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Organizers not expecting much sleep during annual Celtic Colours festival

Anita MacDonald, left, and Ben Miller of Miller/MacDonald/Cormier get ready to perform in front of students at Breton Education Centre in New Waterford on Wednesday as part of the Celtic Colours in the Schools program. The two, along with guitarist Zakk Cormier will be performing throughout the nine-day festival as well.
Anita MacDonald, left, and Ben Miller of Miller/MacDonald/Cormier get ready to perform in front of students at Breton Education Centre in New Waterford on Wednesday as part of the Celtic Colours in the Schools program. The two, along with guitarist Zakk Cormier will be performing throughout the nine-day festival as well. - Elizabeth Patterson
SYDNEY, N.S. —

"There will be no sleep."

Celtic Colours International Festival executive director Mike MacSween laughs as he states the mantra festival staff and volunteers will be living by over the next nine days but there is some truth to be found in those words.

The 23rd annual Celtic Colours International Festival will open Friday throughout Cape Breton and conclude on Saturday, Oct. 19. There will be 52 concerts, up from 49 last year, of which 46 have already sold out. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, there’s more than 300 other events affiliated with the festival that can be found across the island, from workshops to community suppers, oatcake-making classes, art events and nature walks. One of the most popular features of the festival is the nightly Festival Club event that starts at 11 p.m.

“Sleep is for the following Sunday,” says MacSween, who is expected to attend as many events as possible.

The Chieftains are shown with dancer Cara Butler at Celtic Colours in 2012. COREY KATZ
The Chieftains are shown with dancer Cara Butler at Celtic Colours in 2012. COREY KATZ

Some events began days before the official opening, with the Celtic Colours In The Schools program taking place in Cape Breton schools with professional performers sharing their Celtic culture by performing music in front of students. On Wednesday, Anita MacDonald, Ben Miller and Zack Cormier performed in front of an appreciative crowd at Breton Education Centre.

“The theme of the festival this year is Lively Youth,” says MacSween. “One of the things that we’re compelled to do is to try to ensure our culture continues to be explored and celebrated by a younger generation and you’ll see that play out in the programming, and certainly in some of the concerts.”

The opening concert at Centre 200 will feature long-time Celtic road warriors, The Chieftains, celebrating their 57th year as a performing group and they're on one of their last tours together. The group was last here in 2012 and 2007. Others performing at the opening include Ashley MacIsaac, Tim Edey, Phamie Gow and the Cape Breton University Pipe Band.

The closing concert will be in Port Hawkesbury, the Causeway Ceilidh. This event will feature Julie Fowlis, Beolach and Breabach. Tickets remain for both events.

While Celtic Colours attracts many tourists to the island, MacSween wants local residents to attend as well and he feels those numbers are rising. Because of the festival’s popularity, tickets tend to be reserved in advance and concerts often sell out earlier than expected. To get more locals involved, they managed to get the upper bowl of Centre 200 opened so more last minute tickets could be sold.

“We want locals to be a part of it,” he says. “This festival is designed to be a celebration of Cape Breton for Cape Bretoners so we’re quite pleased to see a bit of growth there and we certainly want to make sure Cape Bretoners know that this festival is for them.”


You might be still able to get tickets for these concerts:

  • Friday Oct. 11 - The Chieftains and Friends / Centre 200, Sydney - 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday Oct. 12 - Pjila'si: a Wagmatcook Welcome / Wagmatcook Culture & Heritage Centre, Wagmatcook - 7:30 p.m.
  • Monday Oct. 14 - Unama'ki Mawio'mi: A Cape Breton Gathering / Sarah Denny Cultural Centre, Eskasoni - 2 p.m.
  • Friday Oct. 18 - Old Souls / Inverness Education Centre / Academy, Inverness - 7:30 p.m.
  • Friday Oct. 18 - Off the Charts / Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion, Sydney - 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday Oct. 19 - Causeway Ceilidh / Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, Port Hawkesbury - 7:30 p.m.

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