Photo by Mary Hankey Natalie MacMaster had the crowd captivated with her electrifying fiddling at the opening concert for Celtic Colours 2018 appropriately called “Fiddles on Fire.” The sold-out concert was held on October 5 at the Civic Centre in Port Hawkesbury.

ARICHAT: A Richmond County author’s most recent book offered a window into the rich history of Isle Madame.

In his newly released A Brief History of Ile Madame: Part 2, Arichat historian Don Boudrot explores the history of the communities of Arichat, West Arichat, Petit de Grat, and D’Escousse dating as far back as the 16th century.

Boudrot said the new book is a continuation of another book he wrote on the history of Isle Madame 15 years ago.

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The book tells the stories of many historical figures that had an impact on the area, such as John Paul Jones who led an attack on Jerseyman’s Island during the American War of Independence. He also tells the story of the Ballem sisters, two local women who gained an international reputation for creating ornate tapestries.

In addition to the pictures and stories from Isle Madame’s past, Boudrot included a list of Acadian words and their French equivalents.

PORT HAWKESBURY: Steven Page and Jon Hines took their music to the Granville Green stage for the annual concert series.

Page, originally from Toronto, was one of the founding members of the Barenaked Ladies. He was the group’s lead singer, guitarist and songwriter until he left the band in 2009 to pursue a solo career.

For the summer, he toured Nova Scotia. He never played in Port Hawkesbury before, and said he was looking forward to his local debut.

Alongside Page, Kevin Fox performed on the cello. The music was a blend of rock, folk music and alternative rock. They performed old music from the Barenaked Ladies, as well as new music from his new albums.

Hines, who opened for Page, grew up in Kingsville just outside of Port Hawkesbury. He attended Granville Green since he was young, and said it feels good to share the stage with others.

Photo by Adam Cooke
Stan Rogers Folk Festival volunteer MacKenzie Taylor got her festival T-shirt autographed by British singer-songwriter Jake Morley on July 2, shortly after Morley hosted the “Songs I Wish I’d Written” stage featuring Maritime artists Old Man Luedecke, Ben Caplan and Dylan Menzie.

CANSO: Stan Rogers Folk Festival organizer Troy Greencorn said attendance numbers were up 10 per cent last year.

This year’s Stanfest held a large amount of East Coast artists, said Greencorn, alongside other Canadian and international artists. He also said that they surprised the audience with an appearance from the Men of the Deeps.

MABOU: On August 16, Great Big Sea founder Séan McCann performed at the Strathspey Centre in Mabou to start a tour across the Maritimes. It was just be him and “Old Brown,” his first guitar.

The performance consisted of new songs, and some from the Great Big Sea. McCann said that every performance is different with the goal being to bring out the best in the audience, and to sing along.

McCann has become a solo artist since in late 2013, but says he won’t forget his time with Great Big Sea, a folk rock band from Newfoundland and Labrador. McCann says that Cape Breton was the first place to embrace Great Big Sea, and he owes a lot to the people.

Since McCann left the band, he has admitted that he’s suffered through 30 years of addiction. After his wife gave him an ultimatum, he says it got him to seek help. McCann now has been sober for eight years.

McCann said it’s a struggle day to day, but he’s grateful to still be here. He’s been working harder than ever; he’s gone on more shows, released records such as Help Yourself, You Know I Love You and There’s a Place for You. He said that his way of writing music has become more purposeful.

Jimmy Rankin

MABOU: Since returning to Nova Scotia from Nashville, Jimmy Rankin released his East Coast-themed album Moving East.

Moving East features many East Coast talents. The album includes J.P Cormier; Ashley MacIsaac; Jamie Robinson (Rankin’s guitar player); and Joel Plaskett as a producer, and many others. Rankin said the music to expect would be folk rock, along with some Celtic.

In promoting the new album, Rankin set out on a cross-Canadian tour for the first time in a number of years.

PORT HAWKESBURY: Last summer Raymond MacInnis was tasked with repainting three pieces of outdoor artwork for the Town of Port Hawkesbury. The panels, which are located in a small community park at the corner of Granville and MacSween Street, were originally painted by local artist Gary Pace in 2004.

MacInnis said the images were painted on plastic puck board, and much of the original paint had worn away over the years.

The three paintings feature images from the town’s history, including a ship, a train, and the John Cabot, a ferry that sailed on the Strait of Canso from 1947 to 1955.

