The Island’s Old Flavour
When I first came to the island last summer, it flourished with the most beautiful island’s lure that one mainlander like myself could expect, an island paradise. There are stunning beaches, magnificent landscape views of hills and farms, lovely colonial-style old towns, and a vacation-like chilling atmosphere all around. I had such a great time exploring the whole island in its every corner, from the modern Charlottetown to busy Cavendish beach, from the far east lighthouse in King’s Country to North Cape wind farms on the west, and from the traditional market to the confederation trails. Everything seemed to intentionally line up on my journey to show me the best of this island. I enjoyed and learnt about PEI Islandness. Last time, the unique culture I found was in the farmer market where the islanders habitually patron to gather every week to sell, buy, or merely just wander around. The market sturdily shows the sense of the “I-land” community, and it echoes their own identities as the owners of this island. The finding was remakable, and it had me entirely fall in love with this place. In my latest blog, “A Walk on the Edge”, I have mentioned this precious island trait :
From that time, I was tempted to find out more visible signs of the newfound theme: Islandness fear. One obvious thing was an unusual warm winter with lesser snows, but it’s just not sufficient to form the fear yet. Then, what else could it be? It has to be something more intimate that the Islanders fear to lose or that thing they already lost for a long time, and miss it so much. That weekend I coincidentally passed by a colouful house on the way bay to town from St. Peter Bay. It is called “Music at The Manse”, owned by artists Timothy Archer and Ricky Lee. After a loverly conversation with Tim and Ricky, it rang the bell for my thought of Islandness fear. “The Old Flavour” came up as the answer :
Music at the Manse
I am such a lucky guy who always gets the opportunity to meet with the most talented and fascinating people on the island, such as Tim and Ricky. Tim also defined these islanders are “colourful people” because of their vibrant and motivating lifestyle. Either born here or came from elsewhere, they heartily dedicate to preserve the island’s old way of life. Timothy Archer is a talented, well-known musician from Ontario who spent his life dedicated to performance arts, while Ricky was a talented artist coming from Texas. Both deeply fell in love with PEI, so they decided to reside here. For the artists like Tim and Ricky, the island’s lure is as an enhancer to abundantly engender their infinite creativity of rhythms, which Dr. Laurie Brinklow and Sheryl MacKay once described this Islandness trait as artist’s independence, in paper East meets west: Making life and art on Canada’s Atlantic and Pacific coast islands :
Within the very physical and limiting boundary of an island, artists feel a freedom, they don’t feel elsewhere: the island forces them to go deeper into themselves, allows them to be more who they are, which in turn allows for endless possibility.Brinklow and MacKay, 2013
Thus, to have a better understanding of Dr. Brinklow’s perspective mentioned above, let’s hear Tim and Ricky talk about their decision to move to PEI and their motivation for Music at the Manse:
Two years ago, Tim and Ricky renovated this two-hundred-year-old building in Marshfield and transformed it into a warm welcome home with their weekly musical performance.
“It used to be the church’s minister home and he walked to the church every day”. It is not only the normal house, but it is a church house”.Tim said.
This theatre house, with its lavish decoration and warm hospitality, represents the iconic symbol of the two artists’ spirits, passions, love, and their own flavour of the beautiful old-time lifestyle blended with incredible melodies. The patrons come here to immerse their souls in these two artists’ performances and live in the memory of the Island’s activity as such. I asked Tim what the Islanders’ preference for music, and he passionately said: ” there’s one lady who comes every performance day in the week because she wants to comes to the Manse, and the music is always good and different “. Ricky also shared that people told them they just came because of their hospitality, and the islanders would just come to see the two artists despite the music themes.
