Nova Scotia Backgrounder

Culture and entertainment--
a study in contrasts

The cultural life of Nova Scotia life is a fascinating blend. History and tradition coexist comfortably with the contemporary. In Halifax, a nostalgic military tattoo offers a spectacular show bursting with colour, bands and bagpipes.

Down the hill, a tiny dance studio showcases the premier performance of three local choreographers. Neptune Theatre, Nova Scotia s professional company, presents a contemporary comedy one month and Romeo and Juliet the next. Neptune mounted a highly successful production of Les Mis‚rables last year the first ever licensed to a regional theatre.

Public and university art gallery exhibitions are eclectic. A controversial photographer. Quilts. Or off-beat local folk art. Symphony Nova Scotia plays Berg as well as Beethoven. In Halifax particularly, there s also a hearty helping of informal dinner theatres, touring celebrity performers, cabarets and pub entertainment. Cultural experience in Nova Scotia can be everything from the elegantly classical to downhome folk or grunge rock. The city s vibrant alternative band scene was recently discovered and praised in Harper s Bazaar magazine.

A 10-day film festival in the fall brings to Halifax some of the best filmmaking from across the country and around the world. An independent cinema in town also shows these films year-round. Four years ago Halifax joined other major centres such as Edinburgh and San Francisco in running a Fringe theatre festival where actors let their hair down and unexpected performances happen in unusual places all over town. Theatre also happens in several regional festivals around the province. The city also hosts a week-long summer jazz festival. Nova Scotia s many universities and an internationally renowned art college make sure that the voices of the young and unconventional also get a good airing in all sectors of the arts. The province s musical traditions are never far from the surface. Young performers, notably the Rankin Family and fiddlers Ashley MacIsaac and Natalie MacMaster, are now adapting traditional Celtic music and introducing it to enthusiastic new generations, locally and internationally. Singers such as Anne Murray, Rita MacNeil and Cape Breton s coal-miner choir The Men of the Deeps have delighted audiences from England to Japan. Community activities large or small nearly always feature music, often with a decidedly Scottish flavour pipes, fiddles, Scottish Highland or step dancing. Acadian fiddlers, every bit as energetic, have a completely different sound with faint overtones of old Bretagne, and Louisiana Cajun. Today, Nova Scotia s cultural mosaic includes not only native Mi kmaq, Scottish, Acadian, British and German traditions but those of over 100 ethnic groups. For example, both Halifax and Sydney have well-established Italian communities. Greek and Lebanese cultures also go back many years here. Cultural diversity is a cause for celebration and the catalyst for many activities during the year.

Nova Scotians are also outdoor people. Many are strong supporters of inter-collegiate sports and traditional rivalries go back generations. Basketball, football and ice hockey are local favourites. But a group of expatriates also get together on the Halifax Commons every Sunday during the summer for a game of cricket. There s competitive soccer and rugby to be found too. Autumn brings hunting for those so inclined. In the winter there s plenty of skating, cross-country and downhill skiing and snow-boarding for the young of body. And after a comparatively long winter season, Nova Scotians love the summer.

Every possible outdoor activity can be found somewhere. Residents and visitors alike enjoy the recreational possibilities offered by the province s diverse natural environment. Camping, hiking and canoeing. Sailing among thousands of coastal islands and inlets, or on the magnificent Bras d Or Lake. Golfing on courses with spectacular views. Relaxing on the clean, uncrowded beaches. Enjoying peace and solitude close to nature. Nova Scotia culture truly a little bit of everything.