BADDECK, NS — While growing up in Port Morien, Lorna MacDonald’s family frequently got in the car and drove off to explore the island.
And often they met at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Baddeck, where the famous inventor and his wife Mabel spent their summers at Beinn Bhreagh, an estate overlooking Bras d’Or Lake.
“My poor dad was very patient with me, but he was like, ‘Do you have to read everything, Lorna?’ MacDonald remembers the hours she spent exploring the bell museum. “I’ve always been drawn to their story – not that I knew much at first, but I would take it all in.”
This childhood fascination only grew over time, and in 2015 his musical drama “The Bells of Baddeck” premiered at the museum that inspired him. Met with widespread acclaim, the musical tribute to the couple returned for a second season in 2016
Now the show will return for a third season to commemorate the centennial of Bell’s death.
MacDonald, professor and head of vocal pedagogy at the University of Toronto’s faculty of music, said the show features an all-new production design and a new prologue that includes new characters. Thanks to Parks Canada, they were able to obtain original images and footage from the Bell Archives that will be used in state-of-the-art immersive projection techniques to display the history of the Bells and Cape Breton.
“For those who have seen the show before, they haven’t seen this show. I’m really excited about how this will commemorate and enhance the production design of the show,” MacDonald said.
The artistic side of Bell
Best known for inventing the telephone and his groundbreaking work in aviation, MacDonald said the Scottish-born scientist, inventor and engineer had an artistic side. Mabel gave her a piano as a wedding gift and Bell is said to have played for her every day at Beinn Bhreagh.
“The Bells themselves enjoyed the music. Alexander Graham Bell played the piano quite well, he was a baritone and he liked to sing at the musical evenings at Beinn Bhreagh,” MacDonald said. “Even Mabel being deaf, she put her hands on the piano to feel the vibrations – so music was a very important part of their family life.”
Music also played an important role in MacDonald’s life.
The soprano has received numerous singing and teaching awards and has performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Graz’ Stephaniensaal and special concerts at Disney Hall in Los Angeles, Vimy Ridge, France, as well as only across Canada and the United States. His brother, the late David MacDonald, was considered one of Canada’s finest organists.
“As you know, music is in everyone’s blood in Cape Breton. I’ve been singing since I was very little and I’m sure it drove my family a little crazy,” she said, “but I really liked to sing, and we had piano lessons, and my brother was an accomplished musician.
“Music was just very popular with us. I will be forever grateful to my parents for committing to making sure we had music lessons.
There will be 17 performances of “The Bells of Baddeck”, starting August 2. Tickets are on sale now on their website, bellsofbaddeck.com.
MacDonald said he was having trouble finding housing for the actors and asked anyone with houses to rent to email them through the website.