Historic St. Mary’s, Indian River has a Geothermal Heating and Cooling system installed with funding made available from the Rural Municipality of Malpeque Bay’s allocation of the Canada Community-Building Fund.
Historic St. Mary’s has always looked and sounded phenomenal—but it’s about to feel a little more comfortable, too. Under the Spire Music Festival (USMF) is pleased to announce that work has begun to install geothermal heating and cooling in the heritage building located in Indian River, PEI.
Summer USMF concerts at Historic St. Mary’s are a cultural touchstone for the Island music scene—but especially hot August nights and a packed venue can lead to slightly toasty conditions for some audience members. After conducting customer research, USMF found that most patrons would benefit from cooling during concerts and would be more likely to attend more concerts if cooling was available. Further, geothermal heating will allow USMF to extend its concert season into the spring and fall shoulder seasons when it would otherwise be too cold to hold concerts indoors without heating.
“The installation of the Geothermal units will not only provide relief throughout the hot summer season, but it will also contribute to a long-term restoration plan for Historic St. Mary’s,” says executive director Lindsay Connolly, “Historic St. Mary’s is celebrating its 120th anniversary and it is imperative to maintain some sense of temperature regulation to help prevent damage to the wooden structure.”
Since 1996, Historic St. Mary’s has acted as the venue for Under the Spire Music Festival, formerly known as Indian River Festival, a summer concert series that presents the very best in classical, traditional, folk, jazz, and music of all genres. Known for its brilliant acoustics, Historic St. Mary’s was designed to replicate the structure of a violin by PEI architect William Critchlow Harris, and is the ideal space for experiencing music in its purest, acoustic form. On October 1st, 1902, nearly 120 years ago, an official opening ceremony for St. Mary’s was held, just under two years after construction began. Now a decommissioned church and designated heritage property, Historic St. Mary’s is owned solely by the Festival.
USMF continually facilitates restoration projects to preserve its beloved venue and to ensure that this building, rich with memories and history, is standing for future generations. Installing geothermal heating is one such undertaking—it will keep Historic St. Mary’s at a more agreeable temperature, which will decrease the deterioration and improve the longevity of the heritage building.
More importantly, geothermal systems provide an environmental solution to traditional heating and cooling systems. Geothermal heating systems take energy extracted from the Earth, allowing dependable distribution of heating and cooling. By using geothermal heating as opposed to traditional heating and cooling systems, the amount of greenhouse gasses produced is significantly lowered, and the need for non-renewable energy sources such as natural gas, oil, or coal is eliminated. One of the first organizations on PEI to ban the use of single-use plastic water bottles, USMF is committed to adapting to more environmentally conscious directions for our venue and festival.
“Historic St. Mary’s and the Under the Spire Music Festival are iconic features of the Island’s cultural landscape. Thanks to funding from the Canada Community-Building Fund, the improvements to the heating and cooling system will help attract more visitors to our community and benefit local businesses for many years to come, while also improving efficiency in their operations.” Heath MacDonald, Member of Parliament for Malpeque, on behalf of the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities.
“This was a big project for the Rural Municipality of Malpeque Bay and it is wonderful to see the beautiful, century old architecture sustained and improved with this installation. Local families came together to build this fine structure over 100 years ago, donating their time, talents and scarce resources to build this magnificent church building. Our residents highly value the Festival which has operated here for many years and we encourage all Islanders to enjoy the venue as much as possible.” Paul Brown, Mayor, Rural Municipality of Malpeque Bay.
Funding of $53,849 to the project was provided by the Rural Municipality of Malpeque Bay based upon its allocation of the Canadian Community Building Fund. The Geothermal project was approved by a Project Review Committee on July 14, 2021.
USMF is happy to work with local Kensington business Thompsons Well Drilling and Geothermal to complete this project. Supporting local has always been an important aspect of St. Mary’s History—the church’s lumber, much of it donated by community members, was homegrown on PEI. That lumber was then sawed by Thomas Tuplin & Sons, free of charge at their mill in Indian River. By installing geothermal heating from Thompsons Well Drilling, USMF is following in the local spirit of St. Mary’s, while also ensuring that the update will have the smallest effect possible on historic aspects of the building.
USMF will continue to present fine music in Historic St. Mary’s for years to come—it will just be a little bit cooler. Through this project, USMF is not only creating a more comfortable environment for patrons, but ensuring that the project has the smallest environmental impact possible.
About Under the Spire Music Festival:
Presented by the Confederation Bridge, Under the Spire Music Festival offers a summer long series of concerts in a magnificent heritage church located in idyllic rural Prince Edward Island. The internationally recognized Festival, twice named by the Globe and Mail as one of the best summer music festivals in Canada, presents outstanding performances from some of the biggest names in Canadian music and exciting emerging talents. After 25 seasons, this summer festival attracts thousands of music lovers annually to the acoustically perfect St. Mary’s Church, idyllically set overlooking beautiful Malpeque Bay, to experience the very best in folk, blues, jazz, classical, traditional, contemporary, and world music.