pQI5gpLbA

Blanchard is donating the proceeds from her CD sales during the month of December to the Canadian Cancer Society, and for a good belated Christmas gift idea for a good cause, check out meaghanblanchard.com.

Next week: It's time for a look back on the highlights of another wonderful musical year on P.E.I. with the annual Out and About Year in Review.

My wife, Savannah, and I wish you and yours a very happy holiday season.

Todd's picks:

1. Got Blues Matinee with Christine Campbell and Blake Johnston - The Factory, today at 2:30 p.m.

2. Annual Boxing Day Shaker - Sportsman's Club, today at 10 p.m., featuring Nick Gauthier, Tian Wigmore, Remi Arsenault, Nat Lamoureux, Chas Guay, Mitch Schurman and John Connolly.

3. Sing Along Messiah - Kirk of St. James, Monday at 3 p.m.

4. Michelle Bouey and Aaron Hastelow: In Concert - The Guild, Monday at 7:30 p.m.

5. The North Lakes and Boxer the Horse - Sportsman's Club, Monday at 10 p.m.

Organizations: Harmony House, Dixie Chicks, Hunter River theatre Canadian Cancer Society The Guild

Geographic location: Hunter River, Silver Bells

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