The Young & the Restless
at Lions Hall,
St. Peter's, Cape Breton
(12 October 2005)

After a very long drive through the dark, and a bit of confusion as to where the venue was, I finally made it to the packed Lion's Hall in St. Peter's.

Luckily, I made it just in time to hear Nuala Kennedy's last set of tunes. I had the privilege of seeing her play at the Festival Club a couple of times last year and have come to enjoy her style very much. This time, she was playing a blast of tunes with Troy MacGillivray on the piano. There were some very nice chromatics, which made it interesting to the ear. What I really like about Nuala is that as she's blowing into the flute, she'll look at the audience, or whomever she is playing with, and smile. She always looks like she's having a good time.

Next was a group that I had never even heard of, called the Lochaber Students. This is a group of musicians from the west of Scotland and all of them began their musical experiences through the Feis there. The group includes quite an interesting mix: three accordions, a fiddle and one singer. I enjoyed their arrangements of tunes, especially the accordion trio that they performed -- something I don't hear too often. They also played some strathspeys, jigs and reels, which the girls danced to and received explosive applause and whistles from the audience. They performed some beautiful songs, as well. These teenagers are off to a pretty good start in their careers.

Following them was Troy MacGillivray, another performer who I've come to enjoy very much, and tonight was extra special because he was releasing his new CD, Eleven. While the CD focuses on his fiddle skills, he is more known for his excellent talent on the piano, so he began with a phenomenal solo on his principal instrument. It included the J. Scott Skinner reel, "Devil in the Dirk" in the key of E major! The audience went crazy over it. I heard multiple appreciative whistles and hisses. After that, he amazed us some more with a fantastic fiddle performance, with Kimberley Fraser on the piano.

Then, Kimberley showed her stuff on the fiddle, as well. She played a set of difficult J. Scott Skinner hornpipes in the keys of B-flat and E-flat and, of course, made them look effortless. My only disappointment was not getting to hear more from her, but for what little stage time she had, she definitely picked the right set of tunes to wow the crowd.

After several minutes of applause, it was accordionist Shona Kipling's and guitarist Damien O'Kane's turn to take the stage. This was another first for me and a very good one, at that. They began with a set of jigs, which they called "The Duck Set." This was followed by a beautiful air on accordion and a reel. Then, Damien played a set of original tunes on banjo, which involved some very impressive finger picking. They finished with some reels called "The Catalyst" and "The Destitution." Overall, I was really impressed with the duo.

Also new to me was the band All Fired Up. This is a group of four young Cape Breton musicians who play fiddle, pipes, piano, bodhran, mandolin and guitar. Erin also showed some energetic highland steps with the "Sailor's Hornpipe" dance. I felt tired just watching her! For the most part this band stuck with nice arrangements of traditional Cape Breton music. Like the Lochaber Students, for how young they are, they are on their way to a promising musical career.

Tara Rankin impressed me with her singing, as well. Although a bit stage shy, she has an amazing voice for someone so young. It was great to hear someone her age sing traditional Gaelic songs. It shows that the tradition is still alive and well in Cape Breton. She got the audience to join her on one of these songs, which was "learned at her school in Mabou," she explained.

Last up was Colin Grant, who is quickly becoming a new favorite of mine. When he takes the stage, the audience seems to light up with clapping and, in this case, dancing. Joining him on piano was Adam Young. I can tell that the two play together often because every set of tunes was really tight. My personal favorite was a tune Colin wrote for Troy MacGillivray, called "Trolley's Reel." I also found my toes tapping to his "Acadian Set." However, the audience seemed to enjoy the infamous "Big John MacNeil" the most because he received a standing ovation for it.

The finale of mouth music and reels got a well deserved standing ovation, as well. Overall, this was a really great show.

by Kaitlin Hahn
18 February 2006