AC&C 2016: There’s always a first time

(This article was originally published in Harmony Inc.’s Summer 2016 edition of The Key-Note.)

Just before Elaine Blanchard was about to perform at AC&C for the very first time, she asked several other ScotianAires to join her in a smudging ceremony, a tradition befitting her Mi’kmaq heritage and common to other North American indigenous cultures.

Elaine felt the ceremony would release her creativity and help her deal with any negativity or nerves. When the curtain opened on our contest performance, she was pleasantly surprised at how “not nervous” she was.  “It really made a difference.  A sense of peace came over me and I’m sure the others felt the same way.”

newbies-at-fun-night

One of the highlights of Area 1’s AC&C is “Fun Night”, when the choruses and quartets perform songs in costume related to a specific theme. This year’s theme was “Fairy Tales”, and all five first-timers got into the Fun Night spirit. (L to R: Jennifer Cleveland, Kim Meechan, Pam Callow, Elaine Blanchard, Michelle Woodrow)

Elaine was one of five ScotianAires “newbies” who attended this year’s Area 1 Contest in Sackville, New Brunswick in June   Like Elaine, first-timer Kim Meechan was also surprised at her lack of stage fright.  She joined the other ScotianAires for a period of quiet time (no talking!) just before going on stage.  “I was in the zone,” she later recalled.

At first, Kim was reluctant to wear the special ribbon that would signify her “newbie” status: “I didn’t want to stand out.”  But she was pleased with how friendly and welcoming everyone was to her and the other newcomers.

kim

AC&C first-timer Kim Meechan proudly displays her first place ribbon…together with her “newbie” ribbon.

“The most exciting thing was when they read the results – it was like Christmas,” Kim recalled. “After they announced that we had won, a woman from another chorus gave me a big hug.  It wasn’t like a rivalry – it was an atmosphere of mutual respect. It was as if the cohesiveness we feel in our own chorus extended to all of Area 1.”

Pam Callow, who writes thrillers when she isn’t singing with the ScotianAires, made a similar observation.

“Whenever a chorus came off the stage and came into the auditorium, the audience applauded them again.  When you’re on stage, you can’t really see your audience – when you’re in the auditorium, you get to see the other choruses and have more of a connection of what’s happening,” she said.

At the same time, she enjoyed the competitive aspect of AC&C.

“The competition forces you to work on your musicianship and different elements of performance. It exposes you to so many other choruses,” she said.  “It was wonderful to win, but whether we won or not, I like performing and I like competing.  It’s rare in the performing arts where adults can actually compete.”

All the new members – like the rest of the ScotianAires – are looking forward to attending IC&C in Providence in November.  In fact, Kim Meechan was so inspired by her first contest experience that she organized a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to help defray the chorus members’ travel costs, which are particularly high as a result of the exchange rate between the U.S. and Canadian dollars.  To find out more about the campaign – and to make a donation – go to https://www.gofundme.com/scotianaires.