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The Ceilidh in the City band returned to the stage on Saturday, providing an outlet for some Islanders craving entertainment.
The band's four members played their usual variety of tunes to a crowd of about 30 people at the Winsloe Lion’s Club at their first indoor show since New Year’s Eve 2019.
Piano player and vocalist Kendall Docherty said it was great to get back on stage and entertain.
“It’s not about making money. Right now, it’s about keeping things going, keeping the music going. Trying to keep something (going) for people that do want to go out.”
Most, if not all, in the crowd were longtime attendees, like George and Joyce Lamont.
“Every time they’d be on, we’d be here, that’s for sure,” said George.
It felt fantastic to be sitting in the Lion’s Club waiting for the band to start, said Joyce.
“I think people really missed the entertainment and getting out. It helps their mental well-being.”
Cynthia MacDonald, another audience member, agreed.
“It's a change in pace. It kind of gives your spirits sort of a little jump. The only place we can go besides that is grocery shopping and maybe to church once in a while, if we can get in.”
While MacDonald doesn’t begrudge the COVID-19 restrictions, which have severely limited events like Ceilidh in the City, she thinks the shows are crucial for Islanders.
“I think it’s extremely important ... just to have an activity where you can go and sit down and enjoy and be with other people, although we can’t socialize much.”
Though the band hosted outdoor shows at the Brackley Drive-In during the summer, the series started late and ended early, with their last show on Sept. 26. Drummer Brian Knox said he has been missing the performances as much as the audience.
“I’ve done it for over 50 years and when you stop playing it’s like you’re missing something.”
Guitarist and singer Peter Burke added: “When you’re accustomed to playing about three or four times a week, you miss it pretty quick."
For both men, music is a source of healing, something a lot of people could use right now.
“Music is an alternative source for a lot of what ails you and when you get out there and you’re playing music, you kind of forget about what life’s problems are all over the world,” said Knox.
Though used to drawing larger crowds, the small audience didn’t faze the band, said bassist Heartz Godkin.
“It doesn’t matter how many there are as long as everybody’s enjoying it.”
At a glance
This is Ceilidh in the City band’s 11th season together. Its first show was played in front of a crowd of 16 people at the Royal Canadian Legion in Charlottetown.
Now an Island staple, Ceilidh in the City has been a summer showcase of P.E.I. musicians, usually running full-time from June until the end of October. But for the last few years it went into the first week of November for a Remembrance Day show.
In recent years, it has been at the Holy Redeemer's Jack Blanchard Parish Centre, but as it is operating a child-care centre COVID-19 precautions make it a difficult venue to book.
Last year, the band didn't start until late-July, playing on an outdoor stage at the Brackley Drive-In, which ended in September.
They hadn't played a show since until Saturday. They are looking to start doing live shows again every two weeks.
Though things are slow to start, the band members know they are lucky to even get to play.
Godkin is already looking ahead.
“I’ve got hopes that things will open up for us for the summer and there’s a lot of talk between us about what we really want to do for the summer.”
The group plans to begin a regular show every second week and already have Niall MacKay, affectionately known as P.E.I.’s grandaddy of rock ’n’ roll, lined up as their guest for the next one, said Docherty.
“Stay tuned. As things progress and crowd sizes increase, we will try and do as much as we can within the limits of what we can do.”