music on Cape Breton: Celtic Colours Festival

As the leaves begin to turn bright flame colors and an edge of chill comes in to the wind from the sea in Atlantic Canada, it’s time for the Celtic Colours International Festival. On Cape Breton, in the far north of Nova Scotia, musicians from the distinctive Celtic style of the island’s music join with artists from the Celtic strands which have helped create that music in inviting the world home to Cape Breton to celebrate family, friends, heritage, and music.

Concerts take place all across the island in venues which range from large performance halls in Sydney and Port Hawkesbury to schools, churches, and community centers in places including Baddeck, Belle Cote, Inverness, Iona, Boularderie, Cheticamp, Christmas Island, D’Escousse, L’Ardoise, Louisbourg, Marion Bridge, Membertou, North River, and Judique. Whatever the venue, each concert includes sets by three or four different acts, and then all join up for a finale, so any concert is great way to see how the music from Ireland, Scotland, the United States, the Nordic lands, and Cape Breton interwine as well as a fine chance to be introduced to new musicians as well as see longtime favorites. It’s a way of presenting music which makes for a lively and celebratory atmosphere amongst both artists and listeners. There are several concerts from which to choose each evening, and the after hours festival club in St. Ann’s offers another chance to catch the music after main shows for an evening are done.

This year, artists appearing will include The Black Family from Ireland with sister and international star Mary Black. Also from Ireland will top fiddler Niamh Ni Charra, who in addition to her solo career is known for her appearances with Riverdance. Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes from Scotland will be there, as will US old time and Appalachian style fiddle player Bruce Molsky, who is a festival artist in residence this year. Cajun band BeauSoliel avec Michael Doucet from Louisiana will be there too, as will sean nos dancer Nic Gariess, and Appalachian singer and banjo-player Sheila Kay Adams. High energy band Blazin’ Fiddles and award winning singer and songwriter Emily Smith are among those from Scotland who will appear.

Among the Cape Breton musicians who will be taking to the stage in their home island are inventive fiddle players Ashley MacIsaac and J.P. Cormier, singer Mary Jane Lamond, and regional and international favorites Brenda Stubbert, the Colin Grant Band, Rodney MacDonald, Marc Boudreau, Douglas Cameron, Maybelle Chisholm McQueen, Troy MacGillivray, and Kimberley Fraser.

There is more than music to be had during Celtic Colours, too, which this year takes place from October 7th through October 15th. There are art exhibits and craft shows featuring the island’s visual artists, outdoor walks and talks celebrating Cape Breton’s natural beauty, and community meals and jam sessions celebrating the spirit of community which pervades the island.

It’s none too soon to be making plans to visit. Even if you’ll not make it this year, the Celtic Colours International Festival web site will give you a fine taste of the music and the lively atmosphere on Cape Breton in October.

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