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.
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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.
Growing up with plenty of music in his Cape Breton, Nova Scotia home, John Campbelljohn was enamored with the guitar from an early age. As a young teenager, John studied the blues masters, eventually putting together a combo. He toured relentlessly throughout the country winning numerous awards for his combination of exciting guitar work and powerful songwriting. In 1999, John got his first European release, getting notice from Rolling Stone magazine, and in 2007 John signed an international deal in Germany. His 2012 solo acoustic release, Celtic Blues, won Music Nova Scotia’s Blues Recording of the Year. Now John has come full circle from award-winning blues man to his Cape Breton Celtic roots.
Evan Bonaparte is a guitar player and Gaelic singer from Iona, Cape Breton. He began playing guitar at a very young age and later began to develop a strong interest in the Gaelic language and songs. He has performed at many concerts, ceilidhs and kitchen parties throughout Cape Breton, and has played guitar many times accompaning well known fiddler/stepdancer, Anita MacDonald. His singing and playing has been strongly influenced by many Gaelic singers throughout Cape Breton, and by Country and Folk singers like Stan Rogers and Stompin’ Tom Connors. He recently graduated from the Maritime College of Forest Technology in Fredericton, NB, where he continued to play and sing during his time at school.
Recognized by his peers as one of Canada’s best performing songwriters, Lennie Gallant is a native of Prince Edward Island now living in Nova Scotia. The prolific songwriter has recorded nine albums (seven in English and two in French), winning a host of awards and nominations from both the JUNO Awards and East Coast Music Awards. His song “Peter’s Dream” made it to #4 on the CBC Radio Top 10 Canadian Songs of All-Time. As a performer, Gallant’s intense delivery reaches down to the very soul of his audience, moving effortlessly through stirring narratives, comic observations, and hard driving rhythms. He has toured extensively internationally, playing festivals and concerts accompanied by roots rock bands, and in acoustic settings.
Lisa Ornstein, Normand Miron, and André Marchand are legends of Quebec’s traditional music scene. Between the three of them they have been on the roster of virtually every ground-breaking band over the past 30 years. Fiddler Lisa and guitarist/singer André first met as bandmates in La Bottine Souriante, Quebec’s longest-running powerhouse super group. Button-accordionist/singer Normand Miron and André are currently bandmates in Les Charbonniers de l’enfer (The Coalmen from Hell), an award-winning a-capella singing ensemble. Lisa, André and Normand have been playing as a trio since the 1990s, delighting audiences with their fiery dance music and finely-wrought vocals.
No stranger to the Savoy, Marilyn is honoured to be part of this Rankin tribute. She began at a young age singing and accompanying her brother Howie on piano mainly in local venues. Her singing career began with the Johnny Aucoin Trio eventually releasing her first recording in 1990, My Love Cape Breton and Me. This past fall she released a second CD, Be Still. She has also provided back up vocals for Sam Moon, Chad Tetford and brother Howie. Proving an accomplished actress, Marilyn began with the Summertime Revue in 1990 and continued over the years with Howie’s Celtic Brew and several dinner theatres including Casino Nova Scotia.
Sheumas, the eldest of six siblings who make up the Barra MacNeils, began playing piano at a very young age. He soon teamed up with his younger, fiddle-playing brother Kyle and the duo performed regularly at local square dances. Together they set the stage for what is now the Barra MacNeils. Sheumas studied music at Mount Allison University where he received his Bachelor of Music Major in Pipe Organ.