Alexa and Zoe Kirste:
Alexa and Zoe Kirste, originally from New Mexico, are now living in Iona, CB. Alexa, who plays the fiddle, is going into grade 11 and Zoe, who accompanies on the piano, is a recent graduate from Rankin School of the Narrows and plans to attend St. Mary’s in the fall 2012. They are both very interested in the CB culture.
Andrea Beaton is the youngest of generations of Beaton and MacMaster musicians, which explains why her music is at once her own and deeply rooted in the Cape Breton tradition. Like her father (Kinnon) and grandfather (Donald Angus), she is a composer, adding fine new music to the island's repertoire. Andrea has released five albums, the most recent being her ECMA winning CD entitled "Branches". In 2006 she released an album with her father, Kinnon Beaton and in 2006 she recorded The Tap Session in Scotland with Troy MacGillivray, Fin Moore, and Luke Plumb. Her previous two releases, Cuts (2004) and License to Drive'er (2002), were both nominated for East Coast Music Awards. She recently released “Little Black Book,” a CD compiled of all her own compositions.
Angus MacLeod is a Gaelic singer from Goose Cove, Victoria County, Cape Breton. The North Shore area has long been noted for its milling frolics and milling singers. Angus’s parents were Gaelic speakers, and Angus returned to the language as an adult. He learned his Gaelic from his mother, local elders, as well as through classes and workshops. For the past several years he has been teaching and performing at the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s and at events around the island.
Anita MacDonald hails from Little Narrows, Cape Breton. She is an accomplished musician, dancer, and Gaelic singer. Anita began step-dancing at age 4. As a fiddler, her playing has a distinctive sound that comes from her own variations on tunes. She is the granddaughter of Little Narrows fiddler and guitarist Charlie Ellis and noted fiddle player and composer Raymond Ellis is her grand uncle. During her spare time Anita works with the cultural component of the Nova Scotia Highland Village Museum, Iona and Féis an Eilein, Christmas Island. Anita is entering into her final year at Cape Breton University and is taking a Bachelor of Arts with a focus in History and Gaelic.
Anne Louise Campbell hails from Sydney, NS and is a regular at square-dances around the island. She is the daughter of Celtic Serenade host, Donnie Campbell.
Barry George is originally from the United States. However, his family roots are here in Christmas Island. Barry has been learning Gaelic for several years and is a favourite at the milling frolics!
Betty Lord is a traditional Gaelic singer and a student of Gaelic language and culture. She has performed at many concerts and milling frolics and is a featured singer on the CD, Còmhla Cruinn, produced jointly by Féis An Eilein and CBC Radio. Betty has long been a loyal and active supporter of the Féis, fundraising, attending Féis events over the years and she has been a welcome singer at the Féis’s annual milling frolic. She currently teaches workshops in Gaelic language and song and in the wider community Betty has organized numerous Gaelic cultural events including language workshops, lectures, and concerts.
Beth MacNeil, originally of Sydney, now residing in Beaver Cove, Cape Breton, began learning Gaelic at the Nova Scotia Highland Village Museum as part of site animation. She has gone on to become a noted solo Gaelic singer, as well as a valuable addition to any milling frolic. Beth is a longtime member of Féis an Eilein, Christmas Island and often instructs Gaelic language and song classes.
Betty Lou Beaton is Buddy MacMaster's youngest sister and his association with fine piano players began with his family. The upright piano arrived in the MacMaster home in the early thirties, shipped to the tiny village of Judique by train, arriving on the Judique Flyer complete with a cardboard chart showing the black and white keys and the names of the notes. Betty Beaton began playing the piano at the age of five. Although she has a couple of years of piano training, all her Cape Breton piano playing is done by ear. At fourteen years of age, she started playing dances with her brother Buddy and has been accompanying fiddlers for dancers ever since. She is most often paired with her husband, fiddler Kinnon Beaton, and the duo is in high demand to play for dances..
Dawn MacDonald-Gillis is a pianist, stepdancer and Gaelic speaker from New Waterford, with roots in Iona. She has and continues to perform extensively throughout Cape Breton and is often sought after to teach stepdancing and squaredancing workshops. She and her husband, Kyle Gillis, have been fantastic supporters and entertainers for Féis an Eilein over the years.
