By Laura Jean Grant -The Cape Breton Post
ST. ANN’S — Some of the best up-and-coming musicians in Celtic music are getting advice this week from some of the most established and respected artists and industry professionals in the business.
A new feature of the Celtic Colours International Festival this year is the Archie Neil Chisholm showcase stage taking place each afternoon from 4-6 p.m. at the Gaelic College’s Hall of the Clans in St. Ann’s.
Yvette Rogers, fesitval outreach co-ordinator and host of Tuesday’s showcase stage, explained it’s named after the late Archie Neil Chisholm — a well-known fiddler, educator, broadcaster, storyteller and promoter of Cape Breton music and culture — because he was a big proponent of involving youth in local concerts, ceilidhs and events.
“The idea is to get young people who are involved in the Celtic arts, on stage,” she said.
Rogers explained that young performers from across Canada and beyond sent in submissions, including a bio and an audio or video sample of their music to be considered for a showcase stage spot. Those selected are being given their shot this week with an opportunity to perform get feedback from a panel of adjudicators that includes musicians, singers and representatives from festivals and music events around the globe.
Each day there is a new group of performers and a new panel of adjudicators.
First up Tuesday was Maggie Beaton, 13, of Mabou, who has been fiddling for five years. She played a 20-minute set and had the audience and adjudicators tapping their feet to the music.
Seventeen-year-old fiddler Allie Mombourquette of L’Ardoise was up next and the audience’s feet didn’t have much of a break as she kept the toe-tapping music going.
After her performance and while awaiting comments from the panel, Mombourquette said she was a bit nervous but also eager to hear what they had to say.
“I can grow as a performer, which is kinda the point,” she said.
Mombourquette said she “took the chance” and decided to apply to perform on the showcase stage and is glad she did.
“It’s unbelievable. I never thought I’d ever get a chance to do it,” she said, noting the experience has really encouraged her to pursue her music.
Sporting tartan tams, Chloe Davidson, 10, and her brother Kyle Davidson, 8, were also a hit with the audience, bringing their style of fiddling to the show. The talented duo traveled all the way from Kelowna, B.C. to the festival and are taking in a number of events this week including the Buddy MacMaster School of Fiddling.
Last to take the stage were the Island Steppers, a group of dancers from Richmond County who have been performing together since 2005. The multi-talented dancers also sang and played instruments to complement their dancing.
Adjudicating the day’s performances were fiddlers Mairi Rankin and Sandy MacIntyre, and Phil McIntyre, who runs the Skye Theatre in Maine. The three offered wide-ranging and constructive advice, from smiling more and making more eye contact with the audience to using the little finger more when fiddlinge.
But one thing all panellists agreed on was the level of talent they witnessed throughout the show.
“You guys were just absolutely fantastic,” said McIntyre.
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