BY KELLEY EDWARDS
The ECMA children’s showcase was held at Neptune Theatre’s Second Stage on Sunday afternoon. Two bands from Cape Breton were among those performing in this last official showcase of the weekend. Morningstar and Duncan Wells and the Apple in A Tree Band each offer a unique style of musical entertainment, but they share one thing in common. These acts have a message to get across. For Morningstar, it is about bridging a cultural chasm. As members of the Mi’kmaq First Nation, they want to share their heritage with non native students, while at the same time providing positive role models for youngsters of their own community. Duncan Wells show revolves around his “Love and Safety Club”, where audience members are given a membership card, asked to commit to a life of safety and even get to recite the Club Promise. It’s about being true to yourself, respecting others and playing fair. It’s about staying safe.
The messages and songs that these two bands brought to the children’s showcase were very well received, however it may not have been quite the audience they wanted to impress. The children were clapping and singing along, some were even up dancing. But the point of a showcase during ECMA is to be seen by those in the industry, people who may want to sign you, hire you or at the very least, offer words of suggestion and feedback.
The showcases got off to a rocky start when the show times were switched at the last minute. Duncan Wells was scheduled to go on at 2:30, Morningstar at 3:00. When the audience for the 2:30 showcase arrived there was a sold out sign on the door and Duncan was already half way through his set.
For Richard and Alex Poulette of Morningstar, it was just another lesson in adapting. They don’t even carry a set list to the stage. Alex says he likes to get the feel of the audience before he goes on and that determines what material they will do, what stories they will tell. But for Duncan Wells, who had personally and at his own expense, mailed invites to superintendents of school boards, representatives from the IWK Grace, and others who would be in a position to hire the Apple In A Tree Band, it was a disappointing result for his efforts as most were turned away, despite that inside the availability of seating was obvious.
A past ECMA winner in the category of Children’s Entertainer, Duncan Wells knows that the ECMA’s are about business. Big business. As of yet, this genre is not considered big enough. And he agrees that children’s entertainers have to go into it with that in mind. “I’m every bit a creator as anybody out there, but I’m a children’s entertainer. We’re just not given the same kind of attention.”
It didn’t help any that the Songwriters Circle was scheduled for the same time, and most of the delegates would be going there. Wells concedes that given the choice, he too would have gone there, rather than to a children’s showcase. But that’s part of life in a fringe category like Children’s Entertainment. It’s great that the ECMA recognizes this genre with nomination, but the category only exists when there are at least five recordings out. The real shame is that it simply isn’t given the same consideration as other categories.
“It needs to be accepted more,” concludes Wells.