Bloomfield students tackle ambitious P.E.I. milestone production

Eric McCarthy
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BLOOMFIELD -- One hundred fifty years have passed since the Fathers of Confederation gathered in Charlottetown for a conference that would lead to the birth of our nation, Canada.
Sure, there are the PEI2014 celebrations taking place all over P.E.I. in recognition of that milestone, but students and staff at Bloomfield Elementary School decided to take on a special project of their own to celebrate the occasion.

Bloomfield Elementary School students, from left, Sean Curtis, Brock Brink, Bennett Griffin, Madison Brown, Mary Anne Gard, Curtis Stone, Pierce Handrahan and Lexi Cormier groove to the music being played by their music teacheer Garth MacKay as they try out their costumes for their school's producion of 'In Praise of P.E.I.'

For the past nine weeks they have been rehearsing songs, choreographing dance moves and learning about Prince Edward Islands special place in Confederation. On Thursday, May 1, they take over the stage at Westisle Composite High School to present, In Praise of P.E.I.,a montage of songs, dance, narration and vignettes.

Shows are scheduled for 1 and 7 p.m. The afternoon performance is primarily for students from area elementary schools, but both shows are open to the general public. Theres no admission charge, but donations in support of music and other programs at Bloomfield Elementary School will be accepted.

Eight of the songs from the performances have already been recorded on a CD which is now available for purchase.

It sounds really good. Theyre incredibly good singers,music teacher Garth MacKay assured.

When asked to list the songs on the CD, its clear with a group of Grade 4 students that Ice Cream and The Hockey Song are among their favourites. Also on the CD are O Canada, Canada Is, Prince Edward Island is Heaven to Me, Un Acadien Errant, In Love with an Island and The Island Hymn.

In Praise of P.E.I., is an ambitious undertaking for the school, admits MacKay. We just thought it was really important that they know what this 150th is all about. Were kind of pulling out most of the stops, we hope.

Picking up on a suggestion from a student and in keeping with one of the featured songs on the program, MacKay agreed an ice cream sale after the performances just might be a good final touch. It will definitely be considered, he said.

The way we started it, we sat down and tried to think of the various highlights of P.E,I,s history, MacKay said of the planning process. Lori Gard and Jenny MacDougall wrote the script. Most of the staff are helping to pull the performances together. Others are helping to make or procure costumes, choreographing the dances and helping with rehearsals.

Im hoping it will be so well received that maybe they will need to do it a time or two again, MacKay said of the total school effort. Were putting a lot into it.

MacKay said the Westisle carpentry class has built fronts for a chapel, a country store and a log cabin, and Tyne Valley artist, Nan Farrier is painting scenes for the production. Theyre also getting lots of costumes donated.

The production opens with the national anthem while the Canadian flag and all the provincial and territorial flags on display. The production then pays tribute to the First Peoples with Mi'kmaq chanting and dancing.

Its a lot of music, a lot of singing. Theres step dancing, Acadian dancers. Theres a little bit of ballet, MacKay said in summing up the entire production.

The show will end with a reprise of Prince Edward Island is Heaven to Me.This time the Bloomfield student will sing along with multi-cultural students from Prince Street school in Charlottetown who will be shown via video.

Organizations: Westisle Composite High School, Bloomfield Elementary School, The Hockey Song First Peoples Prince Street school

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Confederation, Canada Tyne Valley Charlottetown

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