Le Grand Cercle, a landmark musical telling the story of the Acadian people

June 26, 2024

The original French version of this article by Daniel Aucoin was published in the Summer 2024 Participaper

The Acadian region of Chéticamp offers visitors a wide range of activities and plenty to discover. The warmth of the people, the beauty of the landscape, the sea as far as the eye can see, and the breathtaking mountains make it an incomparable place to visit or to live. And during the annual summer Festival de l’Escaouette, old Acadian customs and traditions are brought back to life.

Preparations are underway to mark the 20th anniversary of the musical Le Grand Cercle, first presented in Chéticamp during the 2004 World Acadian Congress. This colourful production tells the story of Acadia, from pre-deportation to the present day, with a special focus on the Acadian community of Chéticamp.

The Gala show at the Festival de l’Escaouette has been gaining in popularity for several years now. On August 4 and 5, the Société Saint-Pierre, along with numerous partners, will be performing the musical portion of the Grand Cercle at the Place des Arts Père-Anselme-Chiasson. The huge success of the show presented in 2004 to mark the World Acadian Congress served as a kind of spark plug for the organization of the gala this summer.

Actor Nathaniel Jenkins on stage in Le Grand Cercle.

Lisette Bourgeois, General Manager of the Société Saint-Pierre, is excited about the prospect of putting on a show that will bring together music, song, dance and history.

“The show features the best songs from Le Grand Cercle, with an excellent orchestra conducted by Scott MacMillan and a large choir directed by Michel Aucoin,” says Lisette. “A projection of souvenir photos of the Grand Cercle is also planned. The songs in the show will be performed with passion and excellence by talented choristers. With powerful and moving scenes, the masterful show will be punctuated by moments of great sensitivity,” she explains.

Lisette says shes sure that at the end of each performance, audience members will leave with a wealth of knowledge about the history of this Acadian community. She adds that up-and-coming artists will have a special place in the show.

Le Grand Cercle was nominated for Show of the Year at the Gala des prix Éloizes in 2005.

Actors dancing in couples on stage in Le Grand Cercle

Le Grand Cercle presents a vision of the future in which Acadia, enriched by its tumultuous past, offers the world its values of justice, sharing and peace.

Paul D. Gallant, a native of Mont Carmel, Prince Edward Island, is the author of Le Grand Cercle. Here’s what he has to say about the writing process.

“Without a doubt, Le Grand Cercle pushed me further than any other theatrical project. At the time, my production was one of the biggest musicals in Canada. The play had been rolling around in my head for four years. It wasn’t until I could see the whole show in my head and had a plan of how it would unfold on a single page that I was ready to write.”

Scott MacMillan is a composer, conductor, arranger, organiser, choirmaster, teacher and guitar virtuoso. Michel Aucoin has directed a number of choirs over the years, including Le Chœur du Havre and l’Écho des Montagnes.

Le Grand Cercle was performed four times to packed houses at the Festival du Mitan during the Congrès mondial acadien (World Acadian Congress) in 2004. The show was then staged again from 2006 to 2009 in the Chéticamp arena with over 200 artists, technicians and volunteers. This major community project eventually led to the opening of the Place des arts Père-Anselme-Chiasson and the construction of a workshop and warehouse. A whole generation of artists and technicians have worked together to produce numerous shows at the Conseil des arts de Chéticamp since 2004.

The musical portion of Le Grand Cercle will be presented on Sunday, August 4 at 7:30 p.m. and on Monday, August 5 at 2:00 p.m. at the Place des arts Père-Anselme-Chiasson. Organisers advise to pre-purchase tickets at conseildesartsdecheticamp.com to avoid disappointment!

Actors on stage representing the first Acadian settlers in Mi'kma'ki