The Glendale concerts began half a century ago, but it took less than two months to organize the 50th anniversary celebrations.
Frank MacDonald, the organizer for the concert scheduled for Sunday, July 10, says once he began asking musicians to perform, it took less than a week for a complete roster of them to volunteer their services.
He sees their eagerness to perform as part of the legacy of Father John Angus Rankin, the Glendale parish priest, who began the concerts in 1961 as a series of yearly concerts for the small community at the western end of Inverness County. What was the parish glebe house is now a cultural centre named for Fr. Rankin.
The 1973 CBC-TV documentary, The Vanishing Cape Breton Fiddler, motivated Fr. Rankin to put out the call to 100 fiddlers to appear at that summer’s concert to be held outside. One hundred and thirty showed up, coming from the kitchen parties and parish halls where they had honed their skills (unseen by camera crews), and that concert began a revival of Cape Breton Gaelic culture.
And the Glendale concerts were at the center of that revival. MacDonald points out that many of the island’s most popular musicians, like Ashley MacIsaac, Natalie MacMaster, and Howie MacDonald, first appeared on the Glendale stage in their early teens or even younger.
Attendance for not only Glendale but many of the island’s outdoor traditional music concerts ebbed, for various reasons, over the last decade and a half. At Glendale, from 2000 to 2008, the outdoor concert was moved indoors. Two years ago, the concert returned outdoors, just in time for this year’s fiftieth anniversary.
The celebrations, “Glendale Come Home Days”, sponsored by Glendale Area Community Cooperative, take place over two days.
On Saturday, July 9, Féis a’ Bhràigh is scheduled for 10 am to 3 pm with Mary Jane Lamond and Jeff MacDonald at the Father J.A. Rankin Cultural Centre (4248 Hyw 105, Glendale). From 4 pm to 5:30 pm, the parish’s Catholic Women’s League serve a cold plate supper at St. Mary’s Parish Hall. At 7 pm, Mass will be held at St. Mary of the Angels’ Church. And the day finishes with the Adult Square Dance in the parish hall, from 10 pm to 1 am featuring Shelly Campbell, Allan Dewer and Friends.
The second day of the anniversary celebrations, Sunday, July 10, starts at 10:30 am with Family Fun Activities and a noontime BBQ, followed by the Traditional Outdoor Scottish/Gaelic Concert on the grounds from 2 pm to 5 pm featuring members of the Cape Breton Fiddlers Association, Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond, and a long list of fiddlers including Howie MacDonald, Rodney MacDonald, and Glenn Graham. In case of inclement weather, the concert will be moved to the parish center.