Scots Gaelic Cultural Traditions on Display at Festival of Cape Breton Fiddling

The Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Association along with the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts of St. Anns, Cape Breton, are sponsoring the 2017 Festival of Cape Breton Fiddling. The Festival will be held August 19th - 20th, featuring workshops in Cape Breton Fiddling and Gaelic Step Dancing. 

Festival spokesman Betty Matheson made the following comments to the Cape Breton Post: “We are looking forward to this year’s festival, especially to help Canada celebrate a milestone. To mark this occasion, we are pleased to announce that one of our local well-known fiddlers, Kinnon Beaton, has prepared a special tune to be included among the strathspeys and reels. Kinnon’s tune, ‘Canada 150,’ is a fantastic addition to our repertoire. The festival begins with fiddle, piano and step-dance workshops on Aug. 19 from 2- 5 p.m. These workshops will be conducted by Ashley MacIsaac, Dara MacDonald, Lawrence Cameron and Cheryl MacQuarrie. As in the past, Saturday evening will begin with a concert, followed by a traditional ceilidh in MacKenzie Hall. During this ceilidh, performance time will be allotted for visitors and local performers. Musicians from across Cape Breton Island, throughout mainland Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and other parts of Canada and the United States will assemble on the grounds of the Gaelic College to participate in this annual tradition. ”

In a 2013 interview with Transceltic the importance of passing along Celtic musical traditions in social settings was cited by Allan Dewar, Music Director of the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre, who commented on the Gaelic cultural traditions highlighted in the 2017 Festival:  “Fiddling is a solo tradition, the Cape Breton style is centered on individual interpretation of the music…In the old Gaelic speaking days this was through informal gatherings at the pub, at the Ceilidh (traditional social gathering where Gaelic music and dance was performed) or in the home.   There is quite a resurgence going on with recent changes having led to a stronger commitment to the culture, language and the music of Gaelic culture. A growing recognition that the music is very closely tied to the language, that music comes from the language.”

James MacKillop, in his 2005 “Myths and Legends of the Celts”, describes the depth and complexity of the of Gaelic speaking culture of Cape Breton; “The furthest flung, newest and least studied canton of the Celtic world lies in the Canadian Maritime province of Nova Scotia. Large numbers of impoverished, landless Gaelic-speaking Highlanders were settled there from the late eighteenth century through to the middle of the nineteenth. Some were victims of the Clearances. Whereas Irish, Welsh and Scottish Gaelic were once spoken, written and published elsewhere in North America, only in Nova Scotia did a widespread oral tradition flourish, one that has persisted until the twenty first century. The 1900 census recorded 100,000 speakers, most of them born in the province. This Gaidhealtachd [Gaelic Speaking Region] encompassed most of Cape Breton Island.”

Annual Festival of Cape Breton Fiddling

Scots Gaelic 

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