“You don’t just go and sit in a chair and watch someone on a stage perform. The rooms are small enough and intimate enough to where Tim and I can interact with the audience on a one-to-one basis”. (from CBC)Lee said
The couple’s project has been awarded the Heritage Award by Prince Edward Island Museum & Heritage Foundation for hard work on preserving local heritage of PEI and considerate dedication to support local musicians and islanders with this beautiful musical venue (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-manse-music-heritage-award-2021-archer-lee-1.5906057)
One common theme of the Islands is that they are small, isolated and bounded by the sea. For island studies folks like us, we thoroughly argue this stereotype with different aspects. Still, my favourite argument of all time is definitely Hau’ofa’s concept of “the sea of islands, not a far island of the sea” (Hau’ofa, 1994). It intrigued me to know if someone else shares this same thought, so I asked Tim if he felt living life on the island is kind of a trap in a small place and was totally surprised with his answer :
I don’t think the island is small , it takes us hours to travel from here to Souris and then Summerside we are all taking the same highways but we get off different paths.Timothy Archer
” We get off different paths” was the phrase that enlightened me because his thought was precisely described by “the sea of islands” . This concept was reiterated when we look at the meaning of space as a “performative geography”, then the island is a space of cultural production which privileges neither geography nor literature but insists on their interconnection (Fletcher, 2011). A highway with distinctive exits, as Tim mentioned, or a sea of islands from Hau’ofa’s envision, to the “living object” approach from Fletcher acts as a nonseparable instrument to facilitate movement and exchange between people and culture (McCusker and Soares, 2011). These alike mindsets have once again accentuated the imagination of the islands’ boundless edge:
We continued discussing on the other Islandness traits of PEI, such as, the sense of community, the islander’s famous gossip talk, and the modern constructions built everywhere on the island :
The two artists shared their faithful opinions about these traits, and I was so fond of these terms from someone who was not originally born and grew up on the island. Even though they came from other mainland’s provinces, but the reflections on these island-topics are not any different from PEI-born Islanders at all. They felt the similar discomfort, and fears of losing traditional values that made this island as it is:
For those who do want to “belong”, it is through action that we see them adopting new ways of being and doing – sometimes highly self-consciously, and yet often unself-conscioulsy and unreflexively, but always meaningfully,Kohn , 2002
Music at the Manse is a precious gift to our island in terms of cultural perpetuation. It brought back memories, joyful culture, and a traditional lifestyle once PEI was known for. People came to Prince Edward Island because they want to find Anne’s romanticism, the houses with green gables, the hilly farms with golden hay rolls running to the skyline, or merely to soak into the warm hospitality of this place. These are beautiful island’s old flavors which the islanders fear for losing forever. Hence, Music of the Manse becomes a healing place and ubiquitous remedy for our Islandnes fear‘s sickness.
Thank you Tim and Ricky for having me visit Music at the Manse and the fascinating conversation ! I was so impressed with your beautiful venue, talented arts, and most imporantly I really enjoyed your warm hospitality. This would become one of my best memory about the Island. I believe what you are doing are truly meaningful for the Island way of life . You two are true PEI Islanders !
Brinklow, Laurie, and Sheryl MacKay. “East Meets West: Making Life and Art on Canada’s Atlantic and Pacific Coast Islands, 2013.
Fletcher, L. M. “”Some Distance to Go…”: A Critical Survey of Island Studies.”, 2011, http://eprints.utas.edu.au/17273.
Hauofa, Epeli. “Our Sea of Islands.” The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 6, no. 1, 1994, pp. 147-161, https://natlib-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo-explore/search?query=any,contains,991998063602837&tab=innz&search_scope=INNZ&vid=NLNZ&offset=0.
McCusker, Maeve, and Anthony Soares. Islanded Identities. [Electronic Resource] : Constructions of Postcolonial Cultural Insularity. Rodopi, 2011, https://proxy.library.upei.ca/login?qurl=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ebscohost.com%2flogin.aspx%3fdirect%3dtrue%26db%3dcat01065a%26AN%3dupei.1367507%26site%3deds-live%26scope%3dsite%26profile%3Deds http://proxy.library.upei.ca/login?url=http://site.ebrary.com/lib/upei/Doc?id=10533568.
Tamara Kohn. “Becoming an Islander through Action in the Scottish Hebrides.” The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 8, no. 1, 2002, pp. 143-158. CrossRef, https://www.jstor.org/stable/3134880, doi:10.1111/1467-9655.00103.