Bridging the Atlantic with Music and Culture
Since 1997, the Celtic Colours International Festival has featured hundreds of musicians from throughout the Celtic world and attracted tens of thousands of visitors to Cape Breton Island. For nine days in October, the Festival presents dozens of concerts all over the island, an extensive line-up of workshops, a visual art series of exhibitions, and a nightly Festival Club. Over the years, artists have traveled from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Brittany, Spain, Denmark, Germany, and Cuba as well as from across the United States and Canada to join the finest of Cape Breton's musicians, singers, dancers, storytellers and tradition-bearers for the annual Autumn celebration.
One of the things that sets Celtic Colours apart from the vast majority of festivals taking place around the globe is that it isn't limited to just one location. Communities around Cape Breton Island host concerts and workshops at a time when the fall leaves are at their most brilliant and traveling around the island offers one breathtaking view after another. These communities are the places where the culture has been nurtured for over 200 years providing context for the roots of the music and celebrating each community's contribution to the Island’s living Celtic culture.
During the past 12 years, Celtic Colours International Festival has offered a wide range of music from Celtic nations around the world. While this has been a very effective way to introduce some of the broad influences on Celtic music and culture world-wide, this year’s event will concentrate on one region, Ireland. As usual, the Festival will feature local and international artists, but with a focus on the Irish influence on Cape Breton’s Celtic music and culture and the immense contribution Irish music and culture has had on the Celtic music of the world.
The festival kicks off with Island to Island: The Cape Breton-Ireland Musical Bridge, in Port Hawkesbury on October 9. It’s a concert that goes to the root of it all, says Artistic Director Joella Foulds. “In 1993, a group of Cape Breton musicians were invited to Ireland to put on a Cape Breton festival in Cork. Now, we have invited the Irish here to share their cultural traditions in this concert and throughout the nine days of the Festival.”
Twenty-four artists from Ireland will be participating in the Festival this year which runs from October 9-17. Their presence will contribute to an exploration of tradition and culture and how that is maintained through generations and in communities. People might not recognize the names of some of the Irish artists, but they are the people who are carrying on the tradition.
“We want our audience to experience the real thing,” Foulds explains, “just as they would with our Cape Breton artists. These Irish artists represent the best of the various traditions including Donegal fiddling, the Irish harp, uillean piping, Irish Gaelic and sean nos (meaning “old style”) singing, accordion, sean nos dancing, and story telling.”
Some of the visiting artists Celtic Colours fans may recognize from Ireland are harper Laoise Kelly from the popular group Bumblebees, Maireád Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan, and of course, Liam ó Maonlaí who was a big hit last year. Returning from Scotland this year is the fiddle harp duo Chris Stout and Catriona McKay; fiddler Sarah McFadyen from Harem Scarem and the Unusual Suspects; Mairi Campbell who performed with the Cast in 1997; and Gaelic singer Brian Ó hEadhra.
Canadian artists returning to the Festival this year include Le Vent du Nord from Quebec, fiddler Sierra Noble from Manitoba, and Jim Payne & Fergus O’Byrne from Newfoundland while Abby Newton and Kim Robertson will be traveling from the US.
This year, there will be concerts paying tribute to influential Cape Breton fiddlers Sandy MacIntyre, Angus Chisholm and Jerry Holland. There are also a couple of very special shows in the works. One is Suite Silver Dart, featuring Symphony Nova Scotia, which will premiere Friday at the Savoy with an encore performance on Saturday afternoon at Strathspey Place. Another is a show called The Fiddle Tree, October 12 in Sydney Mines at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, a new venue this year. This show will put luthier Otis Tomas’s work, both his instruments and his music, on display in a way not to be missed. And also fitting into the category of not be missed shows is Traveling Tunes, a show that takes advantage of the expertise of this year’s Artists in Residence Paul Cranford from Cape Breton and Máire O'Keeffe from Ireland. They will be discussing tunes and how they make their way around the world in a show that includes some of Cape Breton’s foremost composers and carriers of the tunes. As usual there will be a number of shows featuring Gaelic song, piping, fiddling and traditional dance as well as the Acadien roots of Cape Breton’s music.
For those who want to experience the festival more deeply, there is once again an extensive program of hundreds of Cultural Opportunities available in communities all around the Island.
For the full schedule and lineup of artists visit www.celtic-colours.com. Tickets can be purchased online or by phoning 1-888-355-7744 (toll free in North America).