A Taste of the Festival
at the Joan Harris Cruise Pavilion, Sydney, Cape Breton
(8 October 2011)

I am so excited to be back in Cape Breton for the 15th annual Celtic Colours International Festival. For the first time, I drove here, and I have to say that after a 32-hour drive, I was ready for some fun and good music. The first show I attended was "A Taste of the Festival" in Sydney.

First to please the crowd was Cape Bretoner Dwayne Cote, with Hilda Chaisson-Cormier. They gave a taste of how wonderful the music on this island is. I am always in awe of what a clean player Cote is. His style is extremely smooth and every note is in tune. He played some lovely sets, including jigs -- one of which was written for his wife, Lisa.

Following Cote's flawless performance was artist-in-residence and Acadian musician Ronald Bourgeois. He is a lovely folk singer and songwriter. One of my favorite selections was one he wrote about people who make their living from the sea. While I couldn't understand the lyrics (because they were in French) it had a nice, driving rhythm and melody. He was accompanied by two cousins: Clarence Bourgeois on guitar and Sylvia LeLievre, who joined them to sing an original song of her own.

After an introduction from a friend from Louisiana via video, the BeauSoleil Quartet with Michael Doucet took the stage. I loved the harmonies between the fiddles on the driving Cajun tunes. It was really neat to hear music from the Acadian traditions of the north and the south in this show. This band received explosive applause after their first medley of tunes. They followed this with a Creole song about being locked up in jail and finished with the song, "Johnny Can't Dance."

After the intermission, the Black Family graced the stage with their tight harmonies of old traditional songs from Ireland. What I really loved about this act was how the family took turns showcasing each voice. Each member took a solo, and it kept the performance interesting. They had wonderful arrangements of every song they performed, some a cappella and some with lively instrumentals. My favorite was "Siuil a Run." For their last number, Lisa MacNeil joined them with a few steps, which really got the crowd clapping.

Lastly, the band that I was anxiously waiting to hear took the stage. The first time I saw Scottish band Blazin' Fiddles was at this festival many years ago, but they have a couple new members so I was excited to hear the new mix. The amazing talents of Anna Massie and Jenna Reid have been added to the band and they were fantastic. All of these musicians blend so well, and I love the massive wall of sound they create with all the fiddles. They had the crowd at their fingertips with their first set of lively reels and continued to captivate them, set after set, old tunes to new.

I really enjoyed this concert. It was a great one to kick off my 2011 Celtic Colours experience and I am definitely looking forward to what lies ahead this coming week.

review by
Kaitlin Hahn

5 November 2011

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