Celtic Colours Celebrates Cape Breton

Celtic Colours Cape Breton autumn

Cape Breton Island in Atlantic Canada is the home Celtic traditions in the new world, traditions brought over by immigrants from Scotland. Their ways met with with those of people from France, Ireland, First Nations, and others to form Cape Breton’s own unique Celtic life. This is apparent in language, art, culture, and especially in music.

There’s good reason Cape Breton is called the Celtic Heart of North America.

autumn maple leaves fiddle cape breton dreams

Usually the Celtic Colours International Festival takes place all across the island for nine days, with music, and dance, centering a celebration which community meals, nature walks, storytelling, learning experiences, and many other aspects of community as Cape Bretoners invite the world home, and honor connections with other parts of the globe.

This autumn, things will be a bit different.

The Celtic Colours International Festival will come to you online to you in your own home. A range of music concerts will run from 8 through 16 October and will be available to view until the end of the month also.

With health, safety, and travel restrictions in mind, festival organizers took the decision to have festival events online, as they did last year.

This is the festival’s 25th year. This means changes, as festival artistic director Dawn Beaton reflects. “As a staff, we have been discussing ideas for the 25th for a few years now, so like 2020 when I was well on my way to programming, it was about letting go of those plans,” she says.

celtic colours dawn beaton

Letting go — and adapting. Presenting the best of Cape Breton artists, and the Cape Breton community, as well as historic and present day connections of music and community to other landscapes, has been part of Celtic Colours since its beginning.

Considering this, the festival has created several strands of programming.

For nine evenings (note: Cape Breton is in Atlantic Time) there will a concert, live streamed from Cape Breton. As the case always with concerts at Celtic Colours, each concert will feature several artists with their own sets and in collaboration.

There will be a matinee concert each day as well. These were each recorded at one of the community venues across the island which often center community involvement in the festival. The Alexander Graham Bell Historic Site in Baddeck, the Riverdale Community Centre in Lower River Inhabitants, and the chapel at Fortress Louisbourg are among the places visited.

One one night there will be a late night festival club concert, a nod to one of the popular nightly aspects of the festival across the years.

Celtic colours festival beolach

Each night before the main evening concert there will be a pre show conversation — something which proved an unexpected hit of last year’s online events. It is hosted by Dawn Beaton and her sister Margie Beaton. They are both accomplished musicians rooted in the music community of Cape Breton as well as arts professionals working in the community, Dawn at Celtic Colours and Margie at Colaisde na Gàidhlig / the Gaelic College.

“The Pre-show was an unexpected surprise for us both.  I give full credit to NovaStream [who produce the video programming] for the idea,” Dawn says. “They saw the value of being in one spot for all nine days ” as the sisters discussed artists, upcoming and past concerts, and the communities of Cape Breton, and often hosted surprise guests.

Producing partners NovaStream, Sound Source Pro Audio + Lighting, and Soundpark Studio, who handle the audio and video production and recording for the events, know how to present music in a way that creates community. Since 2011 they’ve been live streaming one concert a night for the festival. They have stepped up to the plate to meet the challenge of presenting 18 concerts across nine days.

You really cannot go wrong with checking out any Celtic Colours events.

celtic colours piper

That said, here are a few highlights of what’s upcoming.

Conversations between musical friends Max MacDonald and Joella Foulds resulted in the start of Celtic Colours 25 years ago. At the opening concert, they will return to the stage with music and stories to share. Creative dancer and former festival artist in residence Nic Gariess joins up with top banjo player Alison de Groot on the night too. The world renown band Capercaillie, who played that first festival and are respected for their work in English and in Gaelic, will join in by video from Scotland.

On another evening, the Living Traditions concert finds William Price, whose influences include his First Nations heritage, classic country, and gospel music, sharing the bill with Newfoundland Celtic group Rum Ragged and First Nations singer Kalolin Johnson backed by Carter Chiasson.

celtic colours festival dancer sabra mcgillivray

Close to the Floor is a compliment when said of a Cape Breton traditional dancer. It is also the name of an evening focused on connections between music and dance. Among those joining in will be Melody Cameron, The Pellerin Brothers, and Harvey Beaton.

An Afternoon is Inverness sees family and community connections shared through music from a trio of Cape Breton instrumentalists who regularly play all across the world: Troy MacGillivray, Mac Morin, and Patrick Gillis. They will be joined by Gaelic singers Joanne MacIntyre and Rita Rankin with Niall, Stephen, and Cameron MacIntyre.

celtic colours 2 guitars

For the final concert of the festival, Men of the Deeps, a choral group whose members have all worked in the mines, award winning singer, songwriter, and guitarist Lennie Gallant from Prince Edward Island, and Beolach, an ensemble of Cape Breton artists of guitar, piano, fiddle, song, dance, and energy, whose members first got together at Celtic Colours, suggest a fine finish is in store.

Concerts will be available to view, at no cost, through the end of October through the Celtic Colours website, and on the Festival’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Festival photographs by Corey Katz, courtesy of the Celtic Colours International Festival. Photograph of Dawn Beaton by Ryan MacDonald.

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