Ship Hector’s story put to music
Voyage: A Journey of Hope centres on the love of two passengers destined for Nova Scotia
Four years into three days. That is what Sandy Mackay and Ron MacDonald’s work will come down to in September when their original musical, Voyage: A Journey of Hope, will be staged at the deCoste Centre in Pictou from Sept. 7 to 9.
Four years to write two acts, 14 original songs as well as countless hours of editing and production. Four years to create something that has never been done before — musical about the historic 1773 voyage that ended up the first significant migration of Scottish settlers to Nova Scotia.
It is a story that has been told many times, but never like this, says Mackay.
“It is a play about three young people who are being oppressed in their homeland by an invading government,” he said. “Two younger men decide to leave and one approaches his sweetheart and makes the pitch for her to come with them. Of course, the families get in the way, but in the end, they all end up on the
Ship Hector, leaving Scotland in 1773.”
Mackay said the Hector’s story sets the background and foundation for the musical, but he added in a few fictional elements, including the love story between Mary and Rory.
“The simplest stories are the easiest ones to like and follow and these are love stories so I created the two characters. When inspiration struck I wrote the first act in a day. I hardly made any changes and then it took me another couple of years to get back to it. I had to figure how the second act would play out.”
He said the second act was more difficult because after passengers set sail on the Hector, things turn very dark when a storm pushes the ship in the opposite direction, forcing the 189 passengers on board to lose valuable sailing time, as well as face multiple deaths during their journey.
“Most sailings (from Scotland) took four or five weeks and there would only be one or two deaths, mostly the elderly or frail. This is a very dark story and we have to address the deaths of 18 people, 17 of them being children.”
Mackay said working with MacDonald was a good fit for the project because there were times something couldn’t be explained
in words, but it was done beautifully in music.
“He has two or three own original tunes that are stunning and of high quality,” he said. “All of the music is original except one song performed during a ceilidh on the ship that is Lord of the Dance. For both of us, it is the most exciting thing we have ever done, but Ron really rose to the occasion. I would write the lyrics for seven or eight songs and he would read it and set it to tunes.”
Mackay said people will laugh and cry during the two-hour performance.
Luke MacIsaac and Leah McPherson are the main characters in the new musical, Voyage: A Journey of Hope, which tells the story of the Ship Hector’s voyage from Scotland in 1773, but not just in words, but with music.