Rockin' P.E.I.

Tara Bradbury
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Workshops, meetings and, of course, awards: in the end, it's all about the music

Charlottetown, P.E.I. — If there’s a spot big enough to fit a couple microphones and an amplifier anywhere in Charlottetown, P.E.I. this week, chances are good that it’s being turned into a stage.

The East Coast Music Awards and conference started in Charlottetown Wednesday and will see, over the next three days, as many as 2,000 musicians and industry delgates taking part in seminars, workshops, networking events and gigs before the gala awards show event Sunday evening.

Newfoundland and Labrador is well-represented among this years’ ECMA nominees, with close to 20 music award nominations in various categories.

Though the event kicked off with a parade through the city Wednesday, musicians and delegates were still arriving Thursday, descending on the downtown area in droves.

Mini-concerts were taking place all over Charlottetown, in hotels, art studios, cafes and churches, where audiences, though not large in the middle of the afternoon, were appreciative.

Australian native Marta Pacek, now of Ontario, performed an acoustic set in the bar of the Delta hotel Thursday afternoon, explaining while she’s not from the east coast, she’s hoping to network and spread her music to an east coast audience.

“I just showcased at Canadian Music Week in Toronto, and I thought, why not?” Pacek said.

Also on the tiny stage in the bar was the Charlottetown trio Manifold’s, made up of brothers Jeremy and Mitchell Gallant and Matthew Steele. The young singer/songwriters have only been playing together professionally for about a year, but have polished their harmonies and have already got some high-profile fans: their uncle is award-winning singer/songwriter and current nominee, Lennie Gallant.

Thursday’s gig featured only the three muscians — Matthew on guitar, Mitchell on bass, Jeremy on a bongo and all three on vocals — with no backing band; the group’s second acoustic gig ever. They took advantage of the small daytime crowd to try out a few new songs.

Tonight, their uncle will join them on stage for a few tunes.

“Our whole family’s musical and we’ve been playing music our whole lives, so we’ve played with him a little bit,” Jeremy explained.

“We get nervous in front of him, though, especially singing. We’re all new singers. We’ve been working hard at it, but in front of him … nervous. He’s playing a few songs with us and that’s probably the most exciting part of ECMAs for us, getting him up there with us.”

One of the ECMAs most locally anticipated shows, A Sound Celebration, took place Thursday night, featuring P.E.I. musicians Paper Lions, Jenn Grant, Meaghan Blanchard, Richard Wood and Vishten performing with Symphony Nova Scotia.

The first ECMA award presentations, for Classical Recording of the Year and Instrumental Recording of the Year, were presented. Two groups from this province had been nominated in each category: Duo Concertante, made up of St. John’s musicians Tim Steeves and Nancy Dahn, and Shallaway Newfoundland and Labrador Youth Chorus were vying for the classical album of the year for the respective albums “It Takes Two” and “Shallaway Sings Ann and Seamus: A Chamber Opera.” They lost to New Brunswick soprano Measha Brueggergosman.

Duo Concertante had also been nominated in the instrumental category for the CD “Wild Bird,” alongside Carbonear native Duane Andrews and Nova Scotia’s Dwayne Coté for their self-titled CD. That award went to Nova Scotia’s Gypsophilia.

Andrews and Cote are also nominated for the Jazz Recording of the Year award for their album, which has seen great success, having recently won the 2011 Independent Music Award for instrumental album of the year, the 2010 MusicNL award for instrumental album of the year, and the 2010 MusicNS Jazz Recording of the Year award. (Check for Thursday’s award winners.)

“You try not to get too caught up in the hype of it all, but there is something that moves you about it, I will say that,” Andrews said of the album’s success, adding there will be a follow-up Duane and Dwayne CD. “That’s the kind of things that awards do — they really give you encouragement to keep doing what you’re doing. It’s great to have that kind of motivation.”

When asked to what he credits the achievements, Andrews wasn’t sure.

“The music business certainly has a lot of mysterious aspects to it, but one thing that you need to do is work hard at what you’re doing, and make sure you’re doing the best you can. That’s what we’ve always done, so if anything, that’s the only secret we can reveal or that we understand from the whole thing. Stay true to what you’re doing and always do it as well as you can, every step of the way.”

If he and Cote don’t bring home an ECMA this year, Andrews won’t be disappointed. The whole point of the event, in his eyes, is to take in great music.

“That’s what I like about it,” he explained. “There are many great things about the awards, but there’s so much great music here that the awards don’t always represent.”

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Organizations: The East, Delta hotel, Canadian Music Week Shallaway Newfoundland and Labrador Youth Chorus Chamber Opera

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario Toronto Nova Scotia New Brunswick Carbonear

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