Alistair MacLeod was born in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, in 1936 and raised among an extended family in Cape Breton. He still spends his summers in Inverness County, writing in a cliff-top cabin looking west towards Prince Edward Island. He has published two internationally acclaimed collections of short stories which, accompanied by two new stories, were later published in a single-volume edition. His first novel, No Great Mischief, received great critical acclaim, was on national bestseller lists for more than a year, and won the 2001 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, among many other awards.
Allison Mombourquette began step dancing at the age of 5 and fiddle lessons at age 8. She joined the Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Association in 2001, which has given her the opportunity to perform across Canada and in the United Kingdom. She has been a part of Feis Mhabu since the winter of 2006, which gives young Celtic musicians the opportunity to learn from some of Cape Breton’s finest musicians. Allison has also studied fiddle, piano, and step-dancing at the Gaelic College and played alongside such performers as Natalie MacMaster, Glenn Graham, Andrea Beaton, Ashley MacIsaac, Jerry Holland, J.P. Cormier, and Dave MacIsaac.
Amélie, Louise, and Lilianne are members of la Petite Brise (meaning a small wind), a group of young dancers in the dance troupe La Swing du Suête. All three girls hail from beautiful Cheticamp, an area rich in music, dance and culture. Although young dancers, they have been dancing for more than a few years. You can also catch Amélie with her other dancing partner, Christopher Poirier, in the early part of the festival.
Anita MacDonald is an accomplished musician, dancer, and Gaelic singer from Little Narrows, Cape Breton. Her passion for Cape Breton music has inspired her to work extensively with the cultural component of Féis an Eilein in Christmas Island. Anita has performed extensively throughout Cape Breton and she is often sought after to conduct workshops in music, dance, and song. In 2011, she received the Frank “Big Sampie” Sampson Award from the Festival Volunteer Drive’ers Association to record her debut album, “Stepping Stone”, which was released during last year’s festival.
Andrea Beaton is the youngest of generations of Beaton and MacMaster musicians. Like her father (Kinnon) and grandfather (Donald Angus), she is a lively violinist and composer, adding fine new music to the island’s repertoire. Andrea has released six albums including 2010 East Coast Music Award winning “Branches” and her latest, “Little Black Book”, released earlier this year. In 2007 she released an album with her father, Kinnon Beaton and in 2006 she recorded “The Tap Session” in Scotland with Troy MacGillivray, Fin Moore, and Luke Plumb. Her previous two releases, “Cuts” (2004) and “License to Drive’er” (2002), were both nominated for East Coast Music Awards.
Ben Furey grew up in Coxheath, Cape Breton Island. A graduate of St. Francis Xavier’s music program, he writes and performs songs on his own and with bluegrass rowdies Crowdis Bridge. Quickly becoming an accomplished guitarist, mandolin, and banjo picker, Ben is establishing himself as a quality utility player in multiple genres, most recently being called to play alongside Darren McMullen, Chrissy Crowley, Sprag Session, and J.P. Cormier. After playing festivals in the United Kingdom and France this summer, Ben is excited by the possibilities and looks forward to creating similar opportunities in the future.
Albert Lionais spends much of his days drinking tea and listening to old LPs. He grew up in a musical family in Little Bras d’Or on Cape Breton Island and spent a good deal of his childhood making music with his family, playing in marching bands and the school orchestra. Over the past few years Albert, who plays trumpet, drums and guitar, has taken to writing folk songs and telling stories of what could very well be real life situations. He takes great comfort in the power of music and its ability to motivate and enrich people’s lives.
The Belkolora Quintet, one of Cape Breton’s newest ensembles, features Katheryn Gordon on piano, Laurie Gorman on clarinet, Richard MacAulay on flute, Barb Stetter on oboe, and Jenny Tingley on harp and flute. Each has an active passion for music of all sorts, as demonstrated by their work as both educators and talented performers in their own right. Now they’re arranging and performing music together – creating and developing their multi-coloured, beautiful Belkolora Quintet sound.