Company members meet with director Jac Gautreau, left, during a break in rehearsals for Searching for Abegweit: The Island Songs and Stories of Lennie Gallant. With Jac Gautreau from left are Caroline Bernard, Lennie Gallant and Sean Kempt. Missing from photo are Jonathan and Jeremy Gallant.
©Guardian photo by Sally Cole
Lennie Gallant is an award-winning singer-songwriter.
And, this summer, he’s realizing a dream.
After more than three decades of playing concerts and festivals across Canada, the United States and beyond, he’s performing his own show at the Charlottetown Festival.
“When I was a kid, starting to play music, it was a dream of mine to someday get on that stage and sing a few songs. So now, doing my own show, connected with the Confederation Centre of the Arts, means a lot to me,” says the creator of Searching for Abegweit: The Island Songs and Stories of Lennie Gallant, which plays selected dates from June 26 to Aug. 30 at The Mack in Charlottetown at 7:30 p.m.
The Rustico native is also happy about spending the season with his family and friends in Canada’s smallest province.
“Every summer I’m on the road, travelling everywhere. And I often miss so much of the summer on P.E.I. So doing the show here is a nice little side benefit.”
Gallant’s dream was fuelled by his realization that, in the process of recording 10 albums, as well as doing other projects, he had written many songs about Prince Edward Island.
“I wanted to gather all of them together, under one umbrella, and do something special with them,” says Gallant who put pen to paper and wrote a script, introducing each song and weaving in personal stories and Island legends.
When he presented it at the Confederation Centre, he received a positive response from the former associate artistic director.
“Wade Lynch got very excited about it. And he was one of the champions of putting it on stage,” says Gallant, adding that the director, Jac Gautreau, also played a supportive role.
By the time rehearsals started this spring, much of the work was already in place.
“That’s because Lennie and I had lots of conversations and Lennie had conversations with Wade Lynch during the creative process,” says Gautreau.
The colourful multimedia show, which features the artwork of Karen Gallant, will offer Gallant favourites including Island Clay, The Open Window, Back to Rustico and Tales of the Phantom Ship, along with other new Island-themed songs.
“Everbody loves these songs and they all have a reason to be there but, on the other hand, we’re trying to be respectful of the time that people have,” says Gautreau.
One of the new songs is The Night We Moved the House. He co-wrote it with his nephew, Rowan Gallant of Ten Strings and a Goat Skin.
When Gallant’s great-great-grandfather died, an unscrupulous character in the community of Rustico discovered that the house the deceased and his wife had lived in was actually on the edge of his land.
“So he tried to claim the house and kick out my great-great-grandmother, a widow. But, when the community found out, they wouldn’t stand for it.
“So, in the middle of a cold winter’s night, they all showed up and literally picked up the house and moved it to another piece of land. Rowan and I loved the story so much that we had to write a song about it.”