Roarin' Roots
at Membertou Trade Center, Membertou, Cape Breton
(8 October 2012)

Of all of the shows at Celtic Colours this year, this was the one I was most excited about, because I have seen and loved every band in the lineup at some point. It was also my first time at this particular venue, which was a bit tricky to find, but I'm so glad I did.

The emcee for this show, and doing double duty, was the beautiful Dawn Beaton. After a few brief announcements by her, the fabulous Newfoundland band, The Dardanelles, kicked off the show. I had the opportunity to hear them for the first time at another venue just two nights before and I absolutely loved them, so I was happy to get to hear more. They started off with a high-energy set of tunes, which was great for setting the tone of the show. I was once again in awe of their talent and how tight they are. Every member of this band is a master of his or her instrument, and as a group (accordion, guitar, fiddle, bouzouki and bodhran), they're dynamite. I enjoy their mix of songs and tunes, as well as their stories. I especially liked their description of how a jig goes. They said normally, to get the rhythm, you could say,

"To market, to market, to buy a fat pig.
Home again, home again, jiggety jig.
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog.
Home again, home again, jiggety jog."

But, in Newfoundland, you say,

"To market, to market, to buy a fat pig, pig.
Home again, home again, jiggety jig, jig.
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog, hog.
Home again, home again, jiggety jog, jog.
Oh well. All right."

Their phrasing and timing is a bit different. It makes sense that it would, since their time zone is a half-hour difference from the ones around them, rather than a full hour like the rest of the world. Why not have the tunes be quirky, too? As quirky as they are, I enjoy them greatly and I hope to hear more of this band in the future. From start to finish, I was impressed with The Dardanelles' performance. They rightly sold out of their CDs!

Next to take the stage was Ottawa Valley fiddler April Verch. This was her second year at this festival. She has been dancing since age 3 and fiddling since age 6, so it's no wonder she's so good at what she does. She, too, began her performance with a lively set of tunes. Verch is a fireball of energy on stage, bouncing to the beat and showing a lot of fancy footwork. I'm surprised her shoes aren't smoking after she dances. And, to top it off, she also sings and her band mates are equally adept on their instruments and vocals. Not to mention that she also has a wonderful sense of humor and had a smile on her face through her entire performance.

Verch played everything from French-Canadian tunes to bluegrass to Celtic, as well as old material and material that hasn't even been recorded, yet. My favorite was a set of tunes she dedicated to the late John Hartford. It included a waltz she wrote called "A Riverboat is Gone," and a Kentucky tune called, "Bumblebee in a Jug." The audience was completely engaged for her entire performance and, because she looked like she was having so much fun, the audience was, too.

During intermission, I was thinking about how the first two acts would have been a great concert just by themselves, but there were still two fantastic bands to go. Woohoo!

The second half of the show began with Irish band that is new to Celtic Colours, Orialla. They play music that is specific to the Dundalk area of Ireland. They began with a hauntingly beautiful slow melody, into a variety of tunes that picked up the pace and made a strong wall of traditional sound. I was mesmerized by their rendition of a beautiful Gaelic lullaby, where the mother is telling the baby about all of the clans that will be at her wedding. I got the same feeling and tears in my eyes from the song, "The Voice of the Sea." Both were sung by the lovely Nuala Kennedy, who is no stranger to this festival. I'm always amazed at how she can work so beautifully with different bands, but this was my first time really hearing her play in an absolutely traditional band from home, and I loved every minute it.

Orialla includes Kennedy on flute, whistle and vocals, Gerry O'Connor on fiddle, Breton guitar player Gilles le Bigot, and Martin Quinn on accordion. My favorite set of tunes included a descriptive tune called "The Kitten." Once again, the audience was captivated through Orialla's entire performance because of the variety of tunes and songs and the band's stories and stage presence. They have an album that is hot off the press and being released this week. I can't wait to hear it.

Tom Power came on stage next and introduced himself as Dawn Beaton. He said, "Well, we can't make her introduce herself." The Beaton Sisters Band was the last act of the night -- and the only Cape Breton band in this show -- so the audience was really excited. They were clapping in the middle of the first set of strathspeys and reels. Siblings Dawn and Margie are fiddlers from the west side of Cape Breton and they represented the island's music really well. They also put their own spin on a jig and turned it into a polka and then a reel as a tribute to the Irish bands of the night. I loved when one sister played for the other to dance. It was so fun. Their music automatically makes your toes start tapping, which is probably why they were the recipient of the Drive'Ers award to make their first album a couple of years ago. They have just gotten better and better since then. Accompanying them was piper Kenneth MacKenzie, piano player Jason Roach and guitarist Darren McMullen, all of whom are also super talents, and it was a treat to hear a solo by each, as well as see the sisters dance and play at the same time. The whole band is wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed their performance.

As if all of this wasn't enough, there was a wonderful finale with all of the performers in show. First, they sang "Forget Me Not," which was complete with nice harmonies and Kennedy and Matthew Byrne (of The Dardanelles) waltzing on stage during the interlude. This led into a strathspey and reels. Everyone was smiling and having a great time. The finale had it all, singing, playing and steps. It looked like a party on the stage. For the second time this week, I was impressed by the finale. I had so much fun at this show.

And then I got to go to Festival Club. (Smiles from ear to ear.)

review by
Kaitlin Hahn

24 November 2012

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