“The lightbulb moment was bringing these two needs together to help both,” Max MacDonald says his new endeavour, The Rural Music Project. “As a one-off gig, none of these venues make sense. They’re too small and they don’t have staff to organize a show. However, if you string 5, 8, 12 or more of these together and have central organization, the numbers start to add up. That was the lightbulb moment.”
This December, The Rural Music Project has sent out J.P. Cormier and the Elliot Brothers on an eight-stop tour of smaller venues on Cape Breton Island and mainland Nova Scotia, venues which ordinarily would never have the opportunity to host the type of acts the Project intends to program. Noel – A J.P. Cormier Christmas is the first Christmas tour Cormier has ever done in his long career.
MacDonald has a long history in the Cape Breton music and theatre scene. He was the lead vocalist for Buddy And The Boys, a pioneering island rock band in the 1970’s. He was a founding member of two popular comedy and music stage shows, The Rise And Follies of Cape Breton Island and The Cape Breton Summertime Revue. He also was a co-founder, with Joella Foulds, of the Celtic Colours International Festival as well as being co-owner, with Foulds, of Rave Entertainment.
MacDonald says the inspiration for The Rural Music Project came this summer while he was vacationing in Guysborough County (which he did as a boy) and had discussions with friends about the challenges facing the local community centre.
“Afterward, the big old lightbulb just came on,” he recalls. “I began to imagine how many rural community centers in Nova Scotia were facing similar issues of needed repair and general upkeep, and instinctually knew there would be a ton of them. In my head, this was paired with the knowledge that I’ve never met an artist who complained about too much work. It’s a big old country with a small population.”
So far, MacDonald says, “The response from the communities has been very positive. They get that it can raise money to help support the needs of these facilities but just as, or more important, is the excitement that well-known artists will come and perform in their community. Why should they always have to travel to experience quality artists?”
“Part of what I’m interested in doing is helping the communities to explore new ways to communicate with their potential audience. I think this will help in everything they are trying to accomplish in their communities,” he adds.
MacDonald says the timing of the Rural Music Project’s first venture helped determine who he would approach as the headline act.
“The light bulb on this concept just went off a couple of months ago and the calendar decided for me that the first tour had to be in December,” he says. “If I waited any longer I would be in the dark months of winter when touring in Canada is a very dangerous game. J.P. released a great Christmas CD a few years back but I knew he had never toured it. J.P. and I are old friends, he loves the whole idea of the Rural Music Project because it’s more work for him and he gets to do his first Christmas show.”
Cormier says of the project in a media release, “I am proud to be involved with the Rural Music Project because it will finally bring me back to some communities I haven’t had the chance to play in years, and in some cases have never played. Some of the most memorable performances of my career have been in small community halls and I am sure that we will have a merry good time in December!”
The tour dates are: Thursday, December 8, Main-à-Dieu, Coastal Discovery Centre; Friday, December 9, Ingonish Ferry, Ski Cape Smokey; Saturday, December 10, Englishtown Community Hall; Sunday, December 11, Sydney River, United Protestant Church; Wednesday, December 14, St. George’s Channel, South Mountain Arm of Gold Community Centre; Thursday, December 15, Boisdale Fire Hall; Friday, December 16, Sherbrooke, St. James Presbyterian Church; and finally, Saturday, December 17, Canso, Dockside Grill. Check with the venues for showtimes.