In the ten days leading up to Celtic Colours International Festival’s Gala Opening Concert, every junior and senior high school student on Cape Breton Island will have a chance to see one of Cape Breton’s top young Celtic bands. Celtic Colours in the Schools Program, designed to get kids excited about Cape Breton’s own music by presenting young and energetic bands, will feature Beolach and Slainte Mhath.
Slainte Mhath, from the Northside area of the CBRM will tour schools in Inverness and Richmond Counties while Beolach, who come predominantly from Inverness County, will tour schools on the eastern side of the island. The project was initiated by Celtic Colours Festival but is a co-operative effort with the three school boards, Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, the Strait Regional School Board, and the Acadien School Board. There will be 21 performances with a total of over 13,000 students taking part in the program.
“It’s always so exciting, performing for kids in school,” says Beolach fiddler Wendy MacIsaac who remembers a visit to her school by the Barra MacNeils. “Hopefully, seeing a young band playing this music will inspire students.”
Ryan MacNeil of Slainte Mhath agrees. “I think it’s important that the younger generation learn about traditional Cape Breton music. Our band has a modern take on the music that might make it more appealing to this age group. It’s good that Celtic Colours and the school boards are able to work together to make this happen.”
The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is very pleased that their students will have the opportunity to attend a performance during the upcoming Celtic Colours International Festival 2002. Careful planning between Board staff and Celtic Colours’ officials will see over 10,000 students attend one of 14 performances in various secondary schools throughout the counties of Cape Breton and Victoria.
Archie MacEachern, Director of Programs and Operations with the Cape Breton-Victoria Board, stated that he hoped that attendance at one of the Beolach concerts might spur an interest and deeper appreciation of Celtic culture in our students. He further added that the offer from Celtic Colours International Festival to present the concerts was greatly appreciated and would be a very positive addition to an already strong Fine Arts delivery in the Board.
Celtic Colours Festival Director Joella Foulds is coordinating the project.
“We’re thrilled with the support we’ve received from the School Boards and from venues such as the Savoy Theatre, SAERC and Strathspey Place.” Foulds points out that the program helps fulfil the mandate of the Celtic Colours Festival Society to preserve and protect the Celtic culture of Cape Breton.”We have such a strong group of young musicians playing traditional music these days. We want the students to see that there are musicians, not much older than themselves, who are excited by this music and are also able to make a living playing Cape Breton music.”
Beolach is one of Cape Breton’s most exciting new young bands. The group performs an energetic mix of Cape Breton, Scottish, and Irish tunes featuring piano, pipes, whistles, drums, guitar, and two fiddles. Beolach began at an impromptu session at the Celtic Colours Festival in 1998, and after a strong initial response has gone on to play festivals in North America and Europe.
Slainte Mhath makes 21st Century Celtic music and brings it to a global audience. Their latest album ‘VA’ mixes elements of traditional Celtic and Acadien music with the more contemporary influences of pop and dance. They’ve been featured at festivals all over North America and Europe and recently received a BBC Folk Award nomination in the Horizon category – the first East Coast artist to receive a nomination from the BBC Folk Awards.