Ceol Na H-Aibhneadh
(The Music of the River):
A Tribute to Theresa & Marie MacLellan
at Glendale Parish Centre,
Glendale, Cape Breton
(12 October 2005)

Glendale is a little place nestled beneath the dark and omnipresent Creignish Hills, but it's on the Trans Canada Highway and is only a quick jaunt from Port Hastings and the Canso Causeway. Every year this little community puts on one of the more traditional venues of Celtic Colours and showcases many of their own musicians and singers.

Local Gaelic singer Goiridh Domhnallach, known in the English as Jeff MacDonald, introduced with great appreciation fiddler Alex Francis MacKay, who is noted to have one of the more traditional Gaelic sounds in Cape Breton fiddling. Alex Francis was accompanied by Jackie Dunn-MacIsaac, who has family roots in the Queensville-Glendale area, and Dave MacIsaac, who has probably played guitar with most musicians on the Island of Cape Breton by now. The even-tempered set was perfect to open things up and introduced the audience to the neighbourly, relaxed atmosphere of the Glendale concert.

The evening progressed into a night of homespun music and hospitality. In my reviewer's pose, I held up the wall on the left, along with community volunteer Angus MacIsaac. (Angus is Ashley's dad, and he told me Ashley was busy playing in Mexico, then Texas and New York, and then Australia.)

There's no green room here, so musicians watched the show from the front rows. Jackie Dunn-MacIsaac and Shelly Campbell both spoke about how honored they were to be asked to play at a tribute for Theresa MacLellan, and her sister Marie. Marie was unable to attend and she wrote a note of regret, which was read to the crowd. Theresa had been an influence for both young fiddlers mentioned above.

Shelly Campbell comes from West Bay Road and Theresa MacLellan was her school bus driver. Shelly had a few stories to tell about Theresa and about fiddling on the bus. Theresa is part of the MacLellan Trio and their father was a noted Cape Breton fiddler in his own time. Then Dave MacIsaac took out the fiddle and played some familiar tunes. He said he remembered getting MacLellan Trio records for his birthday. This history is not lost on the audience here tonight, which is obviously enjoying every minute, just as I did.

Theresa came to the stage and this lady has not lost any of her grace, gentility or warmth as she acknowledged the other players and the audience. Just before she began to play, we're told she's been called "Queen of the Marches," and she did offer some easy proof of that here tonight. It could have been called a magical night if you didn't know what to expect from these musicians. The audience, however, was a knowledgeable lot; they knew what to expect, and received no less.

Carl MacKenzie of Washabuck took to the stage in an autumn red shirt. He and Marie MacLellan had played together for about 15 years. Though this whole night was grand, Carl's set seemed to have a special sweetness and was an anchor for the whole evening.

During the rest of the evening we heard a Gaelic lullaby, and a few more local musicians on stage to fill out the evening and contribute their special touches on piano and guitars. It was a good night of strong Cape Breton music, with every musician putting their own ribbons around the package.

It's part of the Cape Breton heritage, evident in Glendale, that the audience isn't treated to a "performance," or a "show." Instead, they become part of a community happening. It was that way for this concert and let's hope it will be that way in Glendale for many years to come.

by Virginia MacIsaac
17 December 2005