Catch the music and colour of the Celtic Colours International Festival until Oct. 15

Celtic Colours will proceed as planned starting Friday, Oct. 7 with The Grand Opening at Centre 200 in Sydney, along with many cultural community events and concerts scheduled for the rest of the festival throughout Cape Breton Island.

48 concerts and 200+ community events to take place across Cape Breton Island

Wendy MacIsaac and Mac Morin performing at Celtic Colours. (Corey Katz)
Even a hurricane can't stop the music for this iconic Cape Breton festival. Celtic Colours will proceed as planned starting Friday, Oct. 7 with The Grand Opening at Centre 200 in Sydney. The festival will continue with 48 concerts and 200+ community events and cultural activities that span Cape Breton Island until Oct. 15.

CBC Cape Breton's Wendy Bergfeldt is hosting a special Island Echoes concert on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre. The show features Kyle MacNeil, Kendra MacGillivray, Doug MacPhee, Troy MacGillivray, The Gilberts, Sons of Membertou, Dominique Dodge, Rose Morrison and Pine Tree Flyers.

World-renowned Mi’kmaq drumming and singing group, Sons of Membertou, will perform as part of the Celtic Colours Island Echoes show on Oct. 9. (courtesy of Celtic Colours)
Find the full lineup of music and activities on the Celtic Colours website.

Celtic Colours International Festival CEO, Leanne Birmingham-Beddow, and Artistic Director, Dawn Beaton. (courtesy of Celtic Colours)
We asked Celtic Colours CEO Leanne Birmingham-Beddow and Artistic Director, Dawn Beaton a few questions about what audiences can expect this year:

It's year 26 of the festival, and the first time back to full audiences since the pandemic. Are you getting the sense that people are longing to be back for live, in-person music experiences?

: Absolutely. I think most folks yearn for community and for communal experiences. I would imagine most festivals and artists would agree that by the second year of the pandemic, there were signs of online fatigue. While the online platform continued to serve us during the pandemic, a live concert experience where the energy plays between audience and performer is unmatched. Here on Cape Breton we greatly missed our square dances and intimate pub experiences as well, so as those events come back to normal, we expect our visiting festival patrons to excitedly seek out our community cultural experiences, in addition to the shows, for that complete Cape Breton and Celtic Colours experience.

Immerse yourself in a traditional square dance featuring strathspeys, reels and the ever-popular square set. (Corey Katz)

This being your first year as CEO of Celtic Colours, what has been your biggest challenge? What have you found to be rewarding?

: I came into this role in early May, so the biggest challenge has been getting up to speed due to the vast scope and size of the festival, and trying to predict how this year will go after a two-year break from in-person events due to the pandemic. The team is incredibly experienced and that is a big plus. However, the world has changed — travel is more complex, extra planning is required to gather in large groups of people, and the cost of living is higher. 

And then Fiona had to pay us a visit two weeks before the festival. The biggest reward has been watching in awe how the people and communities of Cape Breton come together and pull off such a large undertaking, no matter the obstacles, all for the love of our music, our heritage, and our Island, so we can share it with the world.

What's new to your audiences at the festival this year?

: We celebrated 25 years of Celtic Colours last year, and now, we have a beautiful 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition hardcover book that looks back over the last 25 years. We are also putting an emphasis on making the festival more accessible to youth and inspiring to the next generation of artists. For every adult ticket purchased to The Grand Opening concert in Sydney at Centre 200, buyers will get a free ticket for youth 14 and under. And in the aftermath of Cape Breton taking a hit from the storm, we want to make that Opening Concert at Centre 200 a real community celebration. 

In curating the artists for the festival, what do you consider; new music, diversity, international flavour, local content?

: All of the above! My first priority is always to our local artists. They are the backbone of the festival and of the Cape Breton scene year-round. There are so many talented folks here and as the scene evolves, it's important our local audiences continue to learn about it and what artists are creating at the moment. It's also about curating those artist experiences, whether they be from here or abroad. The chance to connect with new and old friends alike, and to share in a unique show in the outer reaches of the Island is special. I often can't predict what will unfold when certain folks share the stage and make magic. We've seen it so many times where artists meet, whether it be at Festival Club or their shows, and go on to record an album together or be a guest on their respective tours. One of the prime examples occurred when John Doyle and Jerry Holland crossed paths, and all who witnessed that collaboration were spellbound.

I see there are many other events besides music on the Celtic Colours website. In some ways it's becoming an artist's fest — quilts, weavers, crafts, and other events like a mining tour. Are you trying to make the festival an "artistic" one that offers a true Cape Breton cultural experience?

Leanne: Celtic and Cape Breton music will always be the main focal point of the festival with the beauty of our Island as the backdrop. However, Cape Breton's arts and culture scene is about so much more — it is about the music being influenced by the Mi'kmaq, Acadians and the cultural mosaic of Industrial Cape Breton with our mining and steelmaking history; it's about the survival and revival of the Gaelic language and the other languages spoken here, our customs of storytelling, craft making, fibre arts and visual arts; it's about our food, our sense of place and natural surroundings, and the way we gather together at ceilidhs and kitchen parties to celebrate all of this. Celtic Colours is truly a unique cultural experience.