October 2, 2004
The Chronicle Herald Halifax, Nova Scotia

"Nova Scotia Heartbeat DRUM! brings together Acadian, aboriginal, black, Celtic performers"

A trip to Louisbourg inspired a unique musical production celebrating Nova Scotia's four founding cultures.

DRUM!, which in various incarnations, has played for tourism industry operators, Tall Ships 2000 visitors and been part of the East Coast Music Awards televised broadcast, grew out of a family trip Brookes Diamond took to the Cape Breton fortress.

"We were told about the soldiers who played drums there and the idea occurred that every culture has drums, every culture has drumming to different rhythms and it would be good to put all the rhythms together on one stage, in one show," says Diamond, who is busy preparing for the show's two latest incarnations, a 50-minute abbreviated version for cruise ship passengers and a two-hour production which opens to the Halifax public for a limited run on Oct. 15.

The first version of the show, featuring performers from Celtic, Acadian, black and aboriginal backgrounds, with Doris Mason as music director, was staged for the hospitality industry in 1999.

The following year Brookes Diamond Productions put together a new show featuring 270 dancers, singers and musicians that played for the public at the Grand Parade in front of Halifax City Hall for the four days of the Tall Ships, with the crowd doubling every night.

That show spawned the album DRUM! a musical tribute. . . featuring Mason, Jeremiah Sparks, Grand Derangement, McGinty, Ian McKinnon, Papa Grand, Morning Star, Chebucto Community Singers, Hallelujah Priase Choir, Aselin Debison and Kendra MacGillivray.

Next, a six-minute opening segment was created for the ECMA broadcast in Charlottetown in 2001, which in turn sparked the interest of CBC producers in Toronto, who requested a full-hour show.

More than 100 performers and 60 crew were assembled for the four-day shoot in June 2003 at Electropolis Studios in Halifax.

Written by Gaelic songstress Mary Jane Lamond and Jac Gautreau and directed by CBC's Shelagh O'Brien, the resulting show, with a sleek, futuristic set by Tom Anthes and Stephen Osler is set to air this fall on CBC TV.

"The set for the TV show was beautiful and we wanted to save it for use in a live show," says Diamond. "It was always the idea to stage DRUM! for an extended period of time and after we completed the TV show, we returned our attention to the live performance. Because of the unique nature of the presentation, it was decided the show would be best served in its own facility."

With more than 200,000 cruise line passengers visiting Halifax each season, many of whom are interested in seeing something of the province's culture, staging DRUM! on the waterfront seemed a natural fit, he says.

Eventually the DRUM! producers settled on a space in the shed at Pier 20 (behind the Westin Nova Scotia) where in three weeks a temporary theatre space seating 300 was created. Anthes and Osler helped with the theatre design.

"It's a unique space and comfortable and cozy," says Diamond, noting the waterfront is also a central location for non-cruise ship tourists and Halifax residents alike.

On Tuesday, a new version of the show directed by Tim French, who helmed the Broadway musical The Producers in Toronto, will begin running in the afternoon for cruise ship passengers.

"We wanted to get it in before the cruise season ended and create interest that will translate to sales over the winter cruise booking season," says Diamond, who discussed it over dinner with the captain of the Queen Mary II during the liner's recent Halifax visit.

This new version of DRUM!, featuring a cast of 20, will also play for the public Oct. 15 and 16, Oct. 21-23 and Oct. 28 and 30 at 8 p.m. in Halifax.

The show is slated to visit Port Hawkesbury, Moncton and Edmonton this fall. In Alberta, it will play at a showcase for arts presenters in Canada. And Diamond is in talks with the organizers of Expo 2005 to bring the show to Japan in the spring.

The non-profit Music Industry Association of Nova Scotia (MIANS) also helped in developing DRUM! and will receive a share of the profits, to be re-invested in the music industry.

"Our objective is to promote and develop the music industry in Nova Scotia," says David Perlmutter, who is working with DRUM! as a MIANS volunteer."Ultimately, we want to see enough money changing hands in our sector so that Nova Scotian music writers, musical performers, and all of the entrepreneurs who support them can quit their day jobs and succeed by doing what they love.

"DRUM! is a perfect fit because it is creating a new theatrical venue on the Halifax waterfront, serving tourism objectives, and creating a theatrical work that advances the cultural interests of four Nova Scotian communities around which the show will continue to develop."

The provincial government has loaned the producers $235,000 for capital costs, says Economc Development Minister Ernest Fage.

"It will be repaid on a percentage of every ticket sold, by way of royalties," says Fage, who hopes to see DRUM! when it opens on the waterfront later this month. "This model made good business sense. It's the easiest way to structure the loan to ensure taxpayers' money is repaid in a timely fashion rather than stretching it out through timed repayment markers.

"This production is really important for the entertainment and tourism sectors as well as for the Acadian, aboriginal, black and Celtic communities as a way to celebrate their history.

"And Brookes Diamond Productions and MIANS have a proven track record and an established history of projects."

While it's the first time the government has structured a loan in the nearly 13 months Fage has been minister, it is a model the government would consider again as a way to guarantee a loan without physical assets or promissory notes, he says.

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