Halifax: Friday May 15

Today was another epic day: we did so much and learned so much that it felt like three days in one!

 We started with an hour or so bus ride to downtown Halifax, with a first stop at the brand new Halifax Library. What a stunning building, with lots of natural light and criss cross stairways and open airy feeling… a totally inspiring, lively library space. We sang a short concert there on the stairways, with audience able to see and hear from all over the atrium.

Cindy from the Helen Creighton Society met us there and gave us a workshop on Helen Creighton- the folklorist who documented about 4000 different Nova Scotian songs, but about 60,000 different versions of them! Plus ghost stories. Totally interesting to imagine her life travelling around with her tape recorder gathering songs and stories from the oldest generations–our song keepers. Cindy taught us a beautiful, less traditional sea shanty, and presented us with a 2 CD set of songs collected and another collection of Acadian songs with CD. A very exciting score for Heather Fraser and I. Our choirs will be singing folk songs for years ahead! At lunch we had a chance to ponder the notion that if we music educators don’t make it our mission to pass on the old songs to the next generation, then who will? All of the culture and tradition and stories and history will be lost. Lots of thought-provoking conversations today.

Singers have been extremely responsible all day. They know that the more they are responsible, the more fun they get to have!  We explored the library, then Spring Garden Road (funky shopping district) for an hour. We all met up at the Citadel Clock Tower, where we met our tour guides for the walking tour of downtown Halifax.

Our guide Andy Smith, of Tattle Tours, was a hoot. He’s a professional actor, and peppered the tour with ghost stories, gossip, and role playing. Very entertaining. Every student of Canadian Social Studies should get opportunities like we had today. We learned about the devastating Halifax Explosion, and saw the clock on the legislature still stopped at 9:06 (the time of the explosion); we saw the silouette of the ghost (!!!) in the window that was blown out by the explosion, in the first Anglican church in Canada- built in 1758. (Also saw a piece of shrapnel from a km away, that flew into the church wall and is still embedded there.) We learned about the 2 Halifax citizens that were on the Titanic, and saw the woman’s home and the older man’s Wright Building department store. We saw the funeral home (now a great seafood restaurant called Five Fish) where Titanic victims were stacked, and we learned why Halifax was the city that sent aid to that vessel. Do you know why? Because St. John’s Newfoundland, which was the closest harbor to the disaster, was iced in, and rescue boats couldn’t come in and out of the harbor. So Halifax sent emergency vessels and brought the survivors and bodies back here. 151 Titanic casualties are buried in Halifax cemeteries. We went to the “Press Gang”- now a chi chi restaurant- that has the infamous history of being a place where ship crewmen would strong arm drunk and disoriented men into working on the ships, setting sail before they sobered up and knew what had hit them. Halifax has oodles of colourful history, and Andy did a great job of bringing these anecdotes to life for us.

A cool highlight of the tour was the oldest cemetery, with tombstones dating back to the 1700’s. There, we saw the tomb of Major General Ross, a big player in the war of 1812. In fact, he’s the General who led the British troops in burning down the government buildings in Washington DC… the reason the Americans had to build “the white house”. And of course our guide Andy had to throw in a couple more ghost stories at the visit to the cemetery. If you hear someone laughing and dissing you by the split tree, that’d be the ghost of James Bosson, murdered by Smith D. Clark in 1832. You can hear the whole story here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ui357Lc1INw

We ended up at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, where we sang a concert in the grand hall, surrounded by wooded sailboats and a view of the Halifax boardwalk and harbour. Who should walk into the concert but Annette Coffin, who taught many of our CSMA singers as youngsters! She had made the 4 hour drive to town to see us. <3

With the sun still shining warmly for the first time in months here, the boardwalk was full of happy people. I was happy because I finally saw the actual deck chair recovered from the Titanic, at the museum!

A walk down the boardwalk, along the waterfront, took us to our “Party Boat” where all 91 of us boarded and set off for the night. We noshed on yummy lasagna and apple crisp and then danced our way for the next 3 hours, on the outdoor deck of the boat, while beautiful scenery went by. It was REALLY fun to see all the kids having such a joyful time together. They were just out there, dancing so freely and full of friendship- nothing like a school dance that I’ve ever seen. Just good clean fun had by all.

 Lots of photos and video on the AVHC-CSMA group site, so check that out.

And once again, let me tell you how fabulous your kids are being. So interested to learn things, so positive, so supportive… SUPER people.

I must get to sleep- tomorrow is the big learning opportunity in Lunenburg.