Church Service and Grand Pré: Sunday, May 17

Well, I can now say that we’ve checked three “big things” off my Children’s Choir Bucket List:

1)    singing Bluenose next to the Bluenose in Lunenburg

2)    singing in Lunenburg’s famed historic St. John’s Anglican, originally built in 1758

3)    singing the Acadian Hymn Tout Passe, at Grand Pré


Let me tell you about our adventures!


Sunday morning we met at Port Williams United Baptist Church-the same church that has been our meeting spot all week. Reverend Dave Ogilvie had created a service all around the concept of “Ministry in Music”. We all were inspired and reminded at how we have a duty as artists, to make the world a better place by sharing the gift of music. Sometimes we music teachers can get depressed with cutbacks to arts education, and we begin to wonder if what we do even matters. We all were reminded that we are the song holders, and that we need to share this, and pass it on, and brighten the world/ help people cope at the darkest of times. The sermon was full of musical examples, which the congregation and choirs sang heartily! Obviously music is an important part of this church congregation- the minister of music is Dr. Christianne Rushton, the vocal prof at Acadia University!


Coastal Sound and Annapolis Valley choirs sang during the service, joining together for a really rousing rendition of Brian Tate’s “Together We Are”. We jumped in to sing “Love Train” too… funny how quickly both choirs have learned each others’ repertoire!


The church ladies had made a ton of lasagna, and treated us to salad with blueberries and mandarin orange, and lasagna after the service. Then Dr. Rushton gave singers a lecture on vocal health and resonance.


We jumped on the buses and drove a few minutes to Grand Pré, the heart of Acadia and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.. This picturesque, idyllic place is deceiving. The vast green and rust coloured fields dyked from the red mud tidal flats of the Bay of Fundy, hold much painful history.


We began at the Grand Pré interpretive centre- this is a Parks Canada National Site. The movie presentation is one of those cool presentations where multi screens and seemingly “real” people depict the story of the Acadians in what seems like live action: how they were the first French speaking settlers here in the area, farming, collaborating with the local Mi’kmaw and basically minding their own business as they worked the land, engineering and building incredible dykes to hold out the salt water from the flooding the fields…


As French and British colonies sprung up all around them, and pressure from Europe to gain control of the area escalated, the politically neutral Acadians got caught in the middle. They couldn’t pledge allegiance to either France or Britain… and to make a long story short, in 1755, because the conflict was escalating, Britain ordered all the Acadian men and boys 10 years and older, to meet at the church at Grand Pré. They were read a declaration ordering them to be held captive in the hold of 5 British ships that were in the area. The women and children were eventually told to pack everything up, and get on these same boats, but families were separated, and no one knew which boat anyone was put on… and the death and illness on the boats… and as they were loading the boats, their village was set on fire, ensuring that they couldn’t easily return… then the ships set sail, deporting the Acadians to various places in the south and Europe.


Well. You can imagine there wasn’t a dry eye in the theatre by the end of the presentation. It was REALLY powerful.


You come out of the centre and walk along pathways through the fields, past “Little Boy Blue” type haystacks, past a statue of Evangeline, (you have to read the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem Evangeline) to the church. I’m talking about THE CHURCH. The stone church of the 1700’s where the Acadians were told about their fate- that they would be rounded up and deported. The church now holds paintings depicting scenes of the Acadian experience. Our guide had us act out the story of Evangeline… we were in stitches because our kids are such hilarious actors. Then we got serious.


At the time of the deportation, a priest from Halifax was sympathetic to the Acadians, and documented the hymns that they sang at that harrowing and emotional time. Tout Passe was one of these hymns. Coastal Sound taught it to Annapolis Valley, right there, in the church. The fastest song learning session ever! J Then we re-enacted the scene. We sang Tout Passe there in the church, then wandered out the front doors of the church, and down the path to a stone French cross. All 80 of us. Thank goodness there were some video cameras rolling, because I don’t know how to describe it all in words. You just had to be there. It was one of those experiences that leaves a mark on your soul. I know, by the silence and faces at the end, that your children felt it too.


We all bounced back pretty quickly… gift shops have that effect on us!


Our bus drivers went above and beyond the call of duty and took us through the farmer’s field down to the actual French Cross on the mud flats, the actual deportation site of 1755. (Deportations took place for the following 8 years too.) We used this opportunity for photos and reflection- no singing. I felt like we couldn’t possibly ever recreate what we had just done.


Another quick photo op at the Grand Pré Look- off, then to Joe’s for dinner in Wolfville.


We walked down the main street in Wolfville to the theatre, where we had seats for Mary Poppins. This community theatre company has a wonderful policy of “find a roll for EVERYONE”. The director, Mary Hannaman, just keeps adding more people to the various ensemble numbers: there was a gaggle of tap dancing youngsters as penguins that stole the show, and lots of bankers! The singing was wonderful. And they flew Mary Poppins and the chimney sweep. The costumes were also outstanding. Three hours of great entertainment. Fabulous!


A terrific day, but we all were happy to fall into bed for the night.


Tomorrow we will be making the most of our last day here.