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Sold-out shows, local love equal Celtic Colours success in Cape Breton

Scotland's Julie Fowlis, left, sings with Emma Stevens from Eskasoni First Nation during the Celtic Colours closing concert in Port Hawkesbury on Saturday. The Causeway Ceilidh was one of 52 official concerts held over the nine-days of the 23rd annual festival. COREY KATZ
Scotland's Julie Fowlis, left, sings with Emma Stevens from Eskasoni First Nation during the Celtic Colours closing concert in Port Hawkesbury on Saturday. The Causeway Ceilidh was one of 52 official concerts held over the nine-days of the 23rd annual festival. COREY KATZ - Contributed
SYDNEY, N.S. —

Sold-out shows plus lots of local love have made the 2019 Celtic Colours International Festival a huge success.

Festival executive director Mike MacSween believes only six of 52 official concerts weren’t sold-out and more than 20,000 tickets were purchased during the nine-day run.

Mike MacSween
Mike MacSween

“We were quite pleased with the turnout,” MacSween said. “That certainly is a high bar for us.”

“We had the highest number of tickets sold for our Centre 200 concert, the opening night concert with the Chieftains who haven’t played here since 2012. We had 3,600 people attend, certainly not a sell-out for Centre 200 but that might be the highest number of opening night tickets we’ve sold.”

Along with the Chieftains and a high number of sold-out shows, MacSween said they're hearing people rave about the closing concert with Julie Fowlis, as well as performances by their artists-in-residence Beòlach from Cape Breton and Breabach from Scotland. He also said they're getting positive feedback from their Off the Charts show, an event featuring the Cape Breton Orchestra with Celtic artists like Heather Rankin.

“That made for a very special performance, having a full orchestra accompanying these artists,” he said. “Overall, what we heard from the artists and from the people who went to the events is they had a fantastic time throughout the whole week.”

Mairi Rankin, from the Cape Breton-based band Beòlach, plays during the Causeway Ceilidh closing concert for Celtic Colours 2019 held in Port Hawkesbury on Oct. 19. Beòlach was one of two bands chosen as this year's Celtic Colours artists in residence. The other was Breabach from Scotland. COREY KATZ
Mairi Rankin, from the Cape Breton-based band Beòlach, plays during the Causeway Ceilidh closing concert for Celtic Colours 2019 held in Port Hawkesbury on Oct. 19. Beòlach was one of two bands chosen as this year's Celtic Colours artists in residence. The other was Breabach from Scotland. COREY KATZ

Since Celtic Colours started 23 years ago, MacSween said they’ve always attracted people from around the world. However, this year there was an increased number of Cape Bretoners who attended shows and bought tickets during their summer push.

“We are honoured to have so many Cape Bretoners coming out to the shows,” he said. “This is a festival for Cape Bretoners. It is a celebration of our culture and our heritage and we want to keep that at the top of our mind.”

High winds on Thursday did force organizers to cancel their concert in Belle Côte but MacSween said they feel “blessed” weather didn’t cause problems that day.

“We did have the power flicker a few times at some of our other concert locations but luckily it didn’t go out,” he said. “The only other challenge we had was that one night it was challenging to find a hotel room in Sydney, but those are the kind of challenges we like.”

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