Well, the fog has lifted after a fabulous weekend in Cornerbrook at ECMA. I don't even know where to begin to describe the musical euphoria that I felt at every moment of the trip. It started with a 9 hour bus ride to North Sydney. Mom and Dad and my nephew, Nico were able to hop in the car and come for a brief visit in the parking lot of the North Star Inn before we boarded the ferry to Port Aux Basques. It was great to see them and to be on Cape Breton soil again for the first time since last October.
Aboard the PEI bus to Cornerbrook were a super bunch of Island musicians and others who had good reason to go to ECMA (like my roomie, Trish Blanchard whose daughter Meaghan was showcasing, performing on the Gala show and was a hit wherever she went! Trish took home the "ECMA Mom" prize awarded by a group of island ladies who go to ECMA every year to partake in the festivities). I also had the pleasure of meeting Kathy Coffin-Sulis who teaches Event Management at Holland College. This brave lady brought her students to act as volunteers at the awards show and gain some hands-on experience. They were a fantastic group of young people with a super-nice mentor who Trish and I got to hang out with and get to know.
The overnight crossing to Nfld. was a hoot with other buses and passengers heading to ECMA all converging for a late night party on the sea. We all seemed to catch a few ZZZs by the time we docked in the early a.m., except for a few die-hards who were still up jamming as we were pulling in to shore. Then it was another 2-hour or more ride to Cornerbrook where we were all taken to the various accommodations around town. Not all of us were able to get a room at any of the "good" hotels. But, the word "good" is all relative and only pertains to the walls themselves, not the spirit that dwelled within.
I spent my time attending various showcases and Songwriter's Circles, checking out the Buyers Room for info on familiar and not-so-familiar artists and hanging out with the PEI gang at our Hotel Cornerbrook. It was quite a bonding experience and I really felt like I got to know our Island musicians a whole lot better. We really do have something special here, from Meaghan's gorgeous voice (and hair!), to the Grass Mountain Hobos' undeniable charm, to Peter Wynne and the boys from The Lazyjacks, to Tim Chaisson, Tian (LOVE those harmonies..."Keep the Buzz Alive!") and Nat, to the Jon and the John (Matthews and Connolly), to Todd MacLean & Smothered in Hugs (love the shirts!) to Robyn with a "Y" from The Sidewalks with his quirky sense of humour and the list goes on! I felt like there was some mutual admiration there and they got a chance to know me a little better as well. It's always good to know that you're making a difference to someone. I hope they all know that Harmony House is here to support them and all they have to do is call.
Because of this easy ability to bond with the Island guys and gals, I found myself questioning if I'm now a Prince Edward Islander or still a Cape Bretoner? I came to the conclusion that I'm now officially both. I had a chance to hang out one night at the CB late night venue and chat with some of my old buds. I got to sit down with my bro-in-law, Bruce (a fellow Sydney Miner) and Lennie G. for a short while and chat (and chuckle). Bruce invited me to go out for steak one night, but I had just eaten and was headed to the Gala show. I wanted to do it all, but there was only one of me. At the very least, I wished I was a cow with a few extra stomachs :) But seriously, I don't have to choose one beautiful Island over the other, do I? Cape Breton will always be "home", but PEI is now where I make my life and feel very at home. It's like the best of both worlds. I can still have my cake and eat it too! Phewf! I feel so lucky.
Speaking of lucky, I have to thank my wonderful husband and kids for supporting me with this ECMA trip. In my usual pre-travel panic and worrying phase the day before I left, Kris looked me in the eye and said, "I want you to go there and have fun. You deserve it." That meant more to me than anything in the world and I love him for it. I knew he and the kids would be fine without me for a few days and my confidence in him allowed me to go there with a few goals in mind, be myself and make the best of it. Not everyone gets chances like that in life and I feel so fortunate to have that. I was having so much fun and felt so in my element and I will never forget ECMA 2009.
I don't think my roomie, Trish will have trouble remembering either. I was happy to be able to drag her around (I may be exaggerating just a tad) and introduce her to a few important people on the East Coast music scene, share lots of laughs and a few "toasts", and celebrate Meaghan's success on stage with her. We even got up on the dance floor with Carolyn, Cate and Cynthia (and a few others in boogying mode) during one of the PEI showcases. Thanks for the memories, Trish!
If there was any downfall to the weekend at all, it would be that I didn't get to try the Deep Fried Seal Flipper that was on the hotel restaurant menu. No, actually I caught a chest cold the day after we arrived. Poor Tim C. thought maybe he passed his on to me by sitting next to me on the bus, but I coudn't prove it was him. I mean there was no hard evidence. It doesn't really matter where it came from. Upon Kris' advice, I got me a box of Cold F-X and started pumping them into me. Not sure if they worked at all, but I managed to keep it somewhat under control. I wasn't about to let a little cough and a sniffle prevent me from partying, now was I?
Yes, the 24-hour trip home was longer than it needed to be, but we all made it back safe and sound with lots of wonderful memories (musical and otherwise) and friendships formed. I hope I'm fortunate enough to go again next year and bring the whole fam damily. If all goes well, Kris will be taking part this time, Harmony House is still a hot spot on the music scene (ring, ring) and if we have the budget to do it all over again, we'll be there. Heck, we can't afford NOT to go :)) Save us a room, bye!
* This photo was taken on the ferry during the trip home. A little impromptu jam session involving Rob Oakie, Meaghan, Fraser MacCallum, Gordie the fiddler, Thomas Webb, some of the Grass Mountain Hobo guys and a few unidentified souls :)