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Lennie MacPherson.
Lennie MacPherson. - Maureen Coulter

‘Atlantic Blue’, starring Tara MacLean, is a respectful bow to the region’s shared musical history

Remember when you watched the fixed link being built?

From afar, this elegant form materialized, clean and contemporary, with a gentle slope. Then you had your very first drive across it as Confederation Bridge. You were like, wait a minute, why are the sides of this thing just a bunch of standard concrete blockades? Why can I barely see above them?

Well this is the reverse of that. To truly appreciate the beauty and form and soul of Atlantic Canadian music, you have to get real, real close.

Writer, performer, director and people connector Tara MacLean dove deep and put together something special. “Atlantic Blue”, now in its second year, is a tribute to the great East Coast singers and songwriters. Simply stated, the format is this: video; live song; banter; repeat.

But, it is much more than that. It’s an inspired concept, driven by passion and empathy and lord knows how many months of research. I realize that it is unbecoming to be proud of something that you really had no part in, but something stirred inside me.

The videos serve as mini-docs for each legendary artist. They are packed with information, beautifully written and, at just a few minutes each, offer immense insight. Tara shows true skill finding those compelling threads and creating a cohesive story.

Alanna Jankov photo --- Tara MacLean performs on stage for Atlantic Blue, a film and song tribute to the great East Coast singers and songwriters, running Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday nights until Sept. 8 at The Guild.
Alanna Jankov photo --- Tara MacLean performs on stage for Atlantic Blue, a film and song tribute to the great East Coast singers and songwriters, running Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday nights until Sept. 8 at The Guild.

On stage, we are treated to expert musicianship, strong vocals and an ensemble of people who clearly enjoy doing their thing.

Tara is at home on the stage. She's funny and charming and gracious. When she addresses the audience, it's with that witty, unassuming conversational style that we associate with singer-songwriter types. In performance, however, she has a more polished approach, with gestures channelling pop and R&B.

She is backed by a who's who of Island melody makers. You've seen these names for years. Todd MacLean bounces on the keys, strums some guitar and blasts a nice dry sax. Cynthia MacLeod is smooth put powerful on the fiddle. Deryl Gallant on the oversized f-holes, gives us that delicious airy low-end. Jon Matthews hits and shakes and squeezes a whole tickle trunk of goodies. The fill-in players are listed in the program, too. I don't know how Tara got all these fine musicians on-call.

The overall rhythm of the production is comforting and satisfying. I found, however, transitions from dramatic video to live song require a quick mental chaser. It’s nowhere nearly as jarring as the musical pairings from Canada's worst DJ, (but generally nice guy!) Randy Bachman. Not jarring at all, actually. It just asks us to change gears and energy, from being somewhere distant in time to being very present. But, then you see a smile and glance from Tara, and her band members close their eyes, lost in another favourite number, and you are back in the moment.

Tara also shares some of her own music from the band, Shaye, a collaborative healing project she had with other East Coast musicians. To dive into the careers of all these Canadian legends and then insert her own work at the end may sound terribly presumptuous, but it is, in fact, framed in a completely humble way. It is a thanks to the people who have come before her, who have shown a path of resilience, of triumph over tragedy. Truly, the whole show is a respectful bow to our shared history. I might even say that you will leave the show feeling like a slightly better person.

Also, if I may, regarding my above bridge digression, I propose a major money maker for the Island. We can even share some of the windfall with Port Elgin and the Maritime terminal at Pierre Trudeau airport and any other sorry looking entranceway to our fair Isle: sponsor banners on every one of those concrete bridge blockades, hockey rink-style.

If you go:

Atlantic Blue plays at The Guild until Sept. 8, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 7 p.m.

Get tickets at or call the box office at 1-866-774-0717

Thoughts? Email us at w88Việt nam letters@theguardian. w88Việt nam Please include your name and a daytime telephone number you can be reached

Lennie MacPherson is a Charlottetown-based performer and writer. He can be reached at Lennie.MacPherson@theguardian. w88Việt nam

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