Whether playing piano or fiddle, or showcasing his stepdancing capabilities, Troy MacGillivray displays intense commitment to the Celtic heritage he inherited from his Highland ancestors. His versatility has had him performing across Canada and the US and overseas from Switzerland to Australia. Troy’s first three albums – Eleven (2005), Boomerang (2003) and Musical Ties (2001) were each nominated for East Coast Music Awards. His fourth album, Live At The Music Room, won the 2008 ECMA Instrumental Recording of the Year and When Here Meets There, recorded with Shane Cook, was named 2009 ECMA Roots/Traditional Group Album of the Year.
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Susan MacLean was born and raised in Washabuck and now resides in the Sydney area. She has performed with various Cape Breton musicians at dances, concerts and house rackets and has taught Cape Breton style piano accompaniment for many years at St. Ann’s Gaelic College. She is also a member of the Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Association, plays fiddle and writes music. Susan’s enthusiasm for Cape Breton style piano comes from influences within her own extended family including grandfather Michael Anthony MacLean, uncles Carl and Hector MacKenzie and cousins in the Barra MacNeils.
Wendy is an award-winning fiddler, piano player and step dancer from Creignish, Cape Breton who began performing as a stepdancer at age 5. At age 12, she began fiddle lessons with Stan Chapman. By age fifteen, Wendy was playing dances all over Cape Breton Island, forming the sound that makes her so recognizable today. With five records to her credit – including “Variations” with her Cape Breton Celtic Supergroup, Beolach – she is a favourite with traditional audiences everywhere. Wendy has toured all over the world as a solo performer, and with The Rankins, Mary Jane Lamond, Ashley MacIsaac and Beolach. Wendy’s critically acclaimed release “Seinn” is a partnership with long time musical collaborator, Mary Jane Lamond.
The Men of the Deeps is a choir of working and retired coal miners from Cape Breton Island, organized in 1966 as part of Cape Breton’s contribution to Canada’s Centennial Year. The Men of the Deeps have released nine albums, been the subject of two NFB films and one book, toured around the world and frequently been featured on TV and radio. Today the Men of the Deeps are more than a singing group – it is a social institution. There is a camaraderie amongst the members of the group that carries over to their audiences wherever they perform.
Tyson Chen is an accomplished pianist from Ottawa, Ontario who now lives in Mabou, Cape Breton. He started classical piano at a young age and soon learned many other styles from ragtime to rock. Over the past few years, he has immersed himself in the celtic music scene and learned the Cape Breton style of piano accompaniment. Tyson regularly accompanies local fiddlers for ceilidhs, square dances, and sessions throughout Cape Breton and Nova Scotia, and has recently performed in the hugely successful local musicals “John Archie & Nellie” and “The Weddin’ Dance”, in which he was also the musical director.
With roots going back six generations, this family of players shares a legacy of tradition. Ever since Joe Pete Chaisson formed the PEI Fiddlers Association and established the Rollo Bay Fiddle festival, the family has worked to preserve and protect traditional music and dance on Prince Edward Island. Joe Pete’s three sons–Peter, Kenny and Kevin–still set the standard for younger generations to follow. Peter’s masterful touch on the fiddle has never wavered through decades of play. An accomplished composer and player, Kenny has tunes to go on for days. And Kevin is one of the most sought after piano accompanists on PEI. Kenny, Kevin and Peter will be joined at Celtic Colours this year by J.J. Chaisson, Koady Chaisson and Elmer Deagle.
Mary Elizabeth MacInnis is Buddy MacMaster’s daughter. She began to play the piano by practicing along with tapes of her father. There are numerous home and dance recordings of Buddy spanning over forty years and they include a variety of accompanists including John Morris Rankin and Buddy’s sisters, Betty Lou, Genevieve and Lorraine. Many of these home tapes, with their long, extended sets, are perfect for learning tunes and practicing piano accompaniment. Mary Elizabeth was 14 when she first performed with her father in a concert at Judique Parish Hall and, a few years later, began playing with him at the Glencoe Mills dances. She has also traveled with her father to play in Boston, Washington and Toronto.
This is a powerful collaboration borne of a long-time friendship and a shared love of Celtic music. Whether it’s the mesmerizing Gaelic vocals of Mary Jane, or the superb and true musicianship of Wendy on the fiddle, these ladies have been making their mark with traditional audiences worldwide for over two decades. Mary Jane and Wendy have both been recognized internationally for their solo music careers, and Wendy has been Mary Jane’s steadfast comrade in the presentation of her music for many years. It seems only natural that these two impressive talents now come together to create a true musical partnership, which will combine their musical sensibilities, their strong Celtic roots, and their colourful personalities.