Armed with a love of jigs, reels and ballads honoured in Newfoundland, and an energy found more often in 3 piece punk rock bands than 5 piece folk acts, their accordions, fiddle and talent have shaken national festivals including Winnipeg, Mariposa, and Vancouver. Barely into their twenties, they’ve intuitively become the keepers of the songs we love and have sought out tunes that may have otherwise been lost to the culture forever. A new breed of folk musician with a wide sense of the world and a firm belief that Newfoundlanders can hold their own with the best players the world has to offer.
Conor and Rory Makem continue the lineage of one of Irish music’s dynasties, begun by their grandmother Sarah Makem, who was sought after by song collectors for her store of traditional Irish songs. Their father is Tommy Makem, the modern day Bard of Armagh. The Spain Brothers also learned Irish songs at their father’s knee. Mickey’s rich, baritone voice and Liam’s mastery of stringed instruments quickly found a home when the Makems met the Spains and the brothers realized the power of their combined talents. With a host of instruments and precise harmonies, the Makem and Spain Brothers honour the legacy of Irish folk songs.
The Men of the Deeps is a choir of working and retired coal miners from Cape Breton Island, organized in 1966 as part of Cape Breton’s contribution to Canada’s Centennial Year. The Men of the Deeps have released nine albums, been the subject of two NFB films and one book, toured around the world and frequently been featured on TV and radio. Today the Men of the Deeps are more than a singing group – it is a social institution. There is a camaraderie amongst the members of the group that carries over to their audiences wherever they perform.
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.
A stunning synthesis of virtuosity and energy, The Outside Track’s marriage of Canadian, Scottish and Irish music and song has been rapturously received around the world. Hailing from Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton and Vancouver, its five members–Norah Rendell, Mairi Rankin, Lily Neill, Fiona Black, and Cillian O’Dalaigh–are united by a love of traditional music and a commitment to creating new music on its foundation. Using fiddle, accordion, harp, guitar, flute, step-dance and vocals these five virtuosos blend boundless energy with unmistakable joie de vivre.
Stewart MacNeil is best known for being a member of the international recording group the Barra MacNeils – 6 siblings who have recorded and toured extensively for more than 25 years. He plays a multitude of instruments including accordion, piano, flute, whistles, bass, guitar, bouzouki, bodhran, pipe organ and harmonica. As an arranger, his stamp on The Barra MacNeils’ music has contributed to the band’s identity. A graduate of Mount Allison University with a major in classical piano, Stewart now spends much of his time learning Gaelic songs and is a dedicated student of the language.
Cheticamp native Sylvia LeLievre plays six and twelve string guitar and bass. She started playing at age 13, singing old French traditional songs and the folk songs of the day. In the mid-sixties she started a band with her brother and called the Phantoms who played in and around Cheticamp for the better part of 30 years. In the 1980’s she formed Le Groupe LeLievre who sang French traditional songs and band member Ron Bourgeois’ compositions. Sylvia began writing her own songs and performing solo in 1989, and recorded her first CD in 1997.
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.