Celtic Colours International Festival

Celtic Colours International Festival

For
nine days in October, Cape Breton Island is home to a unique
celebration of music and culture as the Celtic Colours International
Festival presents dozens of concerts all over the island, an extensive
line-up of community events, and a nightly Festival Club. Over the
years, artists have traveled from Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales,
Brittany, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Germany, and Cuba as well as from
across the United States and Canada to join the finest of Cape Breton’s
musicians, singers, dancers, storytellers and tradition-bearers for the
annual Autumn celebration.

Since
its introduction in 1997, Celtic Colours has grown to become one of
Canada’s premiere musical events, and a cultural highlight of Nova
Scotia’s tourism season, collecting accolades from regional music awards
to national and international tourism awards. The festival has also
been successful in extending Cape Breton Island’s tourism season well
into the Autumn, and introducing the musical culture of Cape Breton to
tens of thousands of visitors from more than two dozen countries. Cape
Breton Island is home to a unique combination of music and culture,
inspired by 19th Century settlers from Scotland and Ireland, and
influenced by the Aboriginal Mi’kmaq people, the island’s physical
geography, and the waves of immigrants who populated its communities
during industrialization. Generation after generation of settlers, from
the Scottish and Irish to the French who came before them, were able to
maintain their culture and traditions in this new land due in part to
the island’s isolation and subsequent lack of outside influences. Music,
language, dance and community played an important role in each of these
cultures and continue to do so today. One of the things that sets
Celtic Colours apart from the vast majority of festivals taking place
around the globe is that it isn’t limited to just one location.
Communities around Cape Breton Island host concerts and workshops. These
are the communities where the culture has been nurtured for over 200
years, providing context for the roots of the music and celebrating each
community’s contribution to the island’s living Celtic culture. In many
of these communities, the local fire hall, parish hall or community
centre has hosted musical events for generations, in some cases,
literally moving the fire trucks out of the hall to accommodate a dance.
Venues for Celtic Colours vary from an 18th Century reconstructed
French Chapel to state of the art performance facilities to community
halls, but all venues share in common the prominent place each holds in
the community it serves. The Celtic culture of music, dance and
story-telling lives on in these communities and provides foundation for
the celebration of living culture that is the Celtic Colours
International Festival. The festival is held during Cape Breton’s most
spectacular season, Autumn, when the leaves are turning colours and the
vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges bring the breathtaking scenery to
life as festival-goers travel from event to event. These travels may
take a visitor around the pristine Bras d’Or Lakes, Canada’s largest
saltwater lake, or around the Cabot Trail, often called North America’s
most scenic drive. Wherever you go in Cape Breton at this time of year,
you are bound to find amazing scenery around every turn. With Celtic
Colours’ ambitious schedule (as many as six concerts a day), it is
simply impossible to see and hear everything. The organizers of the
Festival realize this and take special care in the programming of each
show so that it is possible to get a taste of all that the Festival has
to offer on any given day.

Whether
it’s Gaelic singing, Cape Breton fiddling, local dance traditions, or
an afternoon of world-class bagpiping, Celtic Colours festival-goers can
tailor their musical experience to suit their tastes. And if listening
to the music inspires a desire to go deeper, to learn more about the
music and the culture it comes from, Cultural Experience Workshops and
Community Events are offered in communities all around the island in
association with Celtic Colours. Workshops, offered in many aspects of
Celtic, Gaelic and Cape Breton culture, allow visitors and residents
alike to get the hands-on experience they desire. This is an ideal way
to enhance the Celtic Colours experience. Community Cultural Events are
divided into five categories: Learning Opportunities, Participatory
Events, Outdoor Events, a Visual Art Series and Community Meals.
Learning Opportunities offer a variety of workshops, presentations,
demonstrations and lectures on Celtic history, music, dance, art, craft,
and community heritage. Participatory Events welcome everyone, as a
spectator or as part of the program, to community square dances,
sessions, and kitchen rackets where participants can become part of the
action. To take advantage of Cape Breton Island’s spectacular scenery,
there is a series of Outdoor Events which includes guided walks, hikes,
and bicycle tours. The Visual Art Series presents a wide variety of
events for art enthusiasts, skilled artists, hobbyists, and collectors
as exhibitions, demonstrations, workshops and Plein Air events are
hosted by local galleries, guilds, and community art organizations. And
there are plenty of opportunities to break bread together and share a
home-cooked meal as Community Meals are offered on a daily basis. One of
the most popular features of Celtic Colours is the Festival Club.
Located at the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s, the Festival Club opens as
the evening concerts are closing, offering an opportunity for Festival
artists to perform in a more informal setting, or to get a session in
with friends and colleagues from near and far. Hosted by well-known
singer-songwriter Buddy MacDonald, from the nearby North Shore,
performance is by invitation only and depends upon artist availability
on any given night. Although the license only allows the bar to stay
open until 3am, the music has been known to continue well beyond that
time. Celtic Colours International Festival is recognized as a
world-class event, locally, nationally and internationally. In 2011, the
festival was added to the Canadian Tourism Commission’s Signature
Events Collection and it received the Cultural Tourism Award from the
Tourism Industry Association of Canada. Celtic Colours has also been
named the Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s Event of the Year
(2007), has received four East Coast Music Awards for Event of the Year
(2005-2008), two Tourism Association of Nova Scotia Crystal Awards
(Golden Hospitality Award 2005, Events / Conferences 2002), and was
named American Bus Association’s Top Event in Canada and Attractions
Canada’s Top Cultural Event in 2001. Celtic Colours Festival Society
Mission Statement: To promote, celebrate and develop Cape Breton’s
living Celtic culture and hospitality by producing an international
festival during the fall colours that builds relationships across Cape
Breton Island and beyond.

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