Atlantic Strong: How The Resolve Of East Coast Musicians Reflects On All East Coasters

Matt Carter Community

A Message from Lixar:

Shelley Fraser, Director, Communications and Community Engagement, Lixar IT

Shelley Fraser Director, Communications and Community Engagement Lixar IT

Music has played such an essential role during the Pandemic. It has been there for every emotion: happy, sad, reflective, hopeful, up, even or down. It has helped us get off the couch and dance or simply been a reliable companion when we needed a friend in the room. We can’t undervalue music and its worth, hope and healing during this time. To pay tribute, we’ve commissioned music industry experts and artists from across the country to write an article on why music is important, especially now. Music is part of our collective resiliency, our culture and our Canadian Spirit. Thank you for taking the time to pause and read the articles and reflect on how and why music is important to you and to our community.

Atlantic Strong: How The Resolve Of East Coast Musicians
Reflects On All East Coasters

Music article by Matt Carter

Everything you’ve ever heard about Atlantic Canadians is probably true, to some extent. We’re definitely a unique breed. We speak in a dialect rich in colloquialisms communicated through unmistakable accents that reveal both our regional and shared heritage. We’re quick to tease each other, but will rise in defence of one another with equal speed. And when we’re far from home we can always find each other, as if drawn by a gravity all our own.

Atlantic Canada is a region of distinct cultures bound by more than simple geography. Our collective history is ripe with struggles and tragedies. We were raised on shipwrecks, mining disasters and failed crops, weaned on shrinking industries and families forced apart by the Albertan Dream. To top it off, we’re among the poorest provinces in the country. But despite all we’ve endured, we continue to find hope and optimism in the immeasurable power of music. Late night kitchen parties and spontaneous outbursts of song are not uncommon. And much to the chagrin of some, you’d be hard pressed to find any among us who couldn’t fake their way through the chorus of Stan Rogers’ “Barrett’s Privateers” or sing along to at least a half-dozen songs by Great Big Sea.

In Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, fiddle and bagpipe are like second languages. And between New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador, there are as many songs documenting the trials of East Coast life as there are love songs on the radio dial.

This year has been a rough one for all of us.  When COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill, we instinctively turned to music. What began with a few musicians posting songs on social media quickly grew into something greater. It wasn’t long before we were all sharing tunes, songs and stories on Facebook and Instagram. Livestream concerts have become the new Netflix.

One of the biggest Facebook streaming events, the Ultimate Online Nova Scotia Kitchen Party (COVID Edition), began on March 19. The page now has over 280,000 followers and has hosted over 800 video performances from musicians of all ages. There have been fiddlers, pipers, piano players, rock bands, singer songwriters and even a few karaoke sets. Our love of music is judgement free.

In New Brunswick, the Living Roots Music Festival launched an online edition for 2020 called the Living Rooms Music Festival and has been programming four hours of performances each Sunday evening since late March. And believe it or not, we’ve even had a pirate radio station hit the digital airwaves featuring East Coast musicians playing their favourite tracks from anywhere and everywhere.

Our struggles were compounded when 17 year old Emily Tuck, a young fiddler who was among the first to share a tune online, was among those murdered in a violent shooting spree. In response, hundreds of pipers from across the Maritimes ventured outdoors to play a lament in honour of the victims. Among them was Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough. Just five days later she became the first confirmed casualty in a NATO training exercise off the coast of Greece. The lament she played for those who died ended up being her final post on Facebook.

Music is a beautiful healer. It gives us words when no words exist and can embrace an entire community when needed.  It’s been a challenging year so far, but we’ll get through it. We can face anything, together, with music.

Playlist Suggestions:
Canadian East Coast Music (Spotify). This public playlist is an excellent resource for exploring contemporary performers from our neck of the woods. Updated regularly, and currently boasting some 1,300 songs, load this baby up, hit shuffle and enjoy music by David Myles, Rose Cousins, Classified, Joel Plaskett and dozens of others.

Cape Breton (East Coast) Kitchen Party (Spotify). Don’t let the name fool you, this playlist of traditional music from the East Coast brings together musicians from all four provinces (and a few inspired by our musical heritage). You’ll find everyone from Stan Rogers, Ron Hynes and Great Big Sea to some of our best kept secrets like Rawlings Cross, McGinty and the Barra MacNeils.

Matt Carter is a writer, a musician and a music lover based in Fredericton, New Brunswick.