With tapping toes and fingers nimbly playing fiddles, guitars and drums, the teens gathered in a gym in Abrams Village singing a lively French tune sounded like they'd been harmonizing together for ages, not mere hours.
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The cultural gathering, bringing together nine young people from the Îles-de-la-Madeleine with about a dozen francophone teens from P.E.I. for the first time, was clearly a success, as typical teenage shyness had melted away on the second day of the three-day program.
'Music is one of the strongest link[s] we have together. For me music is the most important thing.' — Felix Langford. cultural exchange participant
"I'm here to play music and meet some new people and have fun," said 17-year-old Felix Langford from the Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
Organizers planned the weekend with the hope that the kids would not just make new friends who could connect in their own language, but also build interest in traditional music and help keep Acadian culture strong on both islands.
It's the newest addition to an annual week of professional development for Acadian artists organized by the francophone cultural federation of P.E.I. and Jeunesse Acadienne, a not-for-profit youth organization representing the francophone and Acadian youth on P.E.I.
"To have Acadian youth from two different provinces come together, it helps build a sense of identity within each other, and it creates a friendship and bonds that will hopefully last," said Jeunesse Acadienne's president Adrien Buote.
The Maggies, as they're known on P.E.I., are a five-hour ferry ride away — an isolated archipelago of islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where the population of about 13,000 mostly speaks French.
"The youth in both provinces have similar realities in terms of isolation and roots, and we thought that it's extremely important for them to, first of all, know where their roots are from, and be able to develop those in a manner that's collaborative," said Ghislaine Cormier, executive director of the Fédération culturelle de I'Île-du-Prince-Édouard.
Organizers hope that collaboration will continue beyond this weekend, and say they plan to host an event like this again next year — an idea participant Langford supports.
"Music is one of the strongest link[s] we have together. For me music is the most important thing, so that's why I think it's important to keep that going and meet and have fun with the music, that's it," Langford said.