The tourists may be gone, but that doesn't mean the music has to stop.
Wednesday Ceilidhs @ the Gaelic College; Small Halls Concert Series w/ Ryan Cook (Nov. 25)
On an island dominated by tourism, one could be excused for associating live music with visitors and warmer months. After twenty years of October refrains, many have come to mark the close of tourist season with the final day of Celtic Colours. However, there are those working to keep music alive year-round and ensure that the hometown crowd gets out for a listen.
Wednesday Ceilidhs at Colaisde na Gàidhlig / Gaelic College
Having offered a successful regular summertime Ceilidh for several years, the college is experimenting with extending the series into the winter.
“It's exciting to be part of something that might snowball a little bit,” says Margie Beaton, musician and marketing director for Colaisde na Gàidhlig / The Gaelic College in speaking of her desire to see off-season Ceilidhs succeed. The weather-related pun seems inadvertent.
Beaton explains that the word Ceilidh means ‘visit’ in Gaelic. Originally, Ceilidhs were casual gatherings that evolved organically amongst community members, often in a kitchen or living room setting. While she says the word has come to mean many different things, it is now often associated with staged venues designed for tourists. The hope is for the off-season Wednesday Ceilidhs to return to a more casual setting that appeals to Cape Bretoners.
“If we're not doing it for ourselves and enjoying it ourselves when there aren't visitors here, then we're only doing it for visitors. Music is ours. The culture is ours. Sometimes we're just so busy in the summer that we can't possibly take in all the opportunities there are for music.”
Though the summer tourist season may be over, there is still the odd global wanderer at the doorstep. Beaton says the Ceilidhs in October and November have drawn folks from all over Canada, parts of the United States and as far away as South Africa and Australia.
Victoria County Councillors recently committed to funding eight evenings out of their district budgets. Beaton says that means Wednesday nights will continue through January and February, weather-permitting.
The Wednesday night Ceilidhs run 7:30-9:00pm until Dec. 13 and then will resume in the new year. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children. For more info, call 902-295-3411.
Small Halls Concert Series w/ Ryan Cook at the Bell Museum
On Saturday, Nov. 25, 7pm, Big Spruce Brewing is sponsoring the second concert in their Small Halls, Intimate Sessions series. Last year, the brewery hosted local favourite Rosie Mackenzie at the Middle River Hall. This year’s concert features Ryan Cook and special guest Norma Macdonald at the Bell Museum.
As a teenager playing punk and heavy metal in Yarmouth, N.S., the last thing Ryan Cook wanted to be was a Country Music star. However, a fateful gig working with seniors during college exposed him to the genre that he now calls home.
“You know, I hate country music personally, and I have a lot of people that have come to my concerts that say they hate country music too,” Cook said via telephone on Nov. 20.
Perhaps “hate” is a strong word. In the same breath, he names Hank Williams and other country legends as major influences. Still, his lack of upbringing around country music leaves Cook with a unique approach to the music that blends fiddles and steel guitar with folk sensibilities and nuances of contemporary pop.
“A lot of the lyrics are more satirical and more storytelling, in less of a homogenous country way, and more in an offbeat, beatnik sort of way.”
“Reminds me of Blue Rodeo a little,” I offer.
“Yeah. Perfect example. When I was 15, Five Days in May came out. I was transfixed with that album even though I was listening to mostly metal music at that time.”
The stop in Baddeck is part of Cook’s CD release tour for his album Having a Great Time (released Nov. 3). Come December, he plans on several months off the road to attend to the administrative side of his business. He’ll also jump back into the snowbird lifestyle he has developed over the past five years.