Celtic Women
at Strait Area Education & Recreation Centre,
Port Hawkesbury, NS
(10 October 2004)

Dochas, Rita MacNeil, Corrina Hewat, Rona Lightfoot, Anna Massie and Winnie and Pat Chafe were the lineup for this year's venue. Last year, of the six concerts I attended, Celtic Women was one of my favorite because of memorable performances by harpist Sian James and singer Karine Polwart. Natalie had played too, but among the new-to-me talent, those two stood out.

This year, I was happy to see Anna Massie's name on the list. She had held her own, and more, at the 2003 Guitar Summit. Tonight in SAERC's theatre seating the show was set on the floor below. The night began with Rona Lightfoot, piper and all-around Celtic performer. She proved to be inexhaustible on the pipes and began with a 2-4 march. "And what comes after that I haven't a clue" she said. In her black outfit against the black Celtic Colours curtain, her halo of blond curls shone and her long fingers gleamed in the spotlight as they flew over the pipes.

Two sets of tremendously strong Scottish piping by a diminutive lady was a right proper opening. Then she showed her South Uist-Scottish mettle as she came right back on stage after her strenuous sets to sing mouth music to accompany Melody Cameron's step-dancing. And she charmed us with some fine Gaelic singing.

Harpist Corinna Hewet brought herself and her large harp to the stage and played some traditional music entwined with jazzy sounds that were quite interesting and not at all out of range for the evening. She took some fiddle tunes and gave then some deep bass undertones and received tremendous applause for her first set.

One of her songs was soft and melancholy with a loose sense of time and place. It was a gorgeous, meditative piece. She played "Martyn's Jig," a tune she had written for Martyn Bennett of Newfoundland. Then she decided to show us how versatile a player she really was, as her music rotated between light, feathery chimes and strong aggressive chords. There were a couple of instances when there was so much music coming from her instrument, I had to glance around the stage, sure that there was another player. Strong and innovative, touching on and moving easily in and out of the traditional, earmarks this young lady's playing. To me, she revealed all the moods of the ocean on stage that night.

Next, emcee Laurel Munroe introduced the first woman to become International Fiddling Champion. Winnie Chafe took the stage with daughter Pat on keyboard, and kept to the women's-night theme. She played a march, composed by Pat for "Little" Mary MacDonald, who was one of the few women able to develop her fiddling as a performer -- it was a fine tribute. Winnie delivered her usual precision performance including the tunes "Mill Hills," "Niel Gow's Lament to his Second Wife" and Nathaniel Gow's "The Fairy Dance."

Next up, Anna Massie broke the sex barrier by bringing Troy"ella" MacGillivary on stage to accompany her on keyboard. She's an animated personality and her guitar playing is just gorgeous. I liked her easy rapport with the audience as she tells little stories between tunes and sets. She played fiddle and guitar with gusto and after that nothing could have spoiled the evening.

Rita MacNeil was next, with long-time guitar accompanist Chris Corrigan, and proceeded to sing one of my favorites from Blue Roses, her new album. I really enjoyed a gospel song after that, and though her music may not be classified Celtic, she's Celtic by name and by nature, and that's good enough for me.

The young and talented group Dochas were the last act and they just filled the stage with their talent and excitement. I was impressed by the Gaelic singing, the fiddling and the upbeat energy they displayed. Somehow they got everyone back on the stage for the grand finale, which was a rousing blast of Celtic air as the fiddlers took it away.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 13 November 2004

Visit the Celtic Colours website.