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Celtic Colours Festival Getting Ready to Celebrate 20 Years

"Twenty years ago, a gamble was made on a Celtic music festival that sprawled out all over Cape Breton at a time of year when some of its performers would have been home setting up their winter touring schedules.

Since those early days, the Celtic Colours International Festival has grown to become one of the country’s premiere music events, running sold-out shows in venues large and small all over the island, and featuring some of the finest Celtic musicians in the world.

On Monday at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre. Celtic Colours announced the lineup for the 49 concerts of its 20th-anniversary festival, running Oct. 7-15, that will fittingly open with a concert that looks back on past years and pays tribute to some Celtic Colours artists who are no longer with us.

“I think most of what we are doing this year is trying to give people the opportunity to celebrate what they’ve experienced over the 20 years,” said Joella Foulds, the festival’s executive director. “They’ve created really special concerts around their own communities, so people have a reason to feel proud.

“We feel the local communities have really taken this up as their own, so they deserve to take some credit for it.”

Not surprisingly, the 20th anniversary of the event will include some performers who took part in the very first Celtic Colours festival.

“I was actually part of the Mabou Parish concert, which was a longstanding concert in the community of Mabou for almost 40 years at that point,” said Cape Breton fiddler and stepdancer Dawn Beaton. “I was part of that concert when it took place during the Thanksgiving weekend on the first Celtic Colours festival. I think I was in junior high at the time.”

For the past six years, Beaton has been the artistic director for the festival, so she doesn’t get as much opportunity to perform during Celtic Colours as she once did.

“It’s not always easy, but I do get to perform, especially at the Festival Club, where I always join a few folks onstage.

“It’s pretty fantastic to be on both sides of it — to be a performer and to know what it takes to get onstage and express something very personal and profound to you, and then to be a part of it and have your say and, I guess, have an impression on what people would see and experience, both locally and abroad.”

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