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.
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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.
Pianist Maybelle Chisholm McQueen comes from one of Cape Breton's best known musical families – the Chisholms of Margaree. Maybelle studied music with the Sisters of St. Martha for many years and this classical training shows up in her playing of Scottish tunes. She played her first dance at age ten with her uncles, Angus and Archie Neil Chisholm, and is recognized for her innovative rhythmic techniques. She has recorded with many Cape Breton fiddlers including her uncle Angus, Johnny Wilmot and Howie MacDonald. Maybelle’s latest recording, Pure Celtic Hearts, was released in 2001.
Tracey Dares MacNeil is a piano player from Marion Bridge, Cape Breton County who has accompanied the finest fiddlers of this generation, and been featured as a soloist in concert and on recordings. While recording and touring with Natalie MacMaster throughout England, Ireland, Scotland, Europe, the U.S. and New Zealand for most of the 1990s, Tracey released her debut recording Crooked Lake in 1994 and a piano instruction video in 1997. Known for the quality and versatility she brings to her instrument, Tracey is one of those rare performers who can accompany other artists of varying musical styles with ease and sensitivity, keeping her very much in demand to accompany a variety of Cape Breton fiddlers and performers from around the world.
The Beaton Sisters Band consists of sisters Dawn (fiddle and dance) and Margie (fiddle, piano and dance) Beaton. Piano-player extraordinaire, Jason Roach from Cheticamp, Cape Breton is a lively rhythm based soloist and accompanist with a powerful beat to keep the tunes cooking! Kenneth MacKenzie, from Mabou, Cape Breton is a piper and fiddler. His roots are strongly Gaelic and his piping styling is up-tempo, made perfect for any step-dancer. Together, these artists will have your toes tapping and your legs dancing!
A high energy traditional trio comprised of Colin Grant (fiddle), Jason Roach (piano), and Darren McMullen (multi-Instrumentalist) is integrated with the rough and red-eyed blues/funk rhythm section of Merlin Clarke and Donnie Calabrese to produce a kind of Celtic fusion that is as much Béla Fleck and the Flecktones and Frank Zappa as it is Ashley MacIsaac. While their lively sound never strays too far from its Cape Breton roots, Sprag Session has caught the ear of everyone from indie scenesters to blue-haired bingo stampers, earning themselves an international reputation as one of the most dynamic and versatile live acts in the Celtic music world (and beyond).