Celtic Colours unveils 2017 line-up at Civic Centre

Photo by Adam Cooke Longtime Creignish favourites Betty Lou and Kinnon Beaton were the first performers to take the stage at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre’s Shannon Studio for the Celtic Colours International Festival’s 2017 launch event. The husband-and-wife duo will play at two Celtic Colours shows in Inverness this fall, along with a handful of smaller festival events.

PORT HAWKESBURY: Canada Day may be in the books, but organizers for the Celtic Colours International Festival plan to keep celebrating the nation’s 150th birthday and its contributions to Celtic culture this fall.

  Holding their early-summer launch event at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre for the first time, following three years at the Celtic Interpretive Music Centre in Judique, Celtic Colours representatives spoke enthusiastically about the “Roots” theme of this year’s line-up, which is designed to represent every region of Canada.

  As an example, artistic director Dawn Beaton pointed to Nunavut-based artist Kathleen Ivaluarjuk Merritt, known professionally as IVA, whose three festival appearances include a spotlight set at the Celtic Colours opening-night show at Sydney’s Centre 200.

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  “She’s a beautiful throat singer and she’ll be marrying that with Celtic and traditional style music,” Beaton told the audience gathered at the Civic Centre’s Shannon Studio on June 26.

  “Of course, we have all our lovely local Cape Bretoners who are such a vital piece of the festival. Without them, we could not do this.”

  Other highlights of Celtic Colours’ 21st season include a tribute to multi-instrumentalist Dave MacIsaac at Inverness Education Centre/Academy, a salute to “We Rise Again” songwriter Leon Dubinsky at Sydney’s Highland Arts Theatre, and multiple appearances by Grammy-winning African-American singer-songwriter Rhiannon Giddens, who recently joined the cast of the CMT series Nashville.

  “She’s from North Carolina, and she learned puirt-a-beul [Gaelic mouth music] from Margaret Bennett and Cathy Anne MacPhee,” Beaton enthused.

  While tickets for this fall’s Celtic Colours mainstage performances go on sale July 11, the event’s new board chair, Bob MacEachern, urged festival supporters to encourage Cape Breton festival-goers to break the cycle of delaying their ticket purchases.

  “Cape Bretoners tend to wait a little bit before they buy their tickets – they wonder, ‘Should I buy my ticket, or is the Queen going to call me that day and I’ll have to have tea with her?’ So I’d say, ‘Let’s assume that the Queen isn’t going to call, and you’re going to have to get your tickets,’” MacEachern smiled.

  During the June 26 event, which also included performances from Kinnon and Betty Lou Beaton, Roger Stone and  The Island Steppers , MacEachern suggested that this October’s line-up is the official launch of the second 20 years of Celtic Colours.

  “I think what you see in front of you in that program kind of sets that tone,” MacEachern declared.

  “We haven’t missed a beat, we haven’t sat back and said, ‘Hey, the first 20 years were great, but what do we do now?’ Well, we know what we’re doing now – we’re bringing together some people that you asked us to bring in, and other performers that have been waiting for the call to come to Cape Breton Island and participate.”

  For more information, including ticket prices and a complete schedule of Celtic Colours mainstage performances and community events, call toll-free 1-888-355-7744, visit the official Web site : www.celtic-colours.com , or check out the Celtic Colours Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr accounts.

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Adam Cooke has been a staff writer and columnist for The Reporter since 1999. A native of L’Ardoise, Adam lives in Port Hawkesbury with his wife Cathy.