Fiddlers, Pipers, Singers, Poets and Celtic Dancers in Concert
On Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, the cultural heritage of early Scottish settlers continues to be preserved through the educational programs at the local Gaelic College located near the town of Baddeck. For visitors to the area who often come to drive the Cabot Trail, experiencing one of the local performances or visiting a craft show offers an opportunity to relive the unique musical and cultural arts events from the Gaelic traditions. Throughout the year, the college presents recitals, choral performances, art festivals and readings at the local community center near St. Ann’s Bay.
Experience a Community Ceilidh (Song Fest)
In the rural areas of Nova Scotia during the 19th century, the long evening hours were often spent around a warm fire in the kitchen playing music together with the family. Often a few friends would drop by with their fiddles or pipes to play a few tunes and pass the time. The songs created from these gatherings became known as “kitchen music” and Nova Scotia locals still say they’re off to a kitchen party. Learning to play the fiddle was, and still is in many cases, a skill passed from older generations to sons, daughters and grandchildren. In the Cape Breton communities, these gatherings known as ceilidhs feature all levels, ages and abilities of the local talent. The term originated in Scotland where highlanders still gather together on Saturday nights to fiddle and dance the night away.
Visitors to Cape Breton now search for the “ceilidh schedule” to try and time their stay with a musical concert. Performances through the Gaelic College offer many opportunities, particularly during the summer months.
About the Gaelic College of Nova Scotia
Founded in 1938, the college began through the inspiration of Rev. A.W.R. MacKenzie. His goal was to identify and preserve the traditions of the descendants of the oldest Scottish community on Cape Breton. Dedicated to preserving Celtic traditions and culture, the school offers classes in Gaelic language studies, music and the arts. Students of all ages learn to play instruments such as the bagpipe, fiddle or harp and take traditional dance classes. A craft shop at the school displays hand woven items made by some of the students. Visitors who frequent Cape Breton during the summer months are treated to performances that feature Gaelic music, readings and dance. The college maintains a performance calendar throughout the year and encourages students to demonstrate their skills.
Visiting Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton
The town of Baddeck resides on the shore of the Bras d’ Or Lake where Alexander Graham Bell made his home. Besides enjoying traditional Scottish music and dance, the area provides an abundance of things to do. During June, July and August sailboats line the lake and ferries take passengers to nearby islands to view eagles, sea life and take photos of the picturesque lighthouses. Driving around the Cabot Trail is one of the main attractions; a full day’s trip on a coastal highway with stunning ocean and forest scenery.