Born in Sydney, Cape Breton Island, Donnie Campbell has been singing to audiences for over 30 years, from small crowds at kitchen parties to standing room only concerts at the Savoy Theatre in Glace Bay. He has worked with Cape Breton musicians like Natalie MacMaster, Ashley MacIsaac and Carl MacKenzie, and was one of the original members of the maritime Folk group – Miller’s Jug. Donnie has also hosted a Cape Breton radio program called Celtic Serenade for almost 35 years which helped popularize the music of the Rankins, The Barra MacNeils and other great Cape Breton artists.
Comunn Féis Mhàbu was founded to support both children and adults in their pursuits to learn more about Cape Breton’s unique Gaelic culture. Féis Mhàbu allows individuals, particularly young people, to develop skills in the area of Gaelic language and performance arts and provides opportunities for the organizers to enhance the rich local culture with the talents and experience of tradition bearers from other areas of the Celtic world. The youth performers that will be taking part in the Festival have been faithful participants in two of Féis Mhàbu’s more unique programs, Eirich Air! and the Musical Mentorship Program.
For as long as they can remember, Ciarán and Fiona MacGillivray have been performing for the many musical visitors who pass through their home on Cape Breton Island. (Ciarán and Fiona are the children of famed Canadian author/composer, Allister MacGillivray). Besides singing, they play piano, guitar, harp, tin whistle, and bodhrán. They also stepdance, and are studying the Gaelic language of their ancestors. They have appeared together in the Cape Breton Summertime Revue and continue to perform with The Cottars.
Goiridh Dòmhnallach is a Gaelic singer, composer, storyteller and educator who was fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from some of Cape Breton’s best tradition-bearers, including Seumas MacAoidh, Seonaidh Aonghuis Bhig, Pàdruig Aonghuis Sìne, Fransas Dhùghaill Shandaidh and Rodaidh Ailig Ruairidh. He is one of a musical Cape Breton family, the “Dougalds” MacDonalds originating in Queensville, Inverness County. He was influenced by traditional musicians on both sides of his family. Goiridh prefers to sing in the traditional style he learned from the singers of his native Bràigh na h-Aibhneadh. Goiridh has performed in Scotland, Ireland, and Canada. He and his young son, Padruig, often sing together.
Haley MacPhee is an up and coming singer from St. Peter’s, Cape Breton who grew up surrounded by music and jam sessions. Along with her father, Cyril MacPhee, she has performed for the past 10 summers at the Keltic Lodge in Ingonish, Cape Breton. Her first recording at the age of 11 is included on Failte Traditions and Rob MacLean & Cyril MacPhee Duo CD. In the last couple of years, Haley was part of Rising Stars for Rock the Dock, recorded for CBC Radio, and played at Celtic Colours.
Heartwood Slacks is a five-man band that—ironically—happens to meet the criteria for a great American heritage revival band. The personnel—who bring banjo, guitars, blues harp, mandolin and bass fiddle—have shared stages and bills for years, a variety of local “band-me-downs” who were weaned on blues, metal and country music. Heartwood Slacks principle songwriter John Gill bangs out incomparably sincere, catchy, melodic bar-room shout along songs. In their year-and-a-bit history, the Slacks have been around the Maritimes tightening tunes, loosening screws, playing barrooms, living rooms and at one point, an abandoned, cobblestone hockey rink.
Ian MacDougall is a singer and songwriter from North Sydney with a knack for telling bizarre and heartfelt stories in his songs. As frontman of Cape Breton’s award-winning, seven-member Tom Fun Orchestra, Ian has toured in Australia, Scotland, Ireland, and across Canada. At home in Cape Breton, Ian occasionally takes a more laid-back approach to performing music, sometimes choosing to play his songs solo, or as a straight-ahead, bass-drums-guitar rock trio. Whatever the setting he chooses, it’s Ian’s songs that take centre stage.
The Iona Gaelic Singers are just a few of our remaining native Gaelic Speakers on Cape Breton Island. They have an unrivaled passion for the preservation and presentation of Gaelic songs, specifically Gaelic milling songs, composed both here in Cape Breton and from the Old Country, Scotland.