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Queen of the Highlands newsletter – issue 6

Greetings from Day Three… or is it Day Four?

The leaves are changing colour right on cue for the start of the 2001 Celtic Colours International Festival. The first wave of artists has arrived as have festival organizers and record company representatives from Canada, the United States, Scotland and the Shetland Islands. And eleven shows into the nine day, thirty-eight performance program, Festival Producer Max MacDonald is generally pleased with how things are going, describing attendance figures as “ahead of projections”. Twenty-five hundred people flocked to Centre 200 in Sydney Friday night for the Gala Opening concert and left absolutely delighted by the show. At intermission, the Box Office was overrun as the audience swarmed for tickets to shows scheduled for the rest of the week. They seemed especially interested in shows featuring Scottish accordionist Phil Cunningham and other artists who are performing for the first time in Cape Breton at Celtic Colours 2001.

Every year, the organizers of Celtic Colours schedule artists who are well known in the Celtic world but who may not be as recognized by Cape Breton audiences. During the first weekend, audiences across the island were treated to first time Celtic Colours performances by Phil Cunningham, Cliar, Simon Thoumire, Brian McNeill, Robin Huw Bowen, Sue Jones Davies, cMc, Kendra MacGillivray and a trio of Scottish pipers known individually as Allan, Iain and Dr. Angus MacDonald.

The Festival Club, located at the Hall of the Clans, on the grounds of the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s, is a stop on the way home for Festival artists and a place to unwind after their shows. It’s also a place to gather with musical friends and play tunes together in a more informal setting than the structured concerts. During the course of the Festival, the Club stage will host performances by most of the artists scheduled at the Festival and already a long list of artists have appeared including John Allan Cameron, Fred Lavery, Gordie Sampson, Gibb Todd, Kendra and Troy MacGillivray, Allan MacDonald, Wendy MacIsaac, and Sheumas and Kyle MacNeil of the Barra MacNeils who happened to be in the neighbourhood. On Saturday night, the near capacity crowd was treated to their first taste of Simon Thourmire. Accompanied on piano by David Milligan, a familiar face from Celtic Colours in 1999, Simon tickled his concertina, throwing a fitting Dan R. tune in with a sunny number from Spain. The interaction between the two instruments and musicians was palpable and the audience ate it up.

I hear them tuning up right now down the hill at the Club and that’s the signal that it’s time to take a break and take in some music. Check back for reports on how things are going as the Festival goes on.

- Dave Mahalik – Information Officer

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