Sunday, June 1st 2003, will long be remembered by those fortunate enough to have bought tickets to the 100th Anniversary Celebratory Concert at St Anthony’s Parish in Glace Bay. Though advertisements leading up to the event promised the very best in Cape Breton talent, gasps could still be heard as the impressive guests were introduced throughout the evening.
The capacity crowd were welcomed by Parish Pastor Peter LeBlanc, with opening remarks by organizer Tom O’Keefe, before official hosting duties were handed to the very capable, and engaging, Max MacDonald.
The entire production was spiced with a hearty helping of humour from all involved, which together with the outstanding talent, made for a simply perfect evening, evident by the enthusiastic response from the appreciative crowd.
In keeping with the Anniversary theme, MacDonald, along with performers recounted some of the milestones reached throughout the life of a century old building, with anecdotes on how the community has changed during that timeframe. The night was also part of the annual Summerfest Festivities celebrating the heritage of Glace Bay.
Getting things off to a ragtime start was Stephen Muise, who delighted all with a pair of lively selections with his trademark wizardry on the keyboard. Likewise, Dave McKeough presented solo guitar as well as accompaniment to several fellow performers. Blanche Sophocleus thrilled everyone with her look back on the musical landscape of 100 years, including a medley of Gordon Lightfoot songs, which had the crowd joining in. Recent Vibe Award winner, as member of Four For The Lord, Pat Moore inspired all with his heartfelt selections and words of encouragement to all present.
After a half hour break, during which the entire sold out crowd were served lunch, it was a succession of wonderful sounds, including Donkin duo, Carol Anne Bates & Charlene Thomas, who gave a great example of their folk inspired harmonies. Cyril MacPhee, who performed double duty as sound man, and was the resident comic target throughout the evening, showed that besides being able to provide comic relief, his vocal ability allows him to be counted among Cape Breton’s foremost singer/songwriters.
Every concert needs a taste of the future, and celtic duo Matthew & Krystal provided an upbeat couple of sets that had everyone toe-tappin to the beat. Both MacDonald and O’Keefe each offered musical reflections of the past with O’Keefe singing an ode to the forefathers of the community, while MacDonald brought those present back to his days of Buddy and the Boys.
As Kyle and Seamus MacNeil (of the Barra MacNeils), took to the stage, screams of appreciation were the order of the day. Together they provided a couple of traditional sets, with Sophecleus joining in for a dance. A spectacular finish, to a night of perfection on any stage.
It would be safe to say that this crowd had to feel extremely fortunate to witness such calibre of entertainment all inside a church setting. But more than that it was the warmth of all involved in bringing the show together, especially MacPhee and MacDonald, who very much impressed the audience with their ease in keeping the night on a smooth and light-hearted note.
An added incentive was the reality of all proceeds going toward Palliative Care of Cape Breton. Proof positive in the ability of a community to come together for the benefit of others in the future. St. Anthony’s Parrish may be one hundred, but the spirit of the looking ahead to the future is alive and well.