Celtic Colours will bring together performers

By Laurel Munroe – Cape Breton Post

Some 200 performers from five countries will gather in Cape Breton this fall to celebrate the island’s living Celtic tradition.

The fourth annual Celtic Colours International Festival takes place Oct. 6 through Oct. 14 at 29 venues in 26 communities around the island.

This year’s festival will be headquartered at the Gaelic College, in St. Ann’s, where organizers held a press conference Tuesday to announce the 2000 lineup, which features some familiar faces along with a variety of new-to-the-festival performers.

Dougie MacLean, one of Scotland’s top singer-songwriters and a fan favourite at the 1999 Celtic Colours festival, returns this year for a series of appearances, including his own show Oct. 13 at the Savoy Theatre in Glace Bay.

Other featured artists from Scotland include: Blazin’ Fiddles, a group comprised of six of the country’s hottest young players, including the talented Catriona MacDonald, who appeared at the 1998 Celtic Colours festival; Filska, three young women from the Shetland Islands who will be making their first appearance in Cape Breton; Gaelic singers Maggie MacInnes, Flora MacNeill and Ishbel MacAskill; and harpist William Jackson. From Ireland comes the hot young group Danu, termed Ireland’s answer to Slainte Mhath by Celtic Colours Festival Society board member Bob MacEachern; renowned uillean piper Liam O’Flynn; and the Godfather of Irish music, Tommy Makem.

A host of Cape Breton artists will take the stage alongside the international performers: Buddy MacMaster, Dave MacIsaac, Jerry Holland, Howie MacDonald, the Barra MacNeils, Kilt, John Allan Cameron, J.P. Cormier and many more are scheduled to participate.

As always, Celtic Colours will also offer a series of workshops in language, dance, music, storytelling and history.

The biggest outward change in this year’s festival is the relocation of its headquarters – and the hugely popular late-night festival club – to the Gaelic College.

Festival Society chair Sam MacPhee, executive director of the Gaelic College, said the location is appropriate for several reasons.

It’s not only centrally located and offers an excellent facility, but this 62-year old institution is at the very heart of the promotion of all parts of our culture and it enjoys an international reputation for teaching the same, he said.

Organizers are in the process of finalizing the establishment of a shuttle service which will run between the college and hotels in Baddeck and Sydney, especially for those who really like to ceilidh, MacPhee added.

Celtic Colours has undergone a myriad of highly-publicized organizational changes over the past several months. In February, the Festival Society opted not to renew the management contract of festival founders Rave Entertainment, only to hire and fire a full-time managing director in the space of two months.

The board ultimately hired the festival’s marketing company, Icon Communications, to manage this year’s festival. Icon then contracted a team of experienced personnel to perform a variety of tasks within the festival structure.

MacPhee acknowledged the upheaval in his remarks.

Although we’ve had some operational changes and challenges that have been the subject of considerable interest in the months since the 1999 Celtic Colours festival, we are thankful for and proud of the hard work of all those who have been involved in past festivals, he said. Were it not for the support and hard work of the many, many people who have been involved in the past, Celtic Colours 2000 most certainly would not be taking place.

This year’s Celtic Colours festival will operate on a budget of $750,000. Last year, more than 8,000 ticket-buyers from around the world attended the festival, which had an economic impact of $4.4 million.

Gold sponsors of this year’s event are the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and Culture, Enterprise Cape Breton Corp., Human Resources Development Canada, CBC Maritimes and the Cape Breton Post.

Publisher Roger Brown says the Post is proud to once again be involved with the event.

“The growth in popularity enjoyed by the festival is matched only by the variety and quality of featured performers: local, regional and international. We look forward to being part of the success of Celtic Colours 2000.”

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