STRAIT AREA: The nominees for last year’s Nova Scotia Music Awards included several performers from the Strait area, including some up and coming artists who have achieved exciting milestones.

Whycocomagh rapper Todd Googoo, who performs under the name SHiFT FROM THA 902, received his second Music Nova Scotia nomination for Indigenous Artist of the Year. However, this year marks his first nomination for Hip Hop Recording of the Year for his self-titled debut album.

This year also marks a milestone for first-time nominee Dara Smith-MacDonald. The Port Hawkesbury based fiddler was up for Traditional/Roots Recording of the Year, along with pianist Adam Young, for their joint album The Lake Sessions.

Other 2018 nominees included Port Cities, a Halifax-based folk/pop trio with ties to Richmond County. The group took home five Music Nova Scotia Awards in 2017, and they were nominated for 2018 Digital Artist of the Year. The Town Heroes, an alternative rock group with Inverness County roots was also nominated for the award.

A nomination for Music Video of The Year went to Mabou singer Heather Rankin for “Titanically.” The video was nominated for an East Coast Music Award (ECMA) in May.

Singer and multi-instrumentalist Mary Beth Carty of Lanark, Antigonish County and Cheticamp musician and composer Maxim Cormier were both nominated for Acadian/Francophone Artist of the Year. In addition, Cormier was nominated for Traditional/Roots Recording of the Year and Educator of the Year. Tracey MacNeil also received an industry nomination for Educator of the Year.

StFX Jazz Professor Paul Tynan and Aaron Lington were nominated for Jazz Recording of the Year for their ECMA award-winning album Bicoastal Collective: Chapter 5. Makayla Lynn, an ECMA and Music Nova Scotia Award-winning singer with roots in L’Ardoise was nominated for Entertainer of the Year.

ANTIGONISH: A new summer music festival is in the works for the Town of Antigonish.

During the monthly meeting of Antigonish Town Council on September 17, Ray Mattie made a presentation on Nova Scotia Summer Fest, a new festival proposed to take place August 22-24 in Antigonish.

Mattie said the event would be a celebration of Nova Scotia and Canadian music, as well as unique Nova Scotia food, drinks, crafts, products, fine art and more, with a major focus on local producers and suppliers. Eco-Tourism experiences, such as Keppoch Mountain and the Northumberland Shore, will also play a major role.

Mattie said they’ve already received a $100,000 start-up grant from the Canadian Business Development Centre, and many local partners have come forward to support them.

On October 11, the craft incubator space at the former Customs House building in Port Hawkesbury – under the direction of the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design, in partnership with the Town of Port Hawkesbury – was officially opened.

SYDNEY: In the spring, the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design launched its Craft Incubator program, in partnership with the Town of Port Hawkesbury, and the town welcomed several new residents.

Following a Canada-wide search, four artists were selected to take up residence in the former Customs House on Granville Street.

The program gives the artists access to a newly-renovated studio with subsidized rent and a retail space where they can display and sell their work. They will also receive business development support, including training sessions on building and maintaining Web sites, pricing their work, grant writing, and accounting.

The group of artists in residence includes Natasha Matthews, a jewelry artist who recently arrived from Winnipeg, as well as leather goods artist Kyle McPhee who has returned home to Cape Breton from Ontario to take part in the program. The studio also features potter Tessa Reed from Vancouver, who creates functional pieces, often featuring whimsical animals, and Josie Robinson, a textile artist from Robson Valley, British Columbia who specializes in plant-based dyes and pigments.

Beginning this fall, the public can take part in variety of courses being offered by the artists, including jewelry making, pottery, and dyeing cloth.

ANTIGONISH: After five years of city life in Toronto, Antigonish-native Arden Powell returned to her hometown roots for the pre-book launch of her first novel, A Summer Soundtrack for Falling in Love.

The launch on October 25 was a pretty small affair taking place in the StFX Art Gallery in the Bloomfield Centre, generously sponsored by the StFX English Department.

Powell introduced readers to protagonist, Kris Golding. His story begins in New York, where he’s arrived without a job or apartment. Luckily, he connects with Rayne Bakshi of international rock band “The Chokecherries.” Golding becomes Bakshi’s new guitarist.

Some on-stage flirting leads Golding to realize he may have romantic feelings for his bandmate. However, Bakshi is unsure of how to proceed, in that the guitar player previously said he was straight.

