Many lovers of Celtic music make repeat visits to Cape Breton Island every October to attend the Celtic Colours International Festival. They come from every Province & Territory in Canada, most American States and 25-30 other countries.
For nine days every year since 1997, beginning on the Friday of Canadian Thanksgiving (Columbus Day weekend in the U.S.), Cape Breton Island celebrates its Irish and Scottish heritage with the rest of the world. This year there are 46 concerts and more than 200 community and cultural events in locations across the island.
There are a number of factors that explain this phenomenon. Cape Breton has the only living Celtic culture in North America. The Gaelic language and traditions are practised and celebrated here on a daily basis. Also, the festival does not take place in one location. Instead, it takes place all over the Island in the communities that have maintained the culture for the past 200 years.
This guarantees that visitors will have an authentic experience and helps to explain why so many return year after year. All of this takes place at a time when the hardwood hills above the ocean and lakes are ablaze with brilliant fall colours.
One result of having such a strong Gaelic culture is that Cape Breton has a large number of world class talented artists who tour regularly in North America and Europe. The Celtic Colours International Festival invites talented artists from other Celtic cultures to perform along side the home team. In doing so, the Festival celebrates what makes each culture special but also what they all have in common.
The East Coast Music Association (ECMA) is a regional collaboration of people in the music industry of Atlantic Canada. It is best known to the public for the series of awards handed out at the annual celebration that travels around Eastern Canada. It is interesting to note that Cape Breton has equal status with the four Atlantic Provinces as a separate region under the ECMA umbrella and the event has taken place here four times.
The ECMA has grown from a few awards in a Halifax bar in 1989 to a five day conference and showcase event culminating in a televised Award Show. This year the ECMA celebrated its 25th Anniversary.
Stephen Muise is a music educator, Choir Director, Band Leader, Technical Director and freelance touring piano player. He’s one seriously talented busy guy! I found out first hand a few years ago why he in such demand. We were mounting a Cape Breton Summertime Revue reunion and Stephen agreed to join us.
He showed up for the first rehearsal knowing every piece of music in the show and then preceded to arrange vocal harmonies with the ease of someone who is extremely knowledgeable and comfortable in their skin. All of this and he played keyboards, sang beautifully and was tons of fun to be around. “Who ya gonna call?” Another Cape Breton musical Ghostbuster!
Cape Breton is justifiably well known for its traditional music players. We have many world class fiddlers, piano players & singers who perform internationally.
However, when I was writing my last blog about Buddy MacDonald, I was reminded of the depth of songwriting talent that this tiny beautiful island has produced as well. We seem to have an unusually high number of musicians for our population and the same can be said for songwriters.