Cape Breton is an island at the far north of Nova Scotia in the Canadian Maritimes. It is a land shaped by forest and wind and water, where, through the centuries, people have created lives shaped by work in on that land, in its forests and its mines and along it roads, and by work on its waters.

The first peoples called Mi’kmaq came to the island, building their homes and making their communities in times on the banks of the saltwater Bras D’Or Lake and fishing for salmon and haddock and herring where the mountain met the waters of the Atlantic. As currents of history flowed on, Cape Breton became a homeland for people from Scotland displaced by conflict and economic changes. Through the generations as others from Scotland followed, a strong strand of Scottish culture developed,.a culture vibrant its own and shaped by land and water and by interactions with those others who came to Cape Breton, from New Englanders to people from Ireland, to those coming over from French Canada, to sea faring folk from many lands looking for a home.

A home they found, and each year in October, the people of Cape Breton invite the world to that home to help them celebrate their unique culture and the strands from which it came, This celebration is called the Celtic Colours International Festival.

This year, as the festival marks its sixteenth year, the nine day calendar of events gets underway October 5th at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre with a gig by internationally renown fiddle player and composer Natalie MacMaster, a Cape Breton native who has taken the music of her home to stages across the world, and wraps up on the 13th of October at Sydney’s Centre 200 with Ireland’s legendary group the Chieftains, adding their fiftieth anniversary celebration to the music of Celtic Colours.

In the days between, communities all across the island will host music concerts, community meals, art exhibits, and other events. Each year festival organizers invite people across the island to propose how and where they’d host festival events, and each year they respond, offering churches, parish halls community centers and all sorts of spaces where music lovers gather and community is celebrated among family, friends, and those new to the island.

The concerts themselves are celebrations of community, as well. Usually, each evening — there are several concerts in different communities each night — finds three or four acts sharing a bill, with a thread of origin or subject matter connecting them, Each will do a set, and then all get together for a finale, often a collaboration worked up as the evening unfolds, with audience and artists sharing the joy of discovery.

This year, Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIsaac, Kathleen MacInnes, JP Cormier, The Once, Men of the Deeps,Fiddlers Bid, Andrea Beaton, KImberley Fraser, Nuala Kennedy, The Battlefield Band, and festival artists in residence Cyril MacPhee and John Doyle are among those who will be sharing their music at the festival.

Here’s a bit of what this year’s Celtic Colours International Festival will be like

photograph of autumn leaves on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, is by Kerry Dexter and is copyrighted. thank you for respecting this.

Consider subscribing to Perceptive Travel through email or
RSS feed,
and connecting with us through your favorite social networks. thanks!

The following two tabs change content below.
Kerry Dexter is one of six writers who contribute to Perceptive Travel’s blog. You will often find her writing about places, events, and people connected with music, history, and the arts in Europe and North America. You may find more of Kerry's work at her site Music Road as well as in Wandering Educators, National Geographic Traveler, Ireland and the Americas, and other places online and in print.

Latest posts by Kerry Dexter (see all)