Traditional Music And The Role Of The Festival

“Music functions on a whole lot of different levels,” said Daithi Sproule from Altan. “But an interesting thing about music is that it is funny to look around and realise that music is everywhere. And it wouldn’t be everywhere if it wasn’t for the some reason. It’s in lifts, and it’s in shops…” He smiled, and tapped his finger against the table. “…And there is actually music for people who aren’t very musical. Muzak! Yes!”

Jerry Holland’s Cape Breton Home

In 1969, in Boston Massachusetts, a young musician made a decision about the future of his life.  Fiddle player Jerry Holland explains “At the grand old age of fourteen, I just knew, someday I was going to live in Cape Breton.  At twenty one, I saw my dream come true as I celebrated my birthday there.  In this place I had got, I waited for my furniture to be delivered.  For 33 years since, Cape Breton has been and always will be my home”.

CELTIC COLOURS: There Is No Getting Away From It

CELTIC COLOURS: There Is No Getting Away From It

Nine long days and nights, 45 concerts, over 250 other events in 33 communities around Cape Breton Island, Celtic Colours is certainly not for the faint-hearted!  But it is a gem of a festival that proudly boasts its Celtic roots and showcases the music of the island which is very much alive and kicking.


Talk to professional fiddlers, and you’ll soon see the range of what they do. There’ll be solo  performing, of course, band work, tuition, recording, film and TV contracts, judging competitions, composing, researching, and maybe even instrument-repairing. A few fiddlers, though, will tell you how they also move into other genres, perhaps to back a rock or jazz singer. Some will have had (or still have) a career in classical music as well; Irish fiddler Mairéad Nesbitt, formerly of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, comes to mind. One Scottish fiddler who fits exactly into this ‘mixed genres’ category is Douglas Lawrence.

Rachel Davis: In The Footsteps Of Masters

The Cape Breton fiddle style is famous the world over, with many names being synonymous with it - Brenda Stubbert, Natalie MacMaster and the late Jerry Holland to name but a few.  But there is a new generation of young fiddlers emerging through the ranks, and they are following in the footsteps of these masters, bringing the tradition to new ears with great skill and passion.

PETE COE:  Never The Same Way Once

It’s a few years now since Pete Coe celebrated 30 years on the road, and though not unique among many of the singers of his generation, he is distinctive.  Nowhere do you find all the threads of song, dance, musician, caller and organiser woven together into such a rich tapestry.  The tag of ‘one man folk festival’ is well earned!

Alistair Hulett

Following the sad news of Alistair's death, we thought it fitting to feature an article written about him by Mel Howley, not long after Alistair moved back to the UK from Australia, published in the Living Tradition in Sep 1999.