Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Apple-glazed Pork Dinners and "Island Neighbours"

After a breakfast of Eggs Florentine and more bacon, we left the Maven Gypsy Inn and headed south toward Baddeck. We decided to take the long way around St. Ann's Harbor to drop in at the Gaelic College, the site of the nightly Festival Club where musicians go to meet and jam after the concerts. Along the way we ran into some road repair and were stopped by a flagman, so we rolled down the window to chat. I hadn't said three words before she said, "Oh, you're from Boston."  She asked if we'd visited Sew Inclined, and when we said we'd found the owner, Barbara, quite entertaining, she told us,"Well, that's my sister. She loves her job."

John at the Gaelic College in St. Ann's

The Gaelic College is a small, attractive campus with a thriving museum. The museum gift store feature some beautiful musical instruments, especially fiddles, Scottish bagpipes, uilleann pipes, and bodhrans. Also offered are kilts and tams for the many Scots and Scottish descendants who frequent the store.

Baddeck Light House

We soon reached the village of Baddeck, an inland port on the Bras D'Or salt water lakes. After we'd walked around a bit despite some high winds, the sky darkened and threatened an imminent cloudburst. We made a hasty retreat into the Bean There coffee shop, and had coffee and delicious blueberry scones while a fast-moving storm pelted the village.

After the rain had subsided, we walked up to the "wee church on the hill", where CBC radio was spending the week interviewing performers. We sat in on an interview with Irish harpist Loise Kelly, who would answer the interviews questions with both words and melodies on her harp.

 After the rain: Paul and Baddeck Light

After the interview, we drove back to Sydney and registered at the Quality Inn. We then went out in search of the Sydney River United Protestant Church and the evening's supper and concert. After a short delay, during which we turned around in the church parking lot without realizing we were there, we sat down to the apple-glazed pork dinner we had reserved. We'd thought it would be fun to eat among the natives, and it was--we became instant celebrities. The local people were welcoming and intensely curious about these brothers from "away". I had to answer so many questions that it was difficult to eat my dinner. The food was mediocre, but the company was superb.

We found our seats upstairs for the Island Neighbours concert. The opening act was Monica MacNeil playing traditional music on soprano saxophone. She was accompanied by her husband Sheumas of the Barra MacNeils. They were followed by fiery local fiddler Dwayne Cote. After intermission, Vishten, featuring two young woman from PEI and a fiddler from the Madeleine Islands, performed some wonderful Acadian music, some of it sung in French, or at least in Acadian patois.

Vishten at Festival Club

Everyone was back on stage for the finale, reacting to the spirited crowd, All the women who had performed did some step dancing. Not to be outdone, Dwayne Cote, with his bow in one hand and fiddle in the other, leaped forward and almost danced right out of his pants.