Island to Island: The Cape Breton-Ireland Musical Bridge
at Port Hawkesbury Civic Center, Cape Breton (9 October 2009)

The 13th Celtic Colours International Festival started with greetings from one of the original founders, Max MacDonald, who welcomed Nova Scotia's Lt.-Governor May Ann Francis to officially open the festival to a large crowd at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre. She spoke of her father's Cuban roots, her connection to Cape Breton and the strength of a living tradition, the music of Cape Breton Island. She said, "I'd like you to know, we do not put this music away when you leave the island."

Then, Dennis Ryan took over the ceremonies, showering the politicians with some comical jibes even as they received kudos for supporting the festival. He promised to keep the music flowing -- and with a long lineup, the show turned out to be around three hours long, but the time did not drag.

I enjoyed the music throughout the evening. From the Cape Breton players and the Irish contingent there was a variety of styles and instruments. The Cape Bretoners had been invited to Ireland in 1993 and this was a return invitation to Irish singers, harpist, fiddlers and many more.

Amid the coloured haze and beams of light in autumn hues against a black backdrop with a stylized silver Cape Breton Island hanging like a shining moon, the musicians delivered a solid opening concert, and it was both a reunion and a beginning to something fine.

Fiddlers -- Irish and Cape Breton alike -- kept up fine tempos in both styles, and it was a wonderful strong blend when they came together. Pipers Paul K. MacNeil and Jamie MacInnis contributed, with Tracy Dares and Dave MacIsaac joining in, to the ocean connection theme. Banter from Howie MacDonald and Brenda Stubbert and talk of the late Jerry Holland's tunes connected with the audience. Brenda and Howie started off a set with "A March to Buddy" that they wrote together a short while ago for Buddy MacMaster.

There were many performers involved in the show, including Harvey Beaton, the Begleys, Hilda Chiasson-Cormier, Dwayne Cote, Tracey Dares, Domhnallach, Fidil, Lyndsey Fitzgerald, Goiridh, Laoise Kelly, Manus Lunny, Howie MacDonald, Paul MacDonald, Jamie MacInnis, Dave MacIsaac, Carl MacKenzie, Paul K. MacNeil, Martin McGinley, Maighread & Triona N'Dhomhnaill, Mairead N'Mhaonaigh, Maire O'Keeffe, Liam O'Maonla, Seosamh O'Neachtain, Micheal O'Suilleabhain and Brenda Stubbert.

A few of the highlights: the large smiles on the talented young band Fidil as they played, and watching one of them picking out on the fiddle; Liam O'Maonla, and the way he reaches the nerve of a song; and Laoise Kelly on the harp; Beethoven on guitar, Brenda's elbows and Hilda Chiasson-Cormier's pink heels.

And there was Gaelic singing and dancing, and everyone deserves a nod. Thanks to Prof. Micheal O'Suilleabhain for starting it off.

review by
Virginia MacIsaac

17 October 2009

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