Clan Maxwell Society
The College of Piping, Summerside, PEI
Highland Storm, A Voyage of the Gaelic Spirit
I have just recently returned from vacation in PEI. Apart from the great beaches, swimming and snorkeling was one destination that I felt I had to make while in PEI-- The College of Piping and the Celtic Performing Arts, in Summerside.
Here children (of all ages) can learning the essential Celtic art forms- Piping, drumming, Highland dancing, and one unique form- PEI step-dancing. By the generousity of Doug and Debbie Hall, Americans that fell in love with PEI and settled there in 1969, all children between the ages of 8 and 18 can have a free scholarship to study piping or drumming at the College. That was almost enough to make me want to move there, if only for the sake of my own two children.
The College itself is a rather unimposing white wooden building near the east end of Summerside. Behind the building is an outdoors amphitheatre with wooden seats. And here is where the magic happened the night I was there.
The College puts on a show written by the staff and performed by the students called 'Highland Storm, Voyage of the Gaelic Spirit'. This musical play, traces the history of emigration from the Highlands to PEI of Gaelic settlers. Living their simple lives in the highlands and forced to immigrate during the 1700's these Scots came to live in PEI, the most Scottish of the provinces (according to their own literature). The play was narrated as the action played out on stage, in piping and drumming and dancing. From, the highlands to Canada, forced onto ships, building new homes, and eking out a living during the harsh winters-- farming and fishing. And later in the 19th century, taking part in the formation of our great country. In the 20th century the contributions made during the Great War was played out by kilted soldiers piping and drumming. Inevitably, some are left behind in the cemeteries of foreign lands. On into the mid-20th century, many younger people had forgotten their roots and turned away from the traditional arts and the lure of rock and roll. But by the later 20th century and into the 21st the resurgence of the younger generations discovery of their roots is portrayed, as the pipes, drums, and dancing shoes once forgotten are brought out of an old trunk once more.
The show is in 12 scenes:
Scene 1 In the Time of the Clans
3 Losing Our Land
4 Farewell to the Highlands
5 Atlantic Odyssey
6 Dawn on a New Land
7 We're Settlers Now
8 March of Progress
9 Trouble in the Old Empire
10 Melting Pot
11 Full Circle
12 Highland Storm
The finale in Scene 12 was reminiscent of Riverdance, as all the young ladies of the College deck out in red dresses danced both highland style and PEI step-dancing style accompanied by the Pipes and Drum, and the house band of fiddle, drum-kit, and guitar.