Derrick and Melody Cameron have been performing music together throughout Canada's Maritime Provinces and the New England States to very receptive audiences for a number of years. They have performed alongside other Cape Breton musicians on the main stage at the Stan Rogers Folk Festival,played at the Washington Irish Folk Festival, emceed, stage managed and were featured in numerous Celtic Colours International Festival concerts and play for many dances, pubs and concerts throughout Cape Breton Island. Melody and Derrick were featured in the Genuine Pictures documentary, "And They Danced", which premiered on Canada's Bravo! network in January of 2006. Melody and Derrick have released two recordings and are currently working on their third. Melody is also an accomplished Cape Breton style step dancer. She has performed synchronized step dance routines with her sister Kelly at venues throughout Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Western Newfoundland. Through the 1980's, Melody and Kelly appeared four times on CBC television for the program "Up Home Tonight" and also were filmed for a BBC documentary. Towards the late 1980's, Melody and Kelly performed as part of the group Highland Classic. Other members of the group included Ashley MacIsaac, Natalie MacMaster, Wendy MacIsaac, Rodney MacDonald, Stephanie Wills and Jackie Dunn. In the spring of 1998, Melody worked as a choreographer for The Rankins, one of Canada's foremost folk groups. Years later Melody and Kelly performed a synchronized step dance routine for The Rankin Sisters'televised Christmas special, "Home for Christmas" which aired on Canada's Bravo! network in December of 2005. In early 2004 Derrick and Melody Cameron joined Comunn Féis Mhàbu. Féis Mhàbu is an organization based in Mabou, Cape Breton that works to support both children and adults in their pursuits to learn more about Cape Breton's Gaelic culture. Although based in Mabou, Féis Mhàbu's programs draw participants from the surrounding area, and in some instances, from all over Cape Breton and beyond. Derrick and Melody Cameron are currently acting as the coordinators for a Féis Mhàbu project named "The Mabou Musical Mentorship Program". This mentoring program's focus is on using house sessions to bring together talented young performers of Cape Breton music and dance with well established tradition bearers. The relaxed, informal atmosphere of the house sessions is well suited for the passing on of music, dance and stories. In the fall of 2007, Derrick became chairperson of Comunn Féis Mhàbu.
Donnie Campbell has been singing to audiences for over 30 years, from small crowds at kitchen parties to standing room only concerts at the Savoy Theatre in Glace Bay. He has worked with Cape Breton musicians like Natalie MacMaster, Ashley MacIsaac and Carl MacKenzie, and was one of the original members of the maritime Folk group - Miller's Jug. Donnie has also hosted a Cape Breton radio program called Celtic Serenade for almost 35 years which helped popularize the music of the Rankins, The Barra MacNeils and other great Cape Breton artists.
Douglas Cameron has been turning heads in the Cape Breton fiddling community since the last 8 years. Trained by dedicated teachers like Bonnie Jean MacDonald, Margie and Dawn Beaton and Andrea Beaton, Douglas has absorbed and then exuded the proud history of the Cape Breton style of Celtic fiddling. Born and raised in the northern Inverness County community of Belle Cote, he has been playing in concerts since the age of five on piano, then the fiddle since the age of nine. Standing ovations have erupted in venues like the Celtic Colours International Festival, a Strathspey Place ECMA Showcase performance in Halifax at the Old Triangle in 2007, and many concerts around Cape Breton Island.
Dwayne Cote was raised in Grande Greve, Cape Breton in a family deeply rooted in all aspects of Cape Breton, Irish and Scottish music traditions--his mother being a renowned dancer, instructor, and performer and his father is the late Gordon Côté, a celebrated Celtic fiddler/teacher who in recent years performed with Bobby Brown and The Cape Breton Symphony. Dwayne has been performing since the age of four, entertaining audiences far and wide. He has performed with such celebrated artists as John Allan Cameron, Graham Townsend, Sean McGuire, Buddy MacMaster, Jerry Holland, Dave MacIsaac, to name a few. Dwayne Côté is an accomplished instructor and has taught at many fiddle camps and universities. His international musical performances include guest appearances at The University of Cork, Ireland, The Juhmarah Resort in Dubai the United City of Emirates, and many cities in the United States. Dwayne is also a composer and has more than 200 tunes registered with SOCAN. Dwayne has many musical influences including Buddy MacMaster, Jerry Holland, and the late Angus Chisholm, Sean McGuire, and Winston Scotty Fitzgerald. Dwayne Côté is deemed to be one of the most unique violinists and fiddlers in Atlantic Canada. In short, his musical tones are inimitable and seldom forgotten.
