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SALLY COLE: Riding the ECMA wave


Saturday was a rainy day.

But it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for seeing “The Song and the Sorrow”.

The long-awaited documentary is about Catherine MacLellan and her relationship with her father, music legend Gene MacLellan.

It’s directed by Millefiore Clarkes. And it was part of the ECMA lineup at The Guild.

And I wasn’t alone.

There were 100 or more people in front of me waiting to see the documentary. Someone came over and told us that, although the screening was free, we had to sign up in advance. So many of the seats were already spoken for.

As the crowd ahead of me disappeared into the theatre and the doors closed, I realized it was not to be.

So, I consoled myself, saying, “maybe another time.”

The good news was the screening was a huge success. It drew a record crowd. What a wonderful launch for Clarkes’ documentary, which will be hitting the film festival circuit this summer.

And maybe, before it does, there will be another local screening. I hope so.

While the rain was over by 6 p.m., there was still plenty of ECMA programming left. I went to Prince Street for the Trinity Session: Warner Roots show at Trinity United Church.

I found a seat and soon my toes were tapping with Mary Beth Carty’s lively fiddle/accordion music. She taught the audience a song called “The Aliens are Nice”.

And, we make a great choir. Carty thinks so too.

“You thought you were coming to a concert not a choir practice,” she said with a laugh.

After Rosemary Lawton’s showcase of lovely fiddle tunes and songs, there was a surprise announcement.

Vishtèn had won an ECMA award for roots/traditional recording of the year.

Everyone was clapping, but members Pastelle and Emmanuelle LeBlanc and Pascal Miousse were not there. They were gone for dinner. So, emcee Bob Merserau, asked everyone to keep it a secret until Vishten’s showcase at 9:50 p.m. (While we waited, we listened to more great music from Ben Miller and Anita MacDonald and Gordie MacKeeman & his Rhythm Boys.)

Vishtèn arrived and set up for their performance. Before the band started to play, Merserau said the audience had something to say.

The crowd shouted out: “You’ve won an ECMA award.”

Surprise turned to joy as the band members are presented the award by John Poirier of Warner Music Canada.

“We were shocked,” Emmanuelle later shared. “We had no idea it was tonight. Also, to have it to happen in Charlottetown is an incredible feeling.”

It was also the first time the Acadian folk group has won an award while attending the East Coast Music Awards. “Usually it happens when we’re away.”

Vishtèn’s lively showcase included songs from their new album, “Horizons” as well as “549 Centimetres” a song inspired by P.E.I.’s record-breaking snowfall of 2014.

Then it was time to head to ECMA Saturday night. This showcase was at the Delta Prince Edward. The ball room was filled with people. I arrive in time to catch Tomato Tomato perform “Proud Mary”. With a little coaxing, it became a singalong.

Matthew Byrne, a Newfoundland singer was next. He has a powerful voice and sings “The River Driver”. It’s a bittersweet song about being away from home. My favourite is “Tickle Cove Pond”.

There are also some lively offerings from The Once. Armed with a bouzouki, guitar, mandolin, banjo and the sweetest of voices, the band performed songs from their newest album, “Row Upon Row of The People They Know”.

The East Pointers’ showcase was spellbinding. People flocked to the front of the stage to catch the vibe of this high-energy band. For their set, they played songs from the new album, “The East Pointers: What We Leave Behind”. I was thrilled to hear them. I was also happy Jake Charron, Koady Chaisson and Tim Chaisson were home for the 2019 ECMAs. That’s because they have a busy touring schedule.

It was a busy weekend. Watch for my final story on the East Coast Music and Industry Awards in Tuesday’s Guardian.

ECMA in numbers
-From a live screening of the film “The Song and The Sorrow” to an electronic music production workshop to the SOCAN Song House song-writing workshop, there were 33 official conference and export buyers sessions and events at the 2019 ECMAs.
-Originally conceived by Mac Campbell in 1996 in Charlottetown, Radio ECMA has been broadcasting live from the event for more than 20 years.

Sally Cole, an entertainment writer with The Guardian, is covering the 2019 ECMAs in Charlottetown. She welcomes comments about her column as well as suggestions for future columns. She may be reached at, or by phone at 902-629-6000, ext. 6054.

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