Between his conservative brother hell-bent on ‘rescuing’ him from his life of debauchery, a peacock that may or may not be the avatar of a cult god, and a publicity stunt that threatens to upend the band, Kris is definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Andre Pettipas and the Giants (from left, Travis Pettipas, Andre Pettipas, and Marcus Cosh) are seen here following their winning the Q104 Homegrown Challenge.

ANTIGONISH: Fresh off a busy summer of touring, Andre Pettipas & The Giants returned home to the Strait area to share new music with fans.

On October 6, the band appeared at the Carriage House in Port Hawkesbury to celebrate the release of its new music video for the single “The Swedish Motel.”

The group began filming the video in January. It incorporates live footage from their recent tour across Canada, as well as the “Live at Heart” festival in Örebro, Sweden.

At the October 6 release party, the musicians announced they will travel to Toronto in 2019 to record tracks for their sophomore album.

Simone Poirier-Bures reads from her new book Threads in the Acadian Fabric during an appearance at the Petit de Grat library on October 25.

PETIT DE GRAT: The author of a new book set partially in Isle Madame was happy to return to the home of her father and ancestors.

On October 25, the Isle Madame Historical Society sponsored a book launch and reading at the Petit de Grat branch of Eastern counties regional library.

Threads in the Acadian Fabric tells the story of the author’s paternal family, her line of ancestors that stretches back nine generations to the first Poirier who arrived from France and settled in Port Royal in the 1640s.

The first part of the book focuses on the four generations who lived, suffered, and thrived in old Acadie until 1755, when the Deportation began. The second section focuses on the next five generations who lived on Isle Madame, where they became fishermen, boat builders and sea captains.

HALIFAX: The Bluenose-Ability Film Festival received funding to take programming on the road to communities across Nova Scotia.

The screening in Antigonish took place on November 23 in the Community Room at Antiognish Town and County Library.

The Bluenose-Ability Film Festival was created to provide opportunities for individuals of all ages, nations and identities to connect, share and gain a greater understanding of disability culture and awareness through the powerful, active medium of film.

There was a long lineup for Bruce MacKinnon’s book signing, following the opening reception for his exhibition, “Prime Suspects” now showing in the J. Franklin Wright Gallery.

HALIFAX: The work of a famed Halifax-based artist and editorial cartoonist traveled to Port Hawkesbury.

The Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre’s J. Franklin Wright Art Gallery will host “Prime Suspects: Canada’s Prime Ministers in Caricature” by Bruce MacKinnon until February 17, 2019.

The solo exhibit features depictions of all 23 Canadian Prime Ministers from John A. Macdonald, to Justin Trudeau. It was curated by David Diviney of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS) and debuted in Halifax in 2017.

MacKinnon’s caricature of Canada’s first Prime Minister depicts John A. Macdonald stirring a drink with a railroad spike. The image reflects the role Macdonald played in establishing a transcontinental railway, but also hints at another aspect of the Prime Minister’s history.

MABOU: For the first time ever, a Battle of the Bands took place on November 24 at the Strathspey Performing Arts Centre.

Bands competed for eight hours of recording time with sound engineer Rob Stone at Strathspey Performing Arts Centre plus a logo design by Sara Rankin Creative.

My Favourite Headache, an alternative acoustic rock band from Cumberland County; Bridges is an emerging folk rock band from Inverness County; The Middle River Band, have been playing with energy and enthusiasm for over 10 years; The Corner Crew hails from Whycocomagh and River Denys; Substitute Blonde is a rock/indie band from the Strait area; and Ruth O’Shea is a singer-songwriter from Ireland.

Dan Doiron offered his musical skills in Port Hood last summer.

PORT HOOD: The 2018 Music Nova Scotia conference was productive and rewarding for Port Hood Blues musician Dan Doiron.

Performing to enthusiastic audiences at two solo showcases, followed by meetings with perspective festival buyers, the weekend culminated with Doiron receiving the Music Nova Scotia Award for Blues Recording of the Year for his latest release Livin’ Centre Stage.

Doiron just received his first national nomination for a Maple Blues Award for New Artist of the Year. These awards recognize achievement in the Blues genre in Canada and the nominees are selected by a panel of 45 music industry professionals from across the country.

Affirming the adage that good things come in threes, on October 18, Doiron was presented a “50 over 50” award at the Start Up Canada Conference in Ottawa for his Live Centre Stage project.