By John Gillis – The Inverness Oran
The 15th annual Celtic Colours International Festival opened with a bang last Friday night in the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.
Distant Sons and Daughters featured many of the Cape Breton greats as well as talent from across the pond in Scotland and Ireland and those of the Appalachian region of the United States.
Lieutenant Governor Mayann Francis welcomed visitors to her native Cape Breton, and
Defence Minister Peter MacKay did the same with a pre-taped message broadcast on the big screen, as he was not in attendance.
Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIsaac and band played some great new songs from their forthcoming new CD, which is expected to be released early next year.
Storyteller, writer and songstress Sheila Kay Adams shared several traditional songs with the audience that she said she “took into my heart and made mine.”
The music of the Appalachians was well represented by multi-instrumentalist and singer Bruce Molsky (artist in residence) who was joined by the Jumpsteady Boys. Fleet-footed dancer Nic Gareiss lighted up the relatively reserved audience with his footwork but it took Scotland’s national treasure Dougie MacLean to get everyone singing along with choruses and harmonies. At one point he even tried to have us voice a Fender Strat lead guitar lick.
The wonderful Black Family were back with some great music from Ireland, this time joined by sister Mary Black for her first Celtic Colours performance. Mary had the audience spellbound with her version of Song for Ireland.
Peter MacKay may have had the honour of opening the program, but Ashley MacIsaac got in one of the best lines of the evening.
“I was disappointed to not see Peter MacKay here,” said MacIsaac. “He must have run out of frequent flyer points,” the Creignish fiddler known for his sharp wit quipped, noting MacKay’s recent controversy over use of the Challenger jets.
MacIsaac opened his program with a slow air he learned from Carl MacKenzie called Beautiful Lake Ainslie, but it didn’t take long for him and special guest pianist Barbara MacDonald Magone to get all fired up with some high-octane instrumentals before being joined onstage by Sabra MacGillivray and the Celtic Touch Dancers.
“Let’s hope it’s not another twenty years before MacIsaac and Magone perform together again,” said master of ceremonies Ian McNeil.
Celtic Colours continues until Saturday with more concerts, cultural events, workshops, community dinners, and more.
Cape Breton is a busy and vibrant place at this time of year. Enjoy!
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