Rita MacNeil’s unique blend of folk, country, gospel, pop and Celtic music has been entertaining audiences for over three decades. Born and raised in Big Pond, Rita’s success is evidenced in the gold, platinum and silver albums from Canada, Australia and the U.K. as well as numerous Juno and Canadian Country Music Awards. She holds five honorary doctorates and hosted her own national television program. She is the proud recipient of the Order of Canada and released a best-selling autobiography, On a Personal Note. She owns and operates Rita’s Tea Room in Big Pond.
Johnny Muise and Rosie MacKenzie joined creative forces in December 2011 as they discovered a shared love of both Celtic and folk music. In the past several months, a musical meshing and mingling of both styles began to reflect their Cape Breton traditional roots, intertwining blues, jazz and contemporary songwriting. Their performances draw the audience in with enthusiasm, haunting harmonies, and their kinetic energy. Johnny’s hard-driving bluesy-guitar mixed with Rosie’s captivating and distinctive style of fiddling brings an exciting edgy dynamic to the stage. They truly are and engaging and exquisite duo.
From their beginnings as three actors who also loved to sing together, The Once has embraced a different vision of Newfoundland music. Their sound does not come from the noisy pubs and dockside taverns that fuel so much of the Island’s energy. Instead, their music comes from a quieter and more thoughtful place. Lead singer Geraldine Hollett is accompanied by Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale on guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bouzouki, to create a perfect blend of voice and melody. Sometimes melancholy, sometimes funny, always poignant, The Once sound like nothing else that has ever come from Newfoundland.
Victor Tomiczek is a Cape Breton songwriter and musician who fronts the rock and roll band Ladyslippers and writes and performs his own acoustic troubadour brand of country songs. Since 2005, Tomiczek has toured Australia, Ireland, Scotland, England, and Canada as banjo and guitar player for the Tom Fun Orchestra. Co-producing the Cape Breton Protest Song Project in 2011, Tomiczek recruited an ensemble of local musicians to write music to the protest poetry of the early 1900s labour movement, bridging two artistic eras and carrying forward the words of the workers from Cape Breton’s strong industrial past.
Buddy MacDonald, from the North Shore of Cape Breton, has been a singer/songwriter for over thirty years. He has entertained international audiences and shared the stage with Celtic artists including Natalie MacMaster, Ashley MacIsaac, Dave MacIsaac and Howie MacDonald. Buddy has made a number of appearances in the U.S., and at Scotland’s Orkney and Shetland Festivals. This will be Buddy’s thirteenth year hosting the Celtic Colours late night Festival Club.
Breagh Mackinnon has been charming audiences across the Maritimes since releasing her debut, self-titled EP in 2011. Raised in a musical family, the young Cape Breton singer-songwriter has been busy since the release, playing at the East Coast Music Awards, Nova Scotia Music Week, the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, the Winnipeg Folk Festival, the Ottawa Blues fest, and the Cavendish Beach Festival. Breagh’s writing attracted the attention of multiple-award winning singer-songwriter Gordie Sampson who invited her to participate in a songwriting camp in August 2011. She has since joined to co-write with artists such as Dylan Guthro, Steven MacDougall and Sampson.
Carolyn Lionais is a local twenty-something. Born and raised in beautiful Bras d’Or, she grew up surrounded by music in her family home. She learned to play the guitar around the age of 11 and has been writing and singing ever since. Never professionally, for the joy of it only. Professionally, Carolyn has been practicing nursing since 2007. Her voice and music can be heard in quiet bars, living rooms, long car rides, short films, background vocals and local EP’s circa 2004.
Carmen Townsend is a four-time Music Nova Scotia Award winning artist and has most recently picked up an East Coast Music Award for Rising Star Recording of the Year. Upon releasing her debut album, Waitin’ and Seein’, in January 2011, the Cape Breton born and raised singer/songwriter was selected to be the opening act for legendary rock group Heart’s cross Canada tour. Songs from her award-winning album have been featured in several television series and film and she has performed and showcased internationally at SXSW, The Great Escape Festival, Liverpool Sound City and in Australia. Carmen has performed with Halifax, Nova Scotia-based Jubilee Swing Orchestra and is currently working on her second album.