The Chieftains: the Cape Breton Connection
at the Civic Centre Arena, Port Hawkesbury, Cape Breton
(5 October 2007)

It was getting late and, even though I live on Cape Breton Island, I was driving in from Halifax to catch the opening night of the 11th Celtic Colours International Festival at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre. I had left home at 7 a.m. and I'd been on the road almost all day. I thought about skipping this concert -- I could, and catch up on others during the upcoming week.

A pause at the Canso Causeway for about 5 minutes while a boat passed through the locks made up my mind. I gazed up at the stars twinkling in a velvet sky and watched reflections from the town's lights dance on the calm surface of the Strait of Canso. It was a warm October night. It was a night to take in some music.

The Civic Centre in town is a large new building and the atmosphere inside was friendly, upbeat and smiles all around proved I had walked into a "good thing going on." The media desk was still occupied so I quickly picked up my kit from Dave Mahalik and walked though the arena doors into a room where music filled the air and all eyes were turned to the front.

The Chieftains flashed across the two large screens on either side of the stage. For this occasion Paddy Moloney, the linchpin, played with Kevin Conneff on bodhran, Triona Marshall on harp, Adrian Dolan on fiddle and accordion and Jeff White on guitar. Cara Butler blasted out the steps as the group's dancer. It was really easy to get into it since the crowd already was and the music was stellar as Moloney and crew were aflame on stage sharing the many moods of the Celts.

Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond gave the Irish Moloney a little ribbing when she came onstage to sing a song about a family killed by Irish mercenaries -- "It seemed appropriate to sing it here," and she glanced sideways at the Irish gentleman.

Though every musician made a significant impact on the stage that night, especially Wendy MacIsaac, the Celtic Colours' artist-in-residence, with her down-home tunes and warm personality assisted by Patrick Gillis on guitar and Ashley MacIsaac on keyboard. Ashley was the impresario as always -- but with the playing to back it up as he tuned us in to an exquisite Italian (or perhaps Romany) piece. Also of note, the Ottawa Valley Pilatzkes with their fancy footwork and the MacGillivrays (Fiona and Ciaran) with their emotional vocal timing and youthful musical energy.

It was, however, Triona Marshall who goes down in Celtic Colours history that night as she spun the magic of "Tullochgorum" from the golden strings of her harp.

For the finale, Paddy invited the musicians back on stage and in between solo shots and mixed numbers, the Chieftains whooped it up. Of course, after the finale came the encore, but not before Paddy spouted, "You're de'ils for punishment. Don't you have homes to go to?" And then he brought out the pipes for the "Snake Dance." Paddy, the pied piper, mesmerized the crowd and we left there knowing we had taken part in an enchanted evening.

We were enchanted by the performers who looked as if they enjoyed sharing every moment. We were enchanted by the shots of the stage chosen for the big screen. And we were enchanted by our own enthusiasm on a perfect autumn night as music flowed like wine on Cape Breton Island.

review by
Virginia MacIsaac

10 November 2007

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