Strathglass Farewell, the second in a trilogy of Highland Clearances dramatic musical concerts, will be staged at the deCoste Centre July 27.
The Society for the Ships of 1801 has announced the show is well into the planning stage as the songs are written, the story scripted and rehearsals are to begin early in May. Like last year’s Ships of 1801, Strathglass Farewell will be performed in Pictou, Antigonish and Mabou with the first show held in conjunction with the Antigonish Highland Games.
Strathglass Farewell covers the period of 1801 to 1810, during which as many as 27 ships arrived in Pictou harbor with thousands of immigrants from the highlands, most of whom settled between Colchester to Inverness.
Producer Duncan MacDonald noted a variety of factors counted in the large scale emigration from the highlands but Strathglass Farewell will focus on eviction, particularly the evictions carried out by Clan Chisholm against those with that surname and their associates.
“In 1793 Alexander the 23rd Chief of the Chisholm clan died and left much of his estate to his brother, William. William married an ambitious woman, Elizabeth MacDonell of Glengarry. It was said she was the people’s nemesis, responsible for much of their misery, for their emigration and for those who did not survive the turmoil,” said MacDonald.
Chisholms, Frasers, Grants, MacRaes and MacIntoshes were among those targeted for removal and given notice.
“Often, they were hustled from their ancient lands on the very day Chief William Chisholm sent word their lease would not be renewed. Some of these farming families were offered small plots of land on the worst soil while others were told to go south to the cities or emigrate. Many of them emigrated between 1801 and 1810 and most emigrants boarded ships for Pictou,” said MacDonald.
While the theatrical concert will be based on historical facts, the script and songs are interpretations of a traumatic period in the history of the highlands.
“Based on the research we have done, we are interpreting what we believe the people would be saying or doing. The song writers, poets, dancers, and musicians have created works that both enhance this story and showcase individual talents,” said MacDonald.
The cast for this year’s show includes Sheumais MacLeod, Kim Wempe, Lewis MacDonald, Diane MacNeil, Lisa Colton, Abi MacDonald, Spyder MacDonald, Peter Rawding, Frank Beaton, Brian MacDonald, Katie Jamieson, Carol Anne MacKenzie, Rob Wolf, Jim Ralph, Bill Murphy, Heather MacIsaac Gillis and Terry MacIntyre.
“We’ll also be adding some young performers once we get underway with rehearsals,” said MacDonald.
Poets and songwriters include Peter Mackenzie, Alistair MacDonald, Hugh Macdonald, Joyce Rankin, and Rosalie MacEachern.
This concert is a MacDonald-Wolf production with direction by Rob Wolf and Carmel Mikol returning as stage manager.
The show will open on July 12th during the Antigonish Highland Games, move on to Strathspey Place in Mabou, Thursday July 24th, and then to the deCoste.