An incredible opening to Celtic Colours in Port Hawkesbury
-by April MacDonald
The Barra MacNeils with Kimberley Fraser perform last Friday evening in Port Hawkesbury.
Music is the force of life.
These wise words were spoken by Harald Haugaard, one of the artists in residence for Celtic Colours 2013, at the opening show at the civic centre in Port Hawkesbury last Friday night.
Every year Celtic Colours invites two artists to take the lead role in various aspects of the festival, this year Harald Haugaard, who has established himself as one of Denmark’s most acknowledged musicians. This is not the first time he has performed at the Celtic Colours Festival. He performed here four times prior. His expertise is crucial this year as the focus for this year’s festival is on Nordic music and dance traditions.
Kimberley Fraser is the second artist in residence who is a home-grown Cape Breton woman, still in her twenties, but who has travelled throughout the globe and also had obtained degrees in violin performance from the Berklee College of Music, Celtic studies and jazz piano from St. F. X. She is a master of fiddling, step-dancing and piano. Fraser has been performing annually at Celtic Colours since 2000.
The show kicked off at 7:30 p.m. with MC Max MacDonald who announced from off the stage the arrival of the lieutenant governor. There was red carpet laid down as he was piped to the front and was seated. MC MacDonald then introduced Hon. Peter MacKay who spoke from the podium bringing greetings from the Federal government.
Brigadier-General The Honourable J.J Grant, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia took the podium to open the festival and welcomed everyone to the vibrant musical community that is thriving here in Nova Scotia. “There will much storytelling, laughter and plenty of music coming from the theatres, schools and halls, and also plenty of kitchen parties!”
After the welcoming ceremony was complete the lights dimmed, and what commenced quickly after was a battle of duelling fiddlers. Artists in residence Fraser and Haugaard put on the show for the packed house that delighted everyone. The bows of their fiddles were flying so fast that one anticipated flames setting their fiddles ablaze.
With grinning faces and eyes transfixed the audience in unison began stomping their feet, and after the performers finished the crowd went wild. The crowd was particularly dazzled by Kimberley Fraser, and when MC MacDonald took the stage he said, “Just wait ‘til you hear her play with her right hand!”
This concert on October 11th at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre was called North Atlantic Neighbours. The thought behind this concert was that everyone is a neighbour on Cape Breton Island, and to kick off their Nordic Links theme for 2013, the Barra MacNeils played host for the concert, welcoming their neighbours, old and new, from across the North Atlantic. There was a particular amount of attention and talk towards the connections made between countries such as Scotland, Denmark, Norway, Ireland and Shetland with Canada, in particular Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Music brings people together, and that reveals the connections between us.
The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc started their set with a traditional reel being played on exquisitely crafted fiddles that were pieces of art creating musical art. They then moved to a slow Celtic song that pulled the heartstrings of everyone in attendance. As the music played on, couples, young and old, leaned into one another and put an arm around a shoulder and held hands. As the message of bringing people closer together geographically was in full effect, the music also brought that audience closer together to each other and the ones they love.
Before it got overly romantic in the building, one of the most lively and gymnastically inclined dancers wowed the crowd by taking the stage alongside the Nordic Fiddlers Bloc. Hallgrim Hansegand#61508;rd is a Norwegian choreographer and dancer whose background is rooted in his traditional halling dance training and contemporary dance. He flipped, walked on his hands across the stage, flipped off the stage into the audience, kicked his hat which was hung twelve feet above him, and also spun wildly on his head with legs dancing on an invisible stage above him.
When they were finished, MC MacDonald returned to the stage stating, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure I've seen that at The Hoff before."
The evening continued in fine form and fashion. There were many local Cape Bretoners, mainlanders, folks from across Canada and what seemed to be an abundance of Americans and Europeans who had made the journey to this extraordinary event.
Helene Blum with her red dress and angelic voice took everyone's breath away along with the Harald Haugaard Band that played alongside her. The Teetotallers kept the crowd laughing and thoroughly entertained with their rousing tales and musical talent. They were also complemented by the Forrester Dancers who would take the stage to the surprise and satisfaction of all.
The final act was the beloved Barra MacNeils who have become even more flawless in their talent and performance as their careers have progressed. They are one of Canada's premier Celtic groups. A family band from Sydney Mines, they consistently wow audiences with their captivating vocals, harmonies and musicianship. They have been playing together for twenty-five years, and their love for music as well as each other speaks to audiences. Their sibling harmonies, wide variety of musical instruments, step-dancing, story-telling and Gaelic songs took this local and international crowd on a journey that was to be the beginning of this remarkable festival running from October 11th to the 19th.
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