It’s not often that a fundraising endeavor combines an absolutely creative idea, is collaborated on by many of those who may benefit from the result, and leaves the donor with an incredibly delightful “gift” in return for their support. Cape Breton University, along with the Centre for Cape Breton Studies, recently launched CBU Soundtracks, a compilation of recordings by CBU students and staff. Produced by Dr. Richard MacKinnon, the CD’s proceeds will go toward the CBU scholarship fund, designated for a student interested in pursuing a career in the music industry. Recorded in the Rotary Music Performance and Analysis Room, it sells for a modest $15 and promises to fill the preferences of a wide range of listeners.
As a reviewer, every now and then a recording comes along that is a great joy to listen to from start to finish. I happen to appreciate many types of music from traditional to contemporary, jazz and classical. CBU Soundtracks goes beyond being simply a compilation, it’s a collection that represents the gamut of performances you are sure to hear on a variety of stages across the island, with an eclectic mix of styles that I have yet to hear on any other CD such as this.
New Hampshire native and CBU student Kyle Carey tells the haunting tale of “Adenine”, complete with the backing vocals/fiddle/guitar of Limerick exchange student Neil Fitzgibbon. The rock segment of the album belongs to Carleton Stone, who delivers an emotional “Master Builder”, a testament to why this artist is in hot demand on the island and beyond. “Rights of Man On the West Side” allows Rachel Davis to demonstrate why she is certainly one of the most promising young fiddlers on the go today. Accompanied by Ciaran MacGillivray on Bouzouki, Tracey Dares MacNeil on piano, and Buddy MacDonald on guitar, don’t bother even trying to keep your toes still.
Erin Martell brings her unique contemporary song stylings to the proceedings with “You & Me”. It’s a great addition to any mix. Martell also lends her design talents to the packaging of SoundTracks. “Heartstrings” treats you to the extraordinary vocal ability of a young Breagh MacKinnon. There’s no mystery as to why she would come out on top of the recent Next Big Thing, an island wide high school talent competition. Expect to hear this name for years to come. “The Jug of Punch” has Limerick exchange student Caroline Murphy on accordion paired with Shamus MacNeil on piano for a fabulous traditional set. “Your Cigarettes and Coffee”, introduces The Bygones and will have you seeking out their next gig around town if you prefer your tunes jazzy.
“The Bachelor’s Set”, followed by “Put Me in the Big Box”, are performed by two separate groups of Students of CBU Fiddle Music—the first under the direction of instructor Stan Chapman, the second by instructor Kyle MacNeil. Both sets give a taste of truly traditional groupings of tunes. Excellent job by all!
“V strasi I pokori” is performed by the Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Parish Choir and includes students of the Ukrainian Dance and Music Class. “Petty Harbour Bait Skiff” allows us to savor the incomparable range of Dr. Janice Tulk. She is a post- doctorate research fellow at the Centre for Cape Breton Studies. The “Swinging on a Gate/Out On The Ocean” sets pair up exchange students Caroline Murphy and Neil Fitzgibbon, who switch things up throughout the sets, trading accordion and fiddle to show their versatility and passion for traditional tunes. Chris MacDonald, who holds a PhD in Ethnomusicology, shares an original selection with “The Solitary Man”, while providing his own accompaniment on bass, guitar, bodhran and percussion. Incredible talent. And how about some Celtic guitar with “Drowsy Maggie”, courtesy of Rob Miller, a stand out for sure! “Orchestra Suite #2 in B minor”, features Heather Sparling with The Cape Breton Orchestra. This piece will sweep you off to wherever your imagination desires, and brings the sessions to a most glorious conclusion. Bravo!
It should be no surprise that I strongly recommend that you seek out a copy of CBU Soundtracks. This is a treasure that any music lover should own, especially those who celebrate the diversity of talent that we are so fortunate to have on this side of the Causeway. And don’t forget that it supports the future of aspiring artists. Congratulations to all involved in bringing this project to life!