Lennie Gallant has always walked the delicate line between moving forward and stopping to smell the roses. Over the course of his impressive two-plus decades of music-making here in Atlantic Canada, he has consistently been one of the region’s brightest and most prolific songwriters.
With nine albums to his credit, the Prince Edward Island native now calls Halifax his home. And though he may not be present in body on Prince Edward Island these days, his heart will always remain there. Nowhere is the love and pride that Gallant holds for his island home more evident than in his songs.
Prince Edward Island plays such a central role to so many of Gallant’s songs that a full-fledged production entitled Searching For Abegweit: The Island Songs & Stories of Lennie Gallant begins an almost two-month run in Charlottetown on Saturday, June 28.
This dynamic show is rooted in storytelling, including selections from Gallant’s well-travelled folk material in addition to Acadian and Celtic-influenced songs. Also featured during the course of the show will be songs from Abegweit, Gallant’s forthcoming 10th record due later this year.
He tells The Times & Transcript that the idea of bringing his many songs about Prince Edward Island into one show was something that he had been contemplating for quite some time.
“Over the course of my career and through various other projects I have been involved in, a lot of the songs that I write are set on Prince Edward Island,” Gallant says. “I always wanted to gather these various songs under one umbrella and do a show about the province. I’ve got strong roots on the island. I feel so strongly about it that there was no better time than this year, the province’s 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, to put on a show featuring songs that are so steeped in the culture.
“It was when we started putting the stories and songs together for the show that I realized what a wealth of material that I had to pick from. The biggest problem was whittling the quantity of songs down to fit into one show.”
Lennie shares that Searching For Abegweit: The Island Songs & Stories of Lennie Gallant will be a multi-faceted performance, consisting of music and film as well as a multi-media presentation made up of paintings created by his sister, Karen.
“My apartment is full of my sister’s paintings. I am such a big fan of her work. I do not feel as though any other artist has managed to capture Prince Edward Island in art the way that she has touched on it. We are going to be prominently featuring my sister’s work on a screen that will be located behind the band.”
“These songs and stories are augmented by the rich and colourful paintings of Karen Gallant,” states Searching For Abegweit… show director and Moncton resident Jac Gautreau. “Her works, like her brother Lennie’s, share a deep understanding of Island life and mythology. I cannot imagine a more perfect visual companion for these songs.”
After dreaming of one day collaborating using their respective media, it is only fitting that Lennie and Karen now pair up for not only this stage but for the release of a new book.
Taking its title from a song featured on Gallant’s 1994 hit album The Open Window, Peter’s Dream features a collection of lyrics to 50 of Gallant’s songs, accompanied by an equal number of art pieces from Karen. It is in the book that readers are able to see the ways that both Lennie and Karen were influenced by their home province.
“The show as well as the book deals with both the present as well as a contemporary look at the island,” Gallant says. “Beyond the province’s natural beauty, what makes Prince Edward Island such a special place to people? Why do people feel so strongly about this place? I don’t believe that you can’t answer those questions until you take a look at how people ended up there and what exactly those reasons are.
“I believe that Prince Edward Island is one of the most beautiful places on earth. People on the island enjoy a pace of life that people from Canada’s larger cities just might not see or might not appreciate. People on the island really understand how important it is to rely on each other and stay connected to one another. There is a sense of community that exists here that is so strong and so important.”
As if Gallant doesn’t have quite enough on his plate these days, he is also celebrating the release of another new album, Live Acoustic At The Carleton. Recorded over two night at the award-winning Carleton Bar & Grill in Halifax, the album features 16 tracks including a combination of new songs as well as multiple fan favourite selections.
What: Searching For Abegweit:
The Island Songs & Stories
of Lennie Gallant
When: Saturday, June 28 through Friday, August 29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Mack Theatre, corner of Grafton St. and University Ave, Charlottetown
Tickets start at $25. Advance tickets are available online at charlottetownfestival.com or by phone at 1-800-565-0278