Evan Bonaparte comes from MacKinnon’s Hbr. Evan has a keen interest in guitar and Gaelic singing. Evan has been accompanying Anita for 6 years now. He has performed at various venues across Cape Breton and has maintained a traditional style of guitar playing. He just graduated from the Forestry College in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Hilda Chiasson-Cormier is one of the most sought after of the current generation of piano players and has played on many recordings. Hilda is a native of Cheticamp where she has played for dances and recorded since she was a teenager. She has recorded with Cape Breton musicians Jerry Holland, Carl MacKenzie, Ray Ellis and many others as well as touring throughout North America and Europe.
Jeff MacDonald hails from Kingsville, Inverness County, Cape Breton. He is a Gaelic speaker with a talent for singing and songwriting. Jeff has graduated from Saint Francis Xavier University and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Scotland. He completed his Masters in Folklore at Memorial University. Jeff is a strong supporter of Gaelic language and culture and has worked with various groups teaching Gaelic language and song, such as Féis an Eilein, Christmas Island, St. Ann’s Gaelic College, and the Nova Scotia Highland Village Museum, Iona. He is currently working for the GA (Gaelic Affairs) in Antigonish.
Kenneth lives in Mabou, Cape Breton and plays highland pipes, border pipes and fiddle, equally well. He can often be found playing with Dawn & Margie Beaton and a host of other Cape Bretoners. Angus lives in Scotland and plays pipes and whistles with the high energy band Daimh. "Piob Is Fidheal" (Pipes & Fiddle), released two years with the recording support of the Celtic Colours Volunteer Drive'ers, is the first recording by the brothers as a group.
Kinnon Beaton grew up surrounded by music. His mother, Elizabeth Beaton, is a powerhouse of a piano player. His father, the late Donald Angus Beaton, was one of the great dance fiddlers and composers of his era. Both sides of the family tree are loaded with pipers, fiddlers, dancers, and piano players. Kinnon was first recorded on the family album The Beatons of Mabou. He has since composed hundreds of tunes and played for countless dances with his wife, pianist Betty Lou, with whom he has recorded six albums. Kinnon's most recent album is Tunesmith which was released in 2010.
Kyle Gillis of Scotsville, husband to pianist Dawn MacDonald-Gillis, now resides in Barachois. He is a prominent fiddler of this area and he and Dawn have been fantastic supporters and entertainers for Féis over the years.
Kyle MacNeil hails from Sydney Mines but is part of the musical MacKenzie and MacLean families of Washabuck. Along with his brothers and sisters, Sheamus has toured internationally with the Barra MacNeils. He has been a music teacher for years and is well-known and often sought after for his teaching abilities. He is a music professor at Cape Breton University.
Lauren MacDonald is from Little Narrows, Cape Breton. She has taken guitar lessons from Laurie Simms and Allie Bennett. Together with her older sister Anita MacDonald, Lauren has been learning and singing Gaelic songs and the two have performed at several venues, including Cruinneachadh nan Gèidheal in Antigonish. Lauren is also becoming a very accomplished step-dancer as she has been taking lessons and performing for several years now. Lauren is now in grade 11 at Rankin School of the Narrows in Iona.
Lawrence Cameron was born and raised in Margaree Forks, Inverness County, and has been a part of the musical Cape Breton fiddle culture since his childhood. Surrounded by a family that has musically renowned members such as Rankins and Beatons, he grew up with a deep knowledge and love for the tradition. Presently teaching music at Cape Breton Highlands Academy in Terre Noire, Inverness County, he continues to make sure that young musicians are given a chance to experience the culture through the Highlands Fiddle Club and local dances and concerts that feature local young artists.
Lorrie MacKinnon has roots in Inverness and Antigonish County and a slight connection to Christmas Island as well. Lorrie is a Gaelic enthusiast who has participated in the Féis since 1992.
Margie Beaton is a native Gaelic speaker from the Island of Eriskay, Scotland. She currently lives in Mabou, Cape Breton where she is a Gaelic Teacher and Vice Principal at Dalbrae Academy in Mabou. She also teaches for the Atlantic Gaelic Academy. Margie graduated from Glasgow University in Scotland with a Master of Arts degree in Gaelic and Geography. She then attended Jordanhill College of Education where she trained as a teacher of Gaelic and geography. Margie has taught Gaelic for over thirty years, and has been involved in Gaelic and Gaelic Studies Curriculum development for the Province of Nova Scotia. She has also taught Gaelic at night classes and immersions throughout Nova Scotia, and has been involved with the Mabou Gaelic Society, the NS Gaelic Council, and Gaelic choirs. In addition, she has organized Gaelic exchange visits with schools in Scotland, and several annual conferences on Gaelic for Nova Scotia teachers.
Mary Jane Lamond first fell in love with Scottish Gaelic traditions and song while visiting her grandparents throughout her youth. While enrolled in Saint Francis Xavier University’s Celtic Studies program, Mary Jane released her first album, ‘Bho Thir Nan Craobh’. This sharing of song garnered her numerous Juno and East Coast Music Award nominations, critical acclaim, and a worldwide audience. Mary Jane is an interpreter, a singer, and a musician. She is widely involved with community events and programs that help conserve the Gaelic language, traditions, and culture for younger generations.
Meaghan O’ Handley hails from Boisdale, CB. She has grown up around the Scottish culture that thrives along the Bras d’Or lakes. Meaghan worked at Feis an Eilein for several years as a Music, Gaelic and Day Camp instructor. She completed her degree at St. FX in Antigonish and is now the Music/Gaelic teacher at Rankin School of the Narrows, Iona.
Melanie MacDonald is one of Cape Breton’s finest stepdancers, well-known for her impeccable timing and traditional
“close-to-the-floor” style. She is often sought-after for instruction in both stepdancing and squaredancing.
Mike Barron currently lives in Sydney, NS and has established himself as an excellent traditional player with fantastic drive and passion. His love for traditional Cape Breton music has held true and is exemplified in his musical abilities.
Mike Hall was introduced to music by his father, a man with French Acadian roots who had a passion for the subject. By the time he was eight, Mike was playing the accordion and getting his first exposure to Celtic music by listening to a variety of Scottish and Irish tunes while developing a French Acadian style to his playing. He received his first fiddle at the age of thirteen and quickly became enamoured with the music of Cape Breton players like Natalie MacMaster, Howie MacDonald, Jerry Holland, Brenda Stubbert and Ashley MacIsaac, all musicians who had readily available commercial recordings. It wasn’t until he made his first visit to Cape Breton in 2001 that Mike realized the depth of the culture and sheer volume of the music. This experience drew him back to the island repeatedly, culminating with a permanent move in 2008. For him, Cape Breton is now home. A chance meeting with Cheticamp pianist Jason Roach during his initial visit has lead to engagements across Cape Breton and Mainland Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New England and beyond. His precise and lively style is perfect for dancers and welcomed by listeners, and this has continued to make him a popular player for house parties, dances, concerts and festivals. In 2009, Mike released his first recording--A Legacy, Not to be Forgotten.
Rankin MacInnis is an accomplished piper who hails from Mabou, CB, now living in Halifax. Rankin has participated in the 2006 World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, with the Gaelic College Pipe Band, piped for The White Stripes when they came to Glace Bay in 2007, and performed in the Celtic Colours International Festival as a solo artist as well as with such acts as The Chieftains and Carlos Nunez. Rankin is no stranger to Feis an Eilein and we are very pleased to have him with us again this year.
Rosie MacKenzie is already a veteran performer and recording artist, recognized as one of the finest young Cape Breton fiddlers on the traditional music scene. She exploded onto that scene as the youngest member of The Cottars in 2001, and has been winning over audiences with her electrifying musicianship, engaging stage presence, and stepdance prowess ever since. She is the latest in a proud lineage of Cape Breton fiddlers including greats such as Buddy MacMaster, Jerry Holland, Natalie MacMaster, and Ashley MacIsaac. When Rosie carries that proud musical legacy onto the stage, she does so with an unmistakable flare and passion, which immediately draws the audience in, and captivates them throughout her performance. And Rosie is downright kinetic when she takes the stage – she is in constant motion from start to finish, standing, sitting, stomping her feet, interacting with fellow musicians and the audience, even stepdancing while she plays. In Fall 2009, Rosie released her debut solo album entitled The MacKenzie Project, featuring one of Ireland's most stunning vocalists, Pauline Scanlon. This album produced by Donogh Hennessy, formerly of the groundbreaking Irish band Lúnasa, also includes Celtic music veterans Dave MacIsaac and Howie MacDonald. Rosie will be joining up with John McDermott's North American tour this fall and winter, and has recently toured with Cape Breton's award-winning cluster rock ensemble, The Tom Fun Orchestra. As a member of The Cottars, Rosie toured the world from Japan to Denmark, and shared the stage with Celtic music titans such as Altan, Natalie MacMaster, and The Chieftains, whom she joined for a 23-city tour of the United States in early 2006. Her fiddle playing and harmony vocals were prominently featured on three critically acclaimed Cottars albums, “Made In Cape Breton” (2002), “On Fire” (2004), and on the 2006 Rounder Records release “Forerunner”.
Shamus Y. MacDonald is passionate about the stories, folklore and history of Gaelic Nova Scotia. After graduating from St. Francis Xavier University, he traveled to Scotland where he received a Master’s degree from the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. An active member of the Gaelic community, and regular volunteer, his interest in the oral tradition here, and regard for the people who maintain it, has prompted extensive personal and professional fieldwork. A Gaelic learner, he regularly visits tradition-bearers in the province and has delivered lectures on aspects of the historical and oral tradition of Gaelic Nova Scotia to university and community audiences.
Sheamus MacNeil hails from Sydney Mines but is part of the musical MacKenzie and MacLean families of Washabuck. Along with his brothers and sisters, Sheamus has toured internationally with the Barra MacNeils.
The Boisdale Trio was originally composed of Janet Cameron, Paul Wukitsch, and Joe Peter MacLean. They have performed together for over 20 years. Piano player Janet Cameron, originally of Mabou, moved to Boisdale and has been a community accompanist for many years now. Fiddle player Joe Peter MacLean is from the rear of Boisdale, McAdam’s Lake district. He is one of the few remaining Gaelic speaking fiddlers. Fiddler Paul Wukitsch from Shenacadie immigrated to Cape Breton from New York State in the late 1970s. Paul eventually met Joe Peter MacLean and Janet Cameron and together they form the popular group The Boisdale Trio.Over the past number of years, the Boisdale Trio has added a new member, Janet's brother, Father Francis Cameron who plays the fiddle.They are now called the Boisdale Trio of Fiddlers accompanied by Janet Cameron.
Tyson Chen moved to Cape Breton from Ottawa in 2008 for an engineering job in Mabou and recently started his own Graphic Design and Technical Communication business. After moving to Cape Breton, Tyson quickly immersed himself in the celtic music scene and learned the Cape Breton style of piano accompaniment. He always looks forward to playing piano with local fiddlers at ceilidhs, dances, and sessions throughout the island.
Monica MacNeil, a teacher at Wendy MacIsaac is a fiddler, piano player, and stepdancer from Creignish, Inverness County who began her career at age four as a stepdancer, and went on to take fiddle lessons from Stan Chapman at age twelve. By 1990, she was well established as one of the top new young fiddler/pianists in Cape Breton and was in great demand for dances and festivals. Wendy has since entertained audiences across Canada, the United States, the UK, Europe and Brazil. She is a founding member of Beolach, and has also performed with The Cape Breton Summertime Revue, Capercaillie, The Chieftains, Ashley MacIsaac, toured with The Rankin Sisters and toured and recorded with Mary Jane Lamond for fourteen years. Wendy has released three albums-The Reel Thing, That's What You Get, and Timeline and has taught step-dancing at festivals and workshops around the world.