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.
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Jennifer has been wowing audiences in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Holland, England, Scotland, the Arctic and all across Canada and the US for years. Jennifer’s performances are always filled with emotion and energy, and she has three albums to her credit—two of which earned her East Coast Music Award nominations in the Instrumental Recording of the Year category (2001, 2007). Jennifer continues to tour, compose music and owns and operates her own school of music in Dance. Jennifer’s band includes Jason Kempt (piano), Keith Mullins (percussion), Lyndon MacKenzie (guitar), Allie Bennett (bass), and dancers Shelby Matthews and Courteney Waye.
Whether performing with her full band in front of thousands, as a vibrant acoustic duo with guitarist Seph Peters or solo in a kitchen of her native Inverness County playing the old tunes of her ancestors, Gillian never ceases to inspire with the dynamic expression of her music. On stage or in the classroom, Gillian is most comfortable with violin in hand and has been since the age of 10. An avid explorer, she more recently calls Turkey her home, although Scotland, England, Canada and New Zealand remain part of her regular touring circuit. Currently, Gillian is working with Irish guitarist Tony Byrne on a new album featuring her innovative take on Celtic music but displaying the more traditional aspects of her playing.
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.
Hilda Chiasson is one of the most sought after piano players of this generation and has played on more than 50 recordings in Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Denmark and the US. A native of Cheticamp where she played for dances and recorded since she was a teenager, Hilda is also a very good step dancer and has played and recorded with a who’s who of Cape Breton fiddlers including Winston Scotty Fitzgerald, Donald Angus Beaton, Jerry Holland, Carl MacKenzie and J.P. Cormier. Hilda has performed throughout Canada, the US, Scotland, Ireland and Denmark as well as in Dubai, Bahrain, and Afghanistan.
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.
Ashley MacIsaac was performing as a dancer in concerts by the time he started school and added fiddle and piano a short time later. While still in high school he found himself working with Paul Simon and performing in a Phillip Glass off-Broadway production. Since first recording in the early 1990s, he has experimented with musical styles and evolved into an award-winning, genre-bending performer, writer, and singer. Ashley is currently working a new project of Celtic Beats with Jay Andrews of Halifax (aka Sticks), the previously unreleased Beautiful Lake Ainslie CD with Barbara Magone is set for release later this fall as is a re-issue of his Crossover CD.
Known as one of Cape Breton’s finest traditional fiddlers, Glenn Graham is also a composer, songwriter, step-dancer, music instructor and published author whose music has been featured on international hit TV shows, CD compilations, and in independent films. Glenn has published a collection of over 200 original compositions and wrote The Cape Breton Fiddle: Making and Maintaining Tradition, published by CBU Press. With five recordings and multiple East Coast Music Award nominations to his credit, Glenn is one of Cape Breton’s most sought after performers and music instructors. Currently working on his PhD and lecturing at Dalhousie University he continues to make time for performing and teaching Cape Breton fiddle music.