Hello From Nova Scotia Part 19 Arrival In Halifax And A Stunning Musical Performance Drum!

By Susanne Pacher

Slowly but surely my Nova Scotia discoveries were coming to an end. I only had one evening and one full day left after discovering the South West portion of this province over the last four days, following my last stops along the South Shore in Lunenburg and Peggys Cove. As I rolled into town late in the afternoon I noticed the landscape: lots of lakes and waterways interspersed with low-lying hills. One of my first impressions was that many of the neighbourhoods had beautiful houses with well-kept gardens and established trees. Halifax presented itself as a very picturesque city. I did not have a Halifax city map on me, but I figured if I only headed east Id hit the oceanfront sooner or later, which I did right near Pleasant Point, one of Halifax largest public parks. A friendly local gentleman redirected me to downtown Halifax to Barrington Street which is where my abode for two nights, the Delta Barrington Hotel, was located.

With his directions I was able to make my way downtown and had no problem finding my hotel. I breezed through check-in and went upstairs to my room to relax for a bit and take advantage of the in-room high-speed Internet connection. After refreshing myself I was ready for an evening of discoveries and I started to stroll down to the waterfront.

With its strategic location on the Atlantic Ocean, Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia and Eastern Canadas most important seaport. With an estimated population of roughly 385,000 residents throughout the metropolitan area, Halifax is Atlantic Canadas largest population centre and a major economic centre on Canadas east coast. Major employers include the Department of National Defense (Halifax has had a military role for several centuries due to its strategic location), the Port of Halifax, various government services and private sector companies. Several universities are located here including Dalhousie University, Saint Marys University and Mount Saint Vincent University.

Halifax dates back more than two and a half centuries: it was founded in 1749, as the shire town of Halifax County and the provincial capital. It was originally established by the British to provide a counter-balance to the French presence in Quebec and Acadia (present-day New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton Island and the Gasp Peninsula). Todays Halifax Regional Municipality includes the neighbouring cities of Dartmouth and Bedford since amalgamation in 1996.

The coastline of the Halifax Regional Municipality encompasses about 400 km and is heavily indented with numerous deeps inlets protruding into the countryside. The topography is varied and ranges from lush farmland in the outlying regions to forested rolling hills. The climate is more moderate than in Central Canada and temperatures generally vary between about -5 degrees Celsius in the winter and 23 degrees Celsius in the summer.


Halifax is well-known for its cultural offerings which are enhanced by the large concentration of post-secondary students. Its music scene in particular is very vibrant and in recent years, Halifax has also become an important film production centre. The city itself is the largest growing area in the Maritimes and is connected to the rest of Canada and the world through a major airport. Via Rails eastern terminus is located in Halifax.

I headed straight east from my hotel via Duke Street to the waterfront to a complex called Historic Properties a collection of historic buildings that was restored and redeveloped in the early 1970s. Many of the buildings in this complex are former warehouses of the privateers, pirates who were licensed by the British crown to raid enemy vessels. They brought back plentiful bounty that was stored in these warehouses. One of the most famous of these privateers was a fellow name Enos Collins, who started the Halifax Banking Company, the first bank in Nova Scotia.

Right at the foot of Duke Street, next to the Metro Transit Ferry Terminal that takes you over to Dartmouth, I discovered one of Halifax treasured icons: Theodore Too is a tugboat modeled after a popular character in a Canadian childrens television show named Theodore Tugboat. Today the Theodore Too is available for harbour tours, private charters, birthday parties and school groups.

I headed further south along the waterfront along Harbourwalk, Halifaxs famous Waterfront Trail. The sun had already set and the moon was shining over the picturesque Halifax Harbour. My destination was Pier 20, location of the celebrated show DRUM!, a musical presentation of Nova Scotias four founding cultures. I reached the location about half an hour before show time and people were already lining up in the common areas outside the theatre.

Right around 8 pm I took my seat and fortunately I was located right in the front row on the right side of the stage. The idea behind DRUM! is to shine a light on Nova Scotias four principal cultures: Black, Acadian, Aboriginal and Celtic. The evening began with a dramatic performance of aboriginal musicians playing their drums and singing an introductory song in their native Mikmaq language.

They were joined by an entire ensemble of musicians, dancers and singers who came on stage to share their music and from that point forward the entire evening was a beautiful carousel of music and song from four different cultures. The sophisticated lighting, video images and narrated poetry underscored the symbolic content of this performance that challenged the senses on every level.

DRUM! was originally conceived as a 45 minute tourism promotion piece as the main stage show at Tall Ships 2000, a special racing event that featured sailing vessels from all over the world. In 2004 DRUM! was turned into a full-length production and performed for ten nights in its specially designed theatre at the Halifax waterfront. The current run of DRUM! in Halifax will be followed by a tour through the United States starting in Florida and finishing in Utah. A tour of Ontario and Saskatchewan will follow in May, and the production will return to the Halifax waterfront in September of 2007.

The performance unfolded as one heart-pumping combination of music, dance, poetry, video, rhythm and song. At one point three of the female performers got up on stage and sang a-capella in the most beautiful harmonies one can imagine. My breath was taken away by their performance. Acadian washboards, Celtic fiddles and bagpipes, Aboriginal drums and sultry black voices came together to celebrate FOUR CULTURES.. FOUR RHYTHMS..ONE HEART.

The sold-out audience was captivated by these talented performers, the beauty of their music and their message. After the last extended standing ovation I left the theatre elated, moved and inspired, ready for another final day of discoveries in Halifax. DRUM! was breathtaking in its theatrical beauty and its musical performance, and its message still resonates with me. I ended up buying the CD of this production to take this beautiful music and its spirit home with me to Toronto.

Here at Travel and Transitions we celebrate cross-cultural connections and understanding, and DRUM! was as perfect a musical representation of this spirit as I have ever seen. DRUM! communicates a message to the world: We can hold on to who we are and still share a song, a stage, a country, a world.

It doesnt get any better than that.

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About the Author: Susanne Pacher is the publisher of Travel and Transitions (


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