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2013 special projects offer fresh perspectives on tradition

Tributes to Cape Breton fiddlers Alex Francis MacKay and Joe Peter MacLean, the songs of the Rankins, and to both the Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Association and the Cape Breton Chorale, who are celebrating 40th anniversaries this year, are scheduled alongside new concerts celebrating dance traditions and night life in the 18th century at Fortress Louisbourg.

For Alex Francis – The rich accent in Alex Francis MacKay’s playing came from an older world, one of Gaelic language and mouth music. Deeply rooted in old world tunes, this music was born from a local Gaelic culture and influenced by the variety of local and travelling musicians who would stop by the MacKay household. Alex Francis made two recordings for Rounder records and left a legacy of music played with the language at its core.

Gaelic in the Fiddle: A Tribute to Joe Peter – Joe Peter MacLean was a fiddler from MacAdam’s Lake, an area rich in piping and fiddling styles. A native Gaelic speaker and active promoter of the Gaelic culture, Joe Peter was well-known and respected for his knowledge of the Gaelic words to accompany fiddle tunes. Joe Peter also played banjo, mandolin and guitar and was always in demand to play square sets and kitchen ceilidhs. He was a fixture at the Festival Club and would play with everyone, either onstage or in the Green Room.

Beyond Borders & Time: Songs of the Rankins – The music of the Rankins is admired all over the world. Tonight is all about the songs, which have no boundaries, no matter who sings them. We are blessed with wonderful singers: Joanne MacIntyre, Rita Rankin, Marilyn MacDonald-MacKinnon and Helene Blum will join Cyril MacPhee, Kim Dunn and John Campbelljohn to honour these cherished songs. With a crackerjack band including Ashley MacIsaac, Jamie Robinson, Jamie Gatti and Brian Talbot, we’ll be transported beyond borders and time by the familiar melodies and the words we know by heart.

Forty Years Strong: A Celebration of Strings & Song – For forty years Cape Breton has had two wonderful groups maintaining our fiddle traditions and our love of choral singing. Preparation for the 1973 Festival of Cape Breton Fiddling in Glendale gave birth to the Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Association who have been preserving and promoting Cape Breton fiddle music ever since. The Cape Breton Chorale was also formed that year and has gone on to perform throughout the Maritimes and UK and release five albums. Singer-songwriter Nathan Rogers and Barra MacNeils Kyle, Sheumas, and Lucy will join the Forrester Dancers in paying tribute to these Cape Breton cultural institutions.

Dance Dance Wherever You May Be – Dance is just as popular whether you’re from Norway, Quebec, Scotland, Appalachia or Cape Breton. It is well-established that dance is an important influence on Cape Breton’s traditional music. Tonight we see how dance influences music in other traditions. Nic Gareiss, Pierre Chartrand, Normand Legault, Hallgrim Hansegård, and the Pellerin Brothers represent some of the top dancers in each of their traditions. And we’ve lined up some expert accompaniment in Shelly Campbell, Allan Dewar, Breabach and Raz de marée. This amazing array of dance styles will knock your socks off.

Music of the Night: Musique de la nuit – Picture a cobblestone street lined with candle-lit windows where music and laughter pour out the doors and into the walkway. Diners finish their 18th century meal and chat excitedly as they move from one stone building to the next guided by villagers with lanterns. There they find five venues offering Baroque, Acadian, Quebecois and Cape Breton music, storytellers, a square dance and finally a storehouse that has been converted into a tavern. This is Fortress Louisbourg as it was 300 years ago. The entire village is alive with music! It doesn’t matter what century we’re in, because this is a unique experience you’ll never forget!

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