Mabou Coal Mines native Joanne MacIntyre was raised in a culture rich environment of Scotch music, dance and Gaelic language. She has sung on stages around Cape Breton since her teens, bringing the island’s distinct style and “swing” to appreciative audiences. Joanne was a regular performer at Highland Village as a Gaelic singer, step dancer and story interpreter and now teaches Gaelic language and Gaelic Studies at Dalbrae Academy in Mabou. The Lochaber descendant continues to expand her repertoire of songs from the Cape Breton and Inverness County Gaelic traditions. Her debut album Craobh a’ Mhathain was released this year.
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The Barra MacNeils are one of Canada’s premier Celtic groups. The family band from Sydney Mines is deeply rooted in Celtic music, culture and history, and consistently wows audiences with their captivating vocals, harmonies and musicianship. After more than 25 years, the group is as busy as ever, having released two new recordings in 2012–a live album with Symphony Nova Scotia and a special project recorded with a variety of musical guests from Celtic Colours. With multiple lead vocalists, beautiful sibling harmonies, top-drawer instrumental prowess on a wide variety of instruments, dancing, storytelling, Gaelic songs and a journey through an ancient culture, The Barra MacNeils live in concert must be experienced to be believed.
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 with the cultural component of Féis an Eilein in Christmas Island. In 2011, she received the Frank “Big Sampie” Sampson Award from the Festival Volunteer Drive’ers Association to record her debut album, “Stepping Stone”. A recent graduate of Cape Breton University with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Gaelic, Anita performs throughout Cape Breton and she is often sought after to conduct workshops in music, dance, and song. She is performing at Celtic Colours this year with Tyson Chen and Evan Bonaparte.
Since getting their start at a late night session during the 1998 Celtic Colours International Festival, Beòlach has established itself as one of Cape Breton’s most exciting and innovative traditional bands. Performing a lively mix of Cape Breton, Scottish and Irish tunes, the group features Mairi Rankin (fiddle, step-dance), Wendy MacIsaac (fiddle, piano, step-dance), Patrick Gillis (guitar), Ryan J. MacNeil (pipes, whistles), and Mac Morin (piano). Beòlach has released two albums, Beòlach (2001) and Variations (2004), which were both nominated for East Coast Music Awards. It is a true pleasure to welcome them back together at Celtic Colours this year.
Breabach delivers a thrilling and unique brand of contemporary folk music, which has earned the group international recognition on the world and roots music scene as one of the UK’s most dynamic and powerful bands. Voted Best Group at the Scots Trad Music Awards, Breabach have also received nominations in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and as European Folk Group of the Year in the German Folk Awards. The band intertwine highland bagpipes, fiddle, guitar, bass, flute, bouzouki, step dance, Gaelic and Scots song to produce a diverse and captivating performance.
Lucy MacNeil, the only girl in a family of five boys, may be described as the heart of The Barra MacNeils. Her crystalline vocals are immediately identifiable with the group’s sound. For Lucy, music has always had a heartbeat and she recalls it as the centre of her childhood home where family, neighbours and visiting musicians were often known to gather—the rhythm of everyone’s feet tapping with the music would lull her to sleep on many nights. Lucy’s own musical journey officially began when she was 9 years old, but even before that she was step dancing alongside her mother, a well-known local dancer and teacher. Her career with The Barra MacNeils has seen her opening tours for international stars such as Celine Dion, Kenny Rogers and Rita MacNeil.
Evan Bonaparte is a guitar player and Gaelic singer from Iona, Cape Breton. He began playing guitar at a very young age and later began to develop a strong interest in the Gaelic language and songs. He has performed at many concerts, ceilidhs and kitchen parties throughout Cape Breton, and has played guitar many times accompaning well known fiddler/stepdancer, Anita MacDonald. His singing and playing has been strongly influenced by many Gaelic singers throughout Cape Breton, and by Country and Folk singers like Stan Rogers and Stompin’ Tom Connors. He recently graduated from the Maritime College of Forest Technology in Fredericton, NB, where he continued to play and sing during his time at school.
Singing in English, Scottish Gaelic and Irish, Lewis MacKinnon performs regularly as a solo artist and as a member of the East Coast group, the Jug in Hand Band. Playing rhythm guitar, MacKinnon has shared his powerful baritone voice with audiences in the coffee shops, pubs and concert halls of Eastern Canada, New England, Scotland and Ireland. In 2006 he released an all Gaelic recording titled, A’ Seo (“Here”) which earned him an ECMA nomination in the Roots/Traditional category. In 2010, he completed his first all-English solo recording, titled “Making More Of It”.