Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Louisburg and "Celtic Women"

Friday morning. We scouted around the port city of Sydney a bit, locating the Cruise Ship Terminal and its giant fiddle, a promising pub, and good place for breakfast, the Maple Leaf Restaurant. Then we decided to go