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Festival Club scores hole-in-one

By Frank MacDonald –  The Inverness Oran

The point of taking the Celtic Colours Festival Club to Fredericton, host Kelly Peck explained to an audience jamming its way into the Back Nine club on Saturday afternoon, “is that we are trying to replicate one of nine nights that takes place in Cape Breton every October.”

The difference between the fact and the re-enactment, he added, is that the Festival Club held every night at the Gaelic College in St. Anne’s begins at 11:30 at night and goes on `til dawn, “an all- night jam that just throws whoever’s there up on stage.” It’s a mix and match of Celtic music very unlike what fans might hear at the dozens of Celtic Colours concerts.

Melody Cameron of West Mabou steps to the music of Andrea Beaton and Wendy MacIsaac.Taking a midnight idea to a Saturday afternoon event in a different province may initially have seemed risky to organizers, but those concerns were set aside with the first set when the music from Chrissy Crowley’s fiddle and Jason Roach’s piano literally danced two mike stands right off the stage, toppling over like a couple of exhausted square-setters.

The Margaree Forks-Cheticamp connection of Crowley and Roach was succeeded by Lennie Gallant, accompanied by Sean Kemp and his skeleton fiddle. Gallant songs are rich with humour (47 Acres on Her Front Lawn), Acadian cultural pride offered in Laisse aller, co-written with Cheticamp’s Ronald Bourgeois, the tenderness of Pieces of You from his latest album, When We Get There. Gallant’s welcome set drew to a poignant conclusion with Peter’s Dream, the tragic anthem for the east coast ground fishery. And in what was one of those Festival Club moments, Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond joined Gallant on stage for Peter’s Dream, one of the rare moments when Lamond’s voice has been heard in English.

A Celtic dream team took the stage next, with Wendy MacIsaac’s fiddle the core sound surrounded by a Celtic accompaniment comprised of Troy MacGillivray on piano, Fred Lavery on guitar and Allie Bennett on bass. After a few brilliant presentations, Wendy traded places with Andrea Beaton, and percussionist Cheryl Smith joined the stage band. Then Wendy was back for a double fiddle set, her well-shod feet keeping time to Andrea’s bare feet and red toenails.

Mary Jane Lamond’s appearance was wholly in Gaelic except for her stories, usually filled with a humour lacking in her choice of Gaelic songs (“This song is a man singing to his wife but because it is a Gaelic song, she’s dead.”). Lamond’s too brief appearance was a song and a set of puirt a beul, or mouth music, with Wendy MacIsaac’s fiddle joining in, then she was off, like so many of the other performers, to perform on another stage somewhere else in this New Brunswick city composed, on this East Coast Music Awards weekend, totally of soundtrack.

Beginning with Wendy MacIsaac’s first set, which drew Whycocomagh square-dance addict Burton MacIntyre from his seat, then West Mabou dancer Melody Cameron onto the floor, the step-dancing became a flood when Troy MacGillivray moved from the piano to the fiddle, luring other MacGillivrays to the stage, sisters Sabra and Kendra, and a steady stream of step-dancers followed, PEI dancer Mylene Oulette, Andrea Beaton, Dale Gillis, Wendy MacIsaac, Kimberley Weatherspoon, Celtic Colours co-founder Joella Foulds, along with others known and unknown, culminating with the newly discovered and definitely Broad Cove Concert-bound dancing duo of Kelly Peck and Shane MacDougall. In fact, following their performance, no one else ventured forth onto the floor, leaving the fiddler, Troy MacGillivray, to stand and dance to his own music.

The pace changed them to the inspirational music and lyrics of Newfoundlander Terry Kelly, whose appearance, along with that of Prince Edward Islander Lennie Gallant, made this Festival Club music bash an Atlantic islands one.

Then a major difference between the actual Festival Club and the weekend’s facsimile became apparent. After three hours, it was over, something that would never be allowed to happen in St. Anne’s, but the Back Nine stage was made available to the Celtic Colours organizers through the cooperation of Music Nova Scotia which was staging and showcasing talent from across the province all weekend, and was preparing to present more Bluenose acts.

The crowd, and it was a crowd, was sent back to their accommodations to a last blast of fiddle tunes from Wendy MacIsaac, Andrea Beaton, River Bourgeois fiddler Krista Touesnard, with Fred Lavery on guitar, Kevin Chiasson on piano and Allie Bennett on bass.

The ECMA’s version of the Festival Club was a superb glimpse of what nine days and nights in October on Cape Breton Island hold in store of visitors and residents alike.

Copyright © 2008 The Inverness Oran. All rights reserved.

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