When Karine Ste-Marie arrived in Charlottetown on a cruise ship one October morning in 2016, she didn’t realize how the short visit in the province’s capital city would impact her life.
A production cast singer aboard The Rotterdam, she had seen the majesty of Antarctica and the beauty of Alaska.
Ste-Marie had also travelled through most of South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico and was finally sailing through Canadian waters.
As she walked along the Charlottetown Harbour, soaking in the beautiful day and the friendly people she met along the way, she had an epiphany.
“It was one of those moments that I felt the peace of everything. Finally, after searching to find myself, asking myself where I wanted to go and what I wanted to be, I became conscious of the fact that everything was going to be all right, that everything was going to work itself out.”
Sitting on a park bench, gazing at the harbour, sun streaming on her shoulders, suddenly a song came to her. Later, back on board, as the boat sailed out of the harbour, she wrote, “Charlottetown”.
“The melody hit me first. And then the chorus. I wrote the song in French, probably because it’s my first language. And then I translated it into English because it’s a really pretty song,” says Ste-Marie, who works with Holland America Line.
Hopes and dreams
Filled with colourful imagery, the song describes how the “open arms of Charlottetown” helped rid her of her demons and make peace with the past.
“It was a song about deciding to go back home and knowing what I had to do.”
Sixteen months later, the French version of “Charlottetown” hit No. 1 on Ici Musique, Sirius XM Franco.
“I’m so excited. I wasn’t expecting anything at all,” says Ste-Marie, during a telephone interview from St. Lucia.
The English version has not been promoted, so it’s not doing as well.
“On Spotify, I have 15,000 hits of the French version but only 100 of the English one.”
However, she hopes that the positive press will increase the number of hits the anglophone version will receive.
“I’ve already had three fan messages on Facebook – people wanting to know where they can get the song.”
As it turns out, P.E.I. radio host Eric MacEwen is one of her greatest fans. He has been playing the English version of “Charlottetown” every week on the Eric MacEwen Show.
“It’s intriguing that someone who is fluent in both official languages, on this adventure of travelling the world, sails into the tiny port of Charlottetown and is overcome with a feeling that she belongs here because of the beauty and the peace of the place and the people passing by with smiles on their faces and often saying, ‘hi’.”
Mayor Clifford Lee, who is also a fan, congratulates Ste-Marie on the recent success with 'Charlottetown’.
“We were pleasantly surprised to hear that a bilingual song had been composed from the inspiration our city provided.”
MacEwen hopes that others will take a moment or two to listen.
“It’s quite a compliment to have a romantic ballad written for your harbour town in Charlottetown.”