Harmony Bazaar Festival of Women & Song

The last time I lived in Cape Breton (September 2008 – April 2010), I didn't explore as much of Nova Scotia as I would have liked. Indeed, I remember thinking that for someone who had been here for almost two years, I really hadn't seen anything. This time around, I'm making a concerted effort to see more of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia with the assistance of a few friends who are serving as local guides.

Over the past few months, I've gone for a drive to Mira Gut Beach, enjoyed a smartie sundae at the A&K Lick-a-Treat, and gone swimming in Gabarus (and I feel no shame sharing with you that I screamed like a little girl and fled the area when evil purple jellyfish came toward me). This past weekend, however, I went further afield, adding 1359km to my car's odometer. Destination: Lockeport. Event: Harmony Bazaar Festival of Women & Song.

I'm not sure that it would have ever occurred to me to go to this festival if a friend hadn't won tickets from a Halifax radio station. Actually, I'm not sure I would have even heard about this little festival. But she had free weekend passes and I had a vacation day I could devote to the initiative. So, on Friday the 27th, I headed off to Lower Sackville to collect my friend and we continued down the 103 to the small community of Lockeport.

Purple "Harmony Bazaar" signs guided us from the highway, to the community, and on to the concert location. Now, perhaps I'm easily impressed, but I was. All too often I've been headed to this sort of event and wondered where to turn, was I going the right way, etc. This time, there was no guessing involved. At the concert location, I was surprised by the quality of the venue. The community has clearly made an effort to develop the outdoor concert space, with a permanent stage, sheltered seating area, and lawn chairs and bleachers for visitors (it's nice not to have to tote your own, no?). There were vendors selling various food options — all served on compostable plates with compostable cutlery (!) — and festival merchandise. Though this was the central location for the 3-day event, the nearby school, a church, and a beach-front property also hosted events, such as a film screening and flamenco dance workshops.

Over the weekend, we roamed the waterfront in Shelburne (we were staying at a motel there), enjoyed Singapore noodles at a restaurant proclaiming they specialized in "good food" (they weren't lying), and gazed out at the ocean. We also took in a number of sessions at the Harmony Bazaar mainstage.

The music was great. And, I would have to say that the "local" performers in song circles and showcases during the afternoons and evenings were better than the headliners. No offense intended to the headliners, of course! I particularly enjoyed the "Routes to Roots" song circle featuring Irish Mythen, Wanda Joudrey Finigan, and Joyce Saunders.

Why this session you ask? Well, anyone who has seen Irish Mythen onstage knows that she is an incredible performer with a great sense of humour. But I also enjoyed it because of the diversity. Wanda Joudry Finigan contributed a Mi'kmaw perspective to the event and I was happy to hear her rendition of Apoqnmuinen (a song written by Donna Augustine and Morley Loon and frequently sung by the Se't A'newey choir in Miawpukek, NL). I was transported back to my fieldwork days in Ktaqmkuk (Newfoundland). Finally, the environmental awareness in Joyce Saunders' songs were of great interest as one who studies the relationship between music and the environment.

It's safe to say that the 8th Harmony Bazaar will go ahead in Lockeport next summer, so why not venture off the beaten path, contribute to the local economy, and be thoroughly entertained by great musicians?