Lennie Gallant, CM, folk musician (born 1955 in Rustico, PEI). Lennie Gallant is an Acadian singer-songwriter who has released 13 albums, ten in English and three in French. He has toured extensively in North America and has won numerous awards and prizes. He has won 18 East Coast Music Awards (ECMA) and was named the Fan’s Choice Entertainer of the Year in 2017. His 1994 song “Peter’s Dream” was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019. Gallant was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2003.
Early Life and Family
Gallant was born in the town of Rustico on the north shore of Prince Edward Island. The eldest of six children, Gallant lived with his family in an apartment above his grandfather’s grocery store. Although he had three francophone grandparents, the town was mainly English-speaking, and Gallant did not grow up speaking French. Later, he would revisit his Acadian heritage and record three albums in French.
Gallant was born into a musical family. His mother played piano, and his parents put on musical comedy shows to raise money for their community. At the age of thirteen, Gallant received a guitar as a Christmas present and taught himself to play. Eventually, he learned to play the harmonica, mandolin and bodhrán, a traditional Irish drum. He began to play in Celtic bands, writing songs in both English and French.
Two of Gallant’s nephews, brothers Rowan and Caleb Gallant, play in the East Coast Music Award-winning trio Ten Strings and Goat Skin, along with Jesse Périard.
Gallant’s band includes long-time members Sean Kemp on the fiddle; his nephew Jeremy Gallant on keyboards; and his partner, Patricia Richard, on mandolin, banjo, bodhrán and vocals.
In the early 1980s, after struggling to fund a studio on PEI, Gallant moved to Halifax to kick-start his career. Gallant released two albums, Breakwater (1988) and Believing in Better (1991), before achieving a commercial breakthrough with The Open Window (1994).
Gallant’s seventh album, When We Get There (2005), was nominated for a 2007 Juno Award for best solo roots and traditional album of the year. In July 2009, astronaut and future governor general Julie Payette took a copy of the album with her into space for a 16-day mission aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour. (Payette brought one album to represent each province to honour Canadians in the performing arts.) During an official visit to PEI in 2018, Payette presented Gallant with the CD of When We Get There, which orbited the Earth with her around 250 times.
Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, on her first official visit to Prince Edward Island, presenting a CD she took to space to singer songwriter Lennie Gallant, who had recorded the album.
Gallant has played with Symphony Nova Scotia, Symphony New Brunswick and the PEI Symphony Orchestra. He cowrote and
performed the theme song for the first-ever World Acadian Conference (Congrès mondial acadien) in New Brunswick in 1994, titled
“Acadie de nos coeurs.” Gallant performed several shows at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver,
including a performance during medal ceremonies at BC Place. He was also asked to write a song commemorating the 250th anniversary of Halifax in 2013. The song, “History Is Happening Now,” was performed by a 2,000-voice choir on a bridge spanning the city’s harbour.
In 2019, Gallant and his partner and long-time band member, Patricia Richard, released an album in French as the duo Sirène et Matelot.
The Celtic ballad “Peter’s Dream” appeared on Gallant’s third album, The Open Window. The song describes the tragic collapse of the East Coast fishery in the early 1990s and laments a traditional lifestyle lost to overfishing and the resulting decline in Atlantic fish stocks. In 2013, it was named one of the Top Ten East Coast Songs of All Time in a CBC Radio poll. It was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019.
Gallant first mounted a theatrical staging of his songs at the 2014 Charlottetown Festival. Titled Searching for Abegweit: The Island Songs & Stories of Lennie Gallant, the musical was a love letter to the island featuring songs, stories and paintings by Gallant’s sister, visual artist Karen Gallant. The show ran for 57 sold-out performances. The following summer, Gallant revived Searching for Abegweit at the PEI Brewing Company in Charlottetown. In total, the musical ran for six summers and 173 shows across the East Coast; its final performances were staged at the Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside, PEI, in 2019. A 22-song live recording of the performance was released in 2015 and won the 2017 ECMA for Folk Recording of the Year.
In 2014, Gallant released a book with his sister Karen Gallant titled Peter’s Dream. The book features lyrics from Gallant’s songs alongside Karen’s illustrations.
Gallant has also been involved in numerous charitable causes and fundraisers. His song “Wounded,” a tribute to veterans of war that appears on his 2009 album If We Had a Fire, was inspired by a trip Gallant made to Afghanistan to entertain the troops. In 2013, he received the PEI Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year Award.
Awards and Honours
- Songwriter of the Year (“Is It Love I Feel”) (1994)
- FACTOR Recording of the Year (The Open Window) (1995)
- Male Recording of the Year (1995)
- Song of the Year (“Which Way Does the River Run”) (1995)
- Songwriter of the Year (“Which Way Does the River Run”) (1995)
- Video of the Year (“Which Way Does the River Run”) (1995)
- Song of the Year (“Peter’s Dream”) (1996)
- Songwriter of the Year (“Peter’s Dream”) (1996)
- Male Recording of the Year (1998)
- FACTOR Recording of the Year (Lennie Gallant Live) (2001)
- Male Recording of the Year (2001)
- Roots/Traditional Solo Recording of the Year (2001)
- Francophone Recording of the Year (Le vent bohème) (2003)
- Male Recording of the Year (2003)
- Roots/Traditional Solo Recording of the Year (If We Had a Fire) (2010)
- Francophone Recording of the Year (Le coeur hanté) (2011)
- Folk Recording of the Year (Searching for Abegweit) (2017)
- Fan’s Choice Entertainer of the Year (2017)