Embassy Ceilidh,
Celtic Colours 2002
in Belle Cote, Cape Breton, NS
(14 October 2002)

Celtic Colours provides a full schedule of entertainment, and it's easy to spend a full week in Cape Breton relying on nothing but the festival schedule to fill your days.

But there are a lot more options to consider, as anyone who's sat in at the Red Shoe or attended a dance at Glencoe can confirm. Cape Breton's music is a very home-based tradition, and the best music is often found, not in concert halls and auditoriums, but in people's homes and in the pubs and small, community venues where locals congregate.

Case in point, during Celtic Colours 2002, was a party thrown midweek by Anna Gibbs, a visiting cultural affairs officer from the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. News of the party was spread word of mouth, and I was flattered when Gibbs asked me to attend.

The great food and endless supply of Keith's isn't even the issue here. Neither are the bottles of amazingly smooth Glen Breton whisky that suddenly appeared and quickly vanished from the corner bar in Gibbs' borrowed house in Belle Cote. People from near and far, including a fair portion of locals from the Belle Cote/Margaree region, filled the spacious, barn-like house. And a friendlier bunch would be hard to find -- engage someone in conversation and see just how genuine these people are.

Of course, a primary concern was the music. Talent came pouring in through those green double doors, cases in hand, and the evening was a parade of Cape Breton luminaries on fiddle, piano and guitar, even playing spoons and stepdancing. Every time the party seemed on the verge of waning, someone new would walk through the door and we knew more music was on the way.

It was a spontaneous lineup that would be hard to top. Performers included Kinnon, Betty Lou and Andrea Beaton, Maybelle Chisholm, J.P. Cormier, Lennie Gallant, Howie MacDonald, Wendy MacIsaac and Mairi Rankin from Beolach, Newfoundland's Lisa MacArthur, and Molly Rankin, young daughter of the late John Morris Rankin.

Kendra, Troy and Sabra MacGillivray also stopped by, but unfortunately those talented siblings were en route to another venue and couldn't stay to play.

Still, it's hard to complain. The music was virtually nonstop (and that's particularly impressive when you consider the party lasted 10 hours). On several occasions, the floor suddenly filled with square or stepdancers. And there were even a few truly evil people at the party who called absent friends and family members, held the phone out towards the musicians on tap, and taunted the people at the other end of the line with what they were missing.

This wasn't a party, it was a cultural event. It was an impressive display for visitors. For the locals, it was just another night in Cape Breton.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 9 November 2002