By Laura Jean Grant -The Cape Breton Post
SYDNEY — A group of Cape Breton artists will highlight the opening night show of the Celtic Connections international festival in Scotland early next year.
The Barra MacNeils, J.P. Cormier, Ashley MacIsaac, Mary Jane Lamond and Jerry Holland will share the stage at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Jan. 15, to kick off the 16th annual event with a show entitled The Cape Breton Connection.
“There was talk of me going over many times before and I don’t know whatever happened but I’m going this time and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Holland, a renowned fiddler, who will be taking part in the Scottish festival for the first time.
Celtic Connections — which features approximately 1,500 artists performing in 300 events over 18 days — announced its lineup of artists and shows Tuesday, describing the opening show as a natural choice during Scotland’s Year of Homecoming.
“What better way for Celtic Connections to launch its festivities than by welcoming an array of top artists from Cape Breton, the beautiful Canadian island where Scots and their music have long found a second home,” Celtic Connections organizers stated in a media release. “The festival will kick off with a celebration of the rich musical connections between Scottish traditional music and that of Cape Breton.”
Holland said Cormier, MacIsaac, Lamond, the Barra MacNeils are a talented group of musicians and he’s excited and proud to showcase Cape Breton music with them on an international stage.
“They’re a great crew of people and I love them all dearly. They’re great friends of mine and I have the greatest respect for them,” he said.
The Cape Breton acts will also be joined for the night by some of the many Scottish musicians who have appeared at the Celtic Colours festival, including harpist/singer Corrina Hewat and pianist David Milligan.
News of the concert comes just days after the conclusion of another successful Celtic Colours festival in Cape Breton and is evidence of the strong relationship between the island-wide event and Celtic Connections, which is considered Scotland’s premier winter music festival.
“We’re delighted,” Joella Foulds, artistic director of Celtic Colours, said of the Cape Breton theme of Celtic Connections’ opening concert.
Foulds said the two festivals have partnered on a number of projects in the past and the Cape Breton Connection show is just the latest example of the positive things that happen because of that co-operation.
“It’s the result of a lot of back and forth connections both at the organizational level and at the artist level,” she explained.
Foulds said fostering a continued partnership with Celtic Connections opens up important markets and opportunities for artists both here and in Scotland, describing it as “a major cultural exchange.”
Foulds, who has been to all 15 Celtic Connections festivals to date, is planning to return this year and expects she’ll be helping out in some capacity with the Cape Breton concert.
“It’s a huge festival and it happens at a time when there isn’t a heck of a lot else going on and so they manage to get artists from all over the world to come and perform there, so if you go for a week to 10 days, then you’ve gotten to see virtually hundreds of performers in the whole Celtic realm,” she said, noting the trip is a great opportunity to scout out new talent to invite to Celtic Colours. “It’s a big shopping spree for me and an opportunity to connect.”
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