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Celtic Colours International Festival is a Celtic music festival held annually in October in communities all over Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. First held in 1997, the festival has featured hundreds of musicians from all over the Celtic world and attracted tens of thousands of visitors to Cape Breton Island. For nine days in October, Cape Breton Island is home to a unique celebration of music and culture as the Celtic Colours International Festival presents dozens of concerts all over the island, an extensive line-up of workshops, a visual art series of exhibitions, and a nightly Festival Club. Over the years, artists have traveled from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Brittany, Spain, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Cuba and Sweden as well as from across the United States and Canada to join the finest of Cape Breton's musicians, singers, dancers, storytellers and tradition-bearers for the annual Autumn celebration.
One of the things that set Celtic Colours apart from the vast majority of festivals taking place around the globe is that it isn't limited to just one location. Communities around Cape Breton Island host concerts and workshops at a time when the fall leaves are at their most brilliant, and traveling around the island provides many scenic views. These communities are the places where the culture has been nurtured for over 200 years providing context for the roots of the music and celebrating each community's contribution to Celtic culture.
In many of these communities, the local fire hall, parish hall or community centre has hosted musical events for generations, in some cases, literally moving the fire trucks out of the hall to accommodate a dance. Venues for Celtic Colours vary from an 18th-century reconstructed French Chapel to brand new state of the art performance facilities to community halls, but all venues share in common the prominent place each holds in the community it serves. The Celtic culture of music, dance and storytelling lives on in these communities.
Features and events
Celtic Colours International Festival has an ambitious schedule (as many as six concerts each day), so attendees cannot see and hear everything. The organizers of the Festival realize this and take special care in the programming of each show so that it is possible to get a taste of all that the Festival has to offer on any given day. With Gaelic singing, Cape Breton fiddling, local dance traditions, accordion playing, or bagpiping, Celtic Colours festival-goers can tailor their musical experience to suit their tastes.
Celtic music has seen a resurgence of interest in North America during recent years. Fueled in part by the success and popularity of entertainers like Natalie MacMaster, Buddy MacMaster, the Barra MacNeils, Ashley MacIsaac, the Rankin Family and Rita MacNeil, this interest has focused attention on Cape Breton Island, its music, its people and its culture. Workshops, offered in many aspects of Celtic and Gaelic culture, allow visitors and residents alike to get the hands-on experience they desire. Host communities around the island present workshops in Gaelic language and song, components of tradition, instrument instruction and traditional dance, as well as offering cultural tours, ceilidhs and a lecture series. They also organize an extensive array of community events including meals and dances.
One of the most popular features of the Celtic Colours International Festival every year is the Festival Club. Located at the Gaelic College in St. Ann's, the Festival Club opens as the evening concerts are closing, offering an opportunity for Festival artists to perform in a more informal setting, or to get a session in with friends and colleagues from near and far. Performance is by invitation only and depends upon artist availability on any given night.
The festival is held at the height of the island's fall colours, allowing visitors to enjoy the scenery as they travel to their next event. Traveling to an event may take a visitor around the Bras d'Or Lakes, Canada's largest saltwater lake, or around the Cabot Trail, often called North America's most scenic drive.
The Festival was named the Tourism Industry Association of Canada 2007 Event of the Year, has received four East Coast Music Awards for Event of the Year, (2005–2008), two Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia Crystal Awards (Events / Conferences 2002, the Golden Hospitality Award 2005). In recent years, Cape Breton Island has also been recognized by Conde Nast Magazine for its scenic beauty and friendly people (voted number one in the world by its readership) and by National Geographic Traveler as among the top travel destinations in the world.