Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Cape Breton Experience - Celtic Colours International Music Festival - Day 3

Irish Music, Cape Breton Music or Celtic Music can sound weird at first if you have never heard it before. The foreign sounding instruments can throw you off of your regular music haunts. But, once listened to, Celtic Music touches the heart. This music is why we came all the way to Cape Breton and specifically to the Celtic Colours International Music Festival.

Fort Louisbourg, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia - © 2010 François Cléroux
After a nice evening with Tracy and then a great show the following evening in Wagmatcook (Tunes gu leòr - see previous post), which was pre-ceded by some traditional Mi'kmaq drumming, we were anticipating another great evening of music.

It was another wet and cold day as we headed out to Fort Louisbourg before our evening concert. Along with the music we were trying to fit some photography in along with some touristy stuff. We had missed Louisbourg last year and so we fit it into this trip. Did I mention it was very cold and very wet. Fort Louisbourg was disappointing mostly because of the weather, and also because many aspects of the Fort were closed because we were visiting after tourist season ended.

Singer & Songwriter Lennie Gallant - © 2010 François Cléroux
What we did find was that another Juno award winning east coast singer and songwriter, Lennie Gallant, well know for both his English and French music, was doing a special one hour mid-day free concert at the Fort as part of the Music Festival. Lennie was a joy to listen to and he spent time talking to the crowd at the church about the music and some of the local history. Along with all his great music it was an excellent performance. Notch another autographed CD Purchase.

Our third evening brought us to the little town of Whycocomagh for 'Women In Tune'. This is what we had been waiting for. We couldn't purchase tickets for the opening act of the Festival which featured Rita MacNeil and the Men of the Deep but we did manage to get these tickets to see the great, and locally worshiped, Natalie MacMaster.

Laoise Kelly - © 2010 François Cléroux
The evening started off with an impressive performance on the Harp by the much celebrated Laoise Kelly. After hearing many harpist in my lifetime her performance was simply riveting as she made the harp do do things I had never experienced before. Just wonderful. Another CD, another autograph. We chatted a little and she even asked if I could send her a photo, which I will gladly do upon my return home.

An aside here on Photography at these types of events. Photography was strictly prohibited except by vetted Media. When attending these types of events always check if Media registration is required. Another point to consider is that these settings were very dark and poorly lit. Several of the musicians even commented as such and even for Media, flash was not permitted. Most of the photos were shot with a 200mm f/2.8 lens at f/2.8 using ISO 1600 or 3200. Always be ready.

Liz Doherty - © 2010 François Cléroux

Next up was a folk singer from Denver, Nevada, Mollie O'Brien. Perhaps she was part of the festival because of her last name but she was most definately not and Celtic musician. That aside, this woman has the voice of an angel and for those that love Folk with a hint of Jazz and Bluegrass, she is a must listen to. She has just released an excellent new album along with fellow musician Rich Moore titled, Saints & Sinners.

Before the break we were splashed with the sounds of Liz Doherty and Andrea Beaton. With the accompanying artist they were wonderful to listen to and their lively music was appreciated by everyone attending.

Niamh Ni Charra - © 2010 François Cléroux



After the break we returned to the sounds of Niamh Ni Charra. Although Niamh is a Fiddler, she started by playing the concertina, also known as a Ladies Accordion. What a beautiful sound this instrument makes when used by skilled hands. She then went on to play the fiddle.

Capping of the show was the musician everyone was waiting for, Natalie McMaster. Natalie started of her show playing a hard fast paced piece of music. Into her second tune she broke a string. An awkward moment at best for any musician but expertly handled by Natalie.



Natalie MacMaster - © 2010 François Cléroux

She went on to discuss current size as she is now seven months pregnant with her fourth child. She spoke about some personal life things and showed us a glimpse of who she truly is. In a sense we share a personal moment with her because she wanted to share this time, and to fill space while she replaced her broken string.

After replacing her string and tuning her fiddle she asked the crowed if they would mind if she started over? After much cheering she was able to continue her set. I have been a fan of Natalie's for many years now but even on this trip I heard a local stating she is so loved because she is so 'pretty and so wonderful'. You can always wonder as why someone is such a hit or celebrity, is it perhaps because of their looks, but when you hear her music and see the skills with which she plays, it's easy to understand why she has won so many awards. An incredible performance.

Natalie MacMaster - © 2010 François Cléroux

As with the previous evening all the cast were brought out on stage for a final few tunes. After the concert we had a change to speak with Natalie and since I already have her CDs, I had her autograph her new book about her, her life and Cape Breton titled "Natalie MacMaster's Cape Breton Aire: The Story of a Musical Life and Place". A beautiful book expertly photographed by Eric Roth that gives a great insight into her life and music. An excellent souvenir.

Coming up, days four through six . . .

© 2010 François Cléroux

(Version 1.01 - October 2010)

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- Francois Cleroux