If you were on a limited budget but still wanted to see and hear some of the world-class musicians who play at the annual Celtic Colours International Festival on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, you’d be in luck. Two daily events in Baddeck alone provide musical entertainment and education in intimate settings during the main week of the festival, which this year is October 14-18.
Daily at 10:30 a.m. in the Knox Presbyterian Church, smack in the middle of downtown Baddeck, you can enjoy two hours of music and interviews with three different musical acts, courtesy of CBS Radio One. Radio personality Wendy Bergfeldt records performances and interviews the musicians in front of this live audience, for broadcast on her show “Mainstreet Cape Breton” weekdays 4-6 p.m. You can listen to it online here. The live event lasts about two hours, until 12:30 p.m., and the pews fill early, so be advised.
Then at 1 p.m. daily the same week, the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site’s museum hosts a one-hour
program, the Bell Series. Chairs are set up in a smallish space among the museum’s exhibits, and musicians play and answer questions from the audience. Again, the seats fill up early for this free event. The day I was there, about 60 chairs were set up and more than 100 people showed up; the overflow sat on the floor and stood around the perimeter of the space. That was Monday, when fiddlers Darol Anger, Brittany Haas and Natalie Haas came to play and discuss “String Quartet and Fiddling Traditions” and how they relate to the kind of music they are creating.
On Tuesday morning, Bergfeldt hosted three acts at the Knox church: Scottish guitarist and accordionist Tim Edey with Cape Breton fiddler/pianist Troy McGillivray; Irish guitarist John Doyle with Cape Breton fiddler Ashley MacIsaac; and the traditional Quebecois trio Le Bruit Court dans la Ville.
Add in performances in local restaurants, an open mic program at the Baddeck Yacht Club, and all the free scenic views, and it’s possible to have a great time on Cape Breton Island during Celtic Colours on a reasonable budget.