Celtic Colours International Festival
Golden music in a golden land: In mid-October,
when the hillsides of the Bras d’or
Lakes blaze with colour, audiences gather
in Cape Breton to see and hear some of the
finest Celtic musicians, singers, dancers,
storytellers and culture bearers in the world.
Held in dozens of community centres, theatres,
schools, churches and concert halls across
the Island, the Celtic Colours International
Festival features events such as “Piper’s
Ceilidh,” “Celtic Pops,”
“Bards and Ballads,” and “Picker’s
Paradise.” Past festival line-ups have
included artists such as The Chieftains, Tommy
Makem, and Cape Breton’s own Natalie
MacMaster and the Barra MacNeils.
In addition to showcase performances, the
festival offers workshops in square dancing,
step dancing, song writing, Celtic musicology,
instruction and Cape Breton history, and features
art exhibits, “milling frolics”,
square dances and banquets.
Visitors to Cape Breton’s largest
Celtic festival get to see the Bras d’Or
Lakes at the height of their natural beauty,
as spectacular fall colours shimmer across
Head to the Festival
Club, at the Gaelic College in St.
Ann’s (northeast of Baddeck on St. Ann’s
Bay) for informal, impromptu late-night entertainment.
Encore performances, improvisations and musical
mixing-and-matching are all part of the Club’s
nightly jam sessions.
…a Ceilidh? A Ceilidh
is an informal social gathering featuring
Scottish or Irish folk music, singing, dancing
or storytelling. A “Ceilidh-house”
is a favoured gathering place in a community
known locally for its particular form of entertainment.
…a milling frolic?
A milling frolic is a Gaelic song session
in which singers sit around a table and beat
a large loop of woolen cloth in rhythm with
the song. Scottish settlers once sang milling
songs to keep a steady pace as they shrank
and softened newly-woven cloth by pounding,
or “drubbing” it on the table.
Milling songs are unique to Gaelic Scotland
and Cape Breton, and are characterized by
a refrain, followed by verses of single lines
or couplets. As the cloth is beat to the song’s
rhythm, the verses are given by a lead singer.
Milling frolics are now held as cultural reenactments.
…Cape Breton square dancing?
Now recognized as the distinctive dance of
the Island, Cape Breton square dancing incorporates
step dancing into a four-couple set. The origins
of the dance style are uncertain; it may have
developed from the Gaelic “scotch four”
or “eight-hand reel,” or may have
Acadian or French roots.