Star attraction: PEI’s College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts Centre

Posted on June 30, 2024 | By Desiree Anstey | 0 Comments


Featured vocalist Christine Gallant and James MacHattie on the front left of the cemetery scene. (Photo: Anna MacDonald)

Imagine arriving on the shores of a new world with nothing more than the clothes on your back and the faith and courage to forge a better future for you and your family.

Rewind more than 250 years, and this is what the first wave of Scottish settlers faced in the early 1700s when they came to Prince Edward Island on three ships— the Annabella, Edinburgh, and Falmouth. While some of these Highlanders became Islanders, many died after extreme hardship that first winter.

Highland Storm is a musical production that brings this P.E.I.-Scottish heritage to the stage at the state-of-the-art Scott MacAulay Performing Arts Centre. The Centre cost $4 million to complete and officially opened in Summerside in July 2018.

The big, annual summer production at The College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada offers spectators a whole sensory experience, orchestrates community connections and nurtures creativity, inclusivity and empathy. One scene begins with fog rolling across the stage as the featured vocalist, Christine Gallant, weaves through an ancient burial ground singing the “Sleepsong” lullable to those Scottish settlers who died. This scene is profoundly personal for some theatregoers as they connect or discover their ancestors.

The College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada in Summerside, P.E.I. (Photo: Desiree Anstey)

“You can rest now,” she consoles with a Celtic lilt to her voice, while tombstone images, captured with permission from the Belfast community cemetery project, are displayed on a large screen. The frosty theatre lights enhance the ambiance as the cast of mourners gathers to acknowledge their fellow pioneer settlers’ toil, courage and sacrifice.

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