The Gaelic heritage of Cape Breton in particular and Canada at large will be on show at the Greenbridge Celtic Folk Festival running Friday Aug 25 and Saturday 26 2017 in Keene, ON. The festival was founded by award winning fiddler Natalie MacMaster and her husband Donnell Leahy, This is the first of what they hope to be an annual event. It launches this year as part of Canada’s 150 celebrations.
The Celts will be coming from across the Atlantic for this bridging of the Greens if you will; Dervish, from Sligo, Ireland, will be performing. Also on the bill; Rhonda Vincent, the Double Cuts, Evans & Doherty, David Rankin and the Gaelic College as well as MacMaster’s Cape Breton Jam Band and Next Generation Leahy.
There will be workshops, the staple of folk festivals, on Gaelic cultural practises and language as well as on the music and of course the fiddle.
At the core of what one could call the Canadian Sound is the fiddle or violin. Lets call it the strings theory, the idea that the Celtic heritage of France, England, Scotland and Ireland has provided the nation with its own soundtrack, a soundtrack played on violins, guitars, ukulele, mandolin, cello or washtub, string and broom and of course the fiddle. It’s a soundtrack heard in music right across the country, from Hank Snow to Gordon Lightfoot to The Band to Blue Rodeo to Daniel Lanois to Arcade Fire as well as more obviously in Spirit of the West, Great Big Sea and Ashley MacIsaac.
While Celtic music has of course been long associated with the Maritimes Donnell Leahy says the music evolved and migrated as diverse groups from different parts of Europe interacted in work camps stretching from the East coast, across Quebec and northern Ontario and on into the prairies. The folk in the camps shared their music, their songs and their dancing and a new form grew from the interactions. This new form continues to influence and grow with each generation since.
Avante-garde violinist Owen Pallett, aka Final Fantasy, winner of the first Polaris Music Prize, was once a member of a Celtic traditional band. Arcade Fire ride the pop charts with their unique blend of rock and orchestral instruments; violin and cello have equal weight as the electric guitar and drums.
The music of the violin and the fiddle flowed in and along with wave after wave of immigrants before settling into the pockets of the Canadian Shield. Here it grew its own culture, one peculiar to Canada, and as the nation celebrates 150 years since Confederation Greenbridge will celebrate its own federation of sounds, with a nod to the East Coast and one to the future.