by Bertha Ann MacLean
A funny thing happened on the way to the Lord Nelson, that midnight hour. I forgot that I was in Halifax. A good thing, I think, for the night belonged to the Cape Breton contingent. I wanted to be at a ceilidh, a party, and not at some bar where the sight line was bad and the bar staff rude. The music was well played, though that seemed to be of little matter to those whose responsibilities surely included presenting a better venue for showcase artists.
I was not alone in my desire to find a place to mingle, listen, and enjoy the East Coast Musical weekend. Tickets to the Rave, hosted by Joella Foulds and Max Mac Donald, were at a premium. The big pink ticket waved from the masses who lined the staircase that opened into the ballroom. Hundreds of tickets had been given away, and I think most of those fortunate to receive such a gift, attended the function. Great music and free chili, toted as the best to be had, tempted all who were inclined to take to a party-notion. I stood in the line, waiting for my chance to gain admittance into the grand room. It was a chance to see all who had traveled from my home and wave to them from my perch. There were so many eager to squeeze through the tiny opening that let into the party, so I quickly made my way to the bar, and watched the masses overtake the door, as pink tickets littered the floor.
“Dark rum and coke…make that a double!”, echoed from lips that made me turn to see who was reading my mind. Jimmy Flynn, hailed that weekend as a god, stood to my left, drinking my drink of choice. He grinned with a knowing smile, as he tipped his hat, and made his way through the crowd. J.P. Cormier quickly took his place, and I almost hesitated to linger at the bar to see what was the drink of such a talent. But I was drawn to the inner room, where the music was about to unfold. I lucked into a spot next to a window, and watched as the musicians strolled on stage. John Allen Cameron opened the show, and a steady stream of musicians seemed to ensue. Freddy Lavery and Allie Bennett, Matt Foulds and Jennifer Roland were just a taste of the talent to grace the stage that night. J.P. was his ever brilliant self and showcase artists Wally MacAulay and Angelo Spinazzola really shined to the moment. Dancers were mixing it up, sweating to the beat, fanning themselves as they made their way back to the raw air flowing from the streets below, through an open window.
Just who played with whom, I couldn’t possibly say, but I do know that the talent kept me there, transfixed. I watched the stage fill with each addition, introduction… another player to be heard. Stepping out to the outer room, where plaster sconces lined the walls, chili dished from plywood tables, and the bar…still served, past the witching hour. Suits mixed with the leisure crew; connections were made. Another successful Rave production.
What lay ahead for all who ventured to Halifax, that weekend in January, is anyone’s guess; for me, it all began that night. The beauty of the building, the richness of its tones, the abundance of talent, set the mood of my journey, and I merely followed that groove. I was there to hear great music, and I had decided to put aside the sheer arrogance of most Haligonians, and find my own. A good time was to be had…thank you Joella and Max and all the staff of Rave Productions, for taking to such a notion. It made all the difference.