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Celtic Colours Festival

By SUE WILSON – The Scotsman

SAVOY THEATRE, CAPE BRETON ****

A MAJOR highlight of this year’s Celtic Colours programme was the
premiere of Full Circle, a hands-across-the-ocean collaboration
composed and created by Phil Cunningham for the Cape Breton Chamber
Orchestra, plus local and Scottish soloists.

The piece comprised a mix of newly-written Cunningham originals with
vocal numbers drawn from the contemporary Cape Breton songbook,
orchestrated for the occasion by islander Scott Macmillan, who also
featured on guitar. Besides Cunningham on accordion and whistles, the
other solo chairs were occupied by Wolfstone fiddler Duncan Chisholm
and Orcadian guitarist Kris Drever, while home-grown stars Bruce Guthro
– best known as lead singer with Runrig – and Raylene Rankin shared the
singing honours.

Although the resulting musical collage may have lacked somewhat in
overall cohesion, any such quibbles were easily outweighed not only by
a tremendously happy sense of occasion but by a wealth of memorable
music.

Cunningham needs no introduction as a writer of sparklingly beautiful
tunes, which were complemented here equally by excellent lead
performances – especially from Chisholm, in a couple of gorgeous slow
airs – and Macmillan’s sure-handed arrangements. The latter were also
richly in evidence when Guthro and Rankin took turns at the mike, with
the winning contrast between his ruggedly grainy delivery and her
exquisitely dulcet tones, in a selection of powerful folk-pop ballads,
underlining the diversity of talent fostered by Cape Breton’s unique
blend of traditions.

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