HebCelt strengthens traditional ties with Canada

Photo credit: Colin Cameron

UK: The strong bonds of history and culture that link Canada to Scotland will be embraced through music at this year’s Hebridean Celtic Festival. The award-winning HebCelt is hosting three acts from New Brunswick, one of the country’s smallest provinces, to strengthen traditional ties during the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation.

The confederation was the process by which the British colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick were united into one Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867. Many of the early Canadian settlers emigrated from Scotland, including the Hebrides, and that heritage is still celebrated in songs on both sides of the Atlantic.

Singer-songwriter Tristan Horncastle, female fiddlers and dancers The Lumber Jills, and children’s music act Shelley Bean & The Duckety Muds will perform at HebCelt, which is being held from July 19 – 22 and will be headlined by The Waterboys, Imelda May, Dougie Maclean and Lucy Spraggan.

This year’s Canadian invasion has its roots in meetings HebCelt director Caroline Maclennan had while attending the East Coast Music Week (ECMW) in Sydney, Nova Scotia, last April.

She said: “The event was a real eye opener on the wider Canadian east coast music scene. We know of and have previously hosted at HebCelt artists from Quebec and also Cape Breton, with whom we Hebrideans have a natural affinity.

“The opportunity to showcase artists from New Brunswick is very welcome and I’m convinced that those we have chosen this year will not only add to the variety of our programming but will be embraced by our audiences.”

As well as being a performer herself, Shelley Chase, aka Bean, is also behind efforts to promote New Brunswick artists to a wider audience.

She said: “New Brunswick has an Irish, Scottish and Franco heritage with a ton of traditional musicians, but we have not exported much to Scotland in the past. We also have many, many country music artists that evolved that traditional background of early settlers.

“I suggested to HebCelt we would be interested in a cultural project that exposed the Isle of Lewis and Scotland to a province they may not know much about that had many Scottish immigrants.

“Canadians always want to know more about where our ancestors come from and Scotland and Ireland are very much at the top of the list, especially as so many folk songs talk about leaving Scotland and we are the second part of the story.

“The longing for Scotland and the homesickness that first wave carried to our province stayed in the music long after they passed. Our generation still sings of the longing for Scotland and so the natural curiosity amongst us is to see what they left and where we come from.

“I’d like to thank the government of New Brunswick for supporting us in this initiative. We hope to collect some songs that maybe did not make it across the pond and learn a lot of Lewis fiddle tunes.”

Since releasing his first EP in 2011, Tristan Horncastle has shared stages with the likes of Travis Tritt, Dean Brody and LeAnn Rimes. In 2015 he was nominated in the Canadian Country Music Association Awards’ Rising Star category and the Canadian Radio Music Awards for Best New Group or Solo Artist in the Country category, as well as three wins at Prix Music NB Awards for Album of the Year, Country Artist of the Year and Fans’ Choice.

Last year his album ‘Turnin’ Up A Sundown’ earned him a CCMA nomination for Recording Package of the Year and five nominations at the Prix Music NB Awards for Country Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, SOCAN Song of the Year, Video of the Year and Producer of the Year.

The Lumber Jills are all aged under 20, but have won multiple awards for their heritage music and dancing. They are making their first visit to Scotland, having promoted their culture across Canada and Ireland, as well as Belgium and France.

Shelley Bean has been working with children for over 20 years, mixing traditional music, dance and entertainment. A former early childhood educator, she has toured extensively both with the Muds – a rotating cast of some of New Brunswick’s best musicians – and other projects, performing for young audiences at events such as the Winnipeg and Calgary Folk Festivals and the Woodford Folk Festival in Australia. Her debut children’s CD was nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award.

Shelley has also been active with the ‘Agriculture in the Classrooms’ programme – where she is official artist in residence – and which is carried out in conjunction with the Federation of Agriculture in each province.