To Experience Celtic Colours is to be changed by it…
The Celtic Colours International Festival is a unique celebration of Cape Breton Island’s living traditional culture. For nine days in October you’ll discover hundreds of events and activities taking place in communities across the Island.
World Class Concerts
At one of the many concerts you’ll find some of the world’s finest musicians sharing the stage with Cape Breton’s best singers, dancers, players, story-tellers and culture bearers in venues that range from community halls and churches to modern schools and theatres.
With Celtic Colours’ ambitious schedule (as many as six concerts a day), it is simply impossible to 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. Whether it’s Gaelic singing, Cape Breton fiddling, local dance traditions, or an afternoon of world-class bagpiping, you can tailor your musical experiences to suit your tastes.
Community Cultural Events
If listening to the music inspires a desire to go deeper, to learn more about the music and the culture it comes from, hundreds of events are offered in communities all around the Island in association with Celtic Colours. The Festival offers five types of community cultural events.
The Learning Opportunities series will entertain and enlighten you with a variety of workshops, presentations, demonstrations and lectures on Celtic history, music, dance, art, craft and community heritage.
At Participatory Events you are welcome as a spectator or to immerse yourself in the action and join in on a Square Dance, session or milling frolic.
Get outside and enjoy the spectacular scenery at one of the Outdoor Events. Guided walks, hikes, and boat tours put you in the fresh air.
The Visual Arts Series offers a wide variety of fine art and heritage craft events. Exhibitions, demonstrations and workshops celebrate the creative spirit that thrives on Cape Breton.
Break bread together and share a home-cooked meal at one of the many Community Meals or visit one of the Farmers’ Markets where you’ll find locally grown food, honey and handmade goods.
Late Night Festival Club
One of the most popular features of Celtic Colours 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. Hosted by well-known singer-songwriter Buddy MacDonald, from the nearby North Shore, performance is by invitation only and depends upon artist availability on any given night. The Festival Club runs each night from 11pm-3am and is for those aged 19 years and older. Photo ID required. Colaisde Na Gàidhlig / The Gaelic College canteen is open and all night breakfast starts at 1:30am. A free shuttle service runs throughout the night between The Gaelic College and select Baddeck area accommodations.
Cape Breton’s Autumn Beauty
The festival is held during Cape Breton’s most spectacular season when the leaves are turning colour and the vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges bring the breathtaking scenery to life as you travel from event to event. These travels may take you around the pristine Bras d’Or Lake, Canada’s largest saltwater lake, or around the Cabot Trail, often called North America’s most scenic drive. Wherever you go in Cape Breton at this time of year, you are bound to find amazing scenery around every turn.
Celtic Colours International Festival begins on the Friday of each Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.
2018 – October 5th to October 13th
2019 – October 11th to October 19th
2020 – October 9th to October 17th
Since its introduction in 1997, Celtic Colours has grown to become one of Canada’s premiere musical events, and a cultural highlight of Nova Scotia’s tourism season. The festival has also been successful in extending Cape Breton Island’s tourism season well into the Autumn, and introducing the musical culture of Cape Breton to tens of thousands of visitors from more than two dozen countries.
Celtic Colours International Festival is recognized as a world-class event, locally, nationally and internationally. In 2011, the Festival was added to the Canadian Tourism Commission’s Signature Experience Collection and it received the Cultural Tourism Award from the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. Celtic Colours has also been named the Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s Event of the Year (2007), has received six East Coast Music Awards for Event of the Year (2005-2008 & 2016-2017), two Tourism Association of Nova Scotia Crystal Awards (Golden Hospitality Award 2005, Events / Conferences 2002), and was named American Bus Association’s Top Event in Canada and Attractions Canada’s Top Cultural Event in 2001. The Celtic Colours Box Office team received the Visitor Servicing Award from Destination Cape Breton in 2016.
Cape Breton Island is home to a unique combination of music and culture, inspired by 19th Century settlers from Scotland and Ireland, and influenced by the Aboriginal Mi’kmaq people, the Island’s physical geography, and the waves of immigrants who populated its communities during industrialization. Generation after generation of settlers, from the Scottish and Irish to the French who came before them, were able to maintain their culture and traditions in this new land due in part to the island’s isolation and subsequent lack of outside influences. Music, language, dance and community played an important role in each of these cultures and continue to do so today.
One of the things that sets 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. These are the communities 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 the island’s living 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 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 story-telling lives on in these communities and provides foundation for the celebration of living culture that is the Celtic Colours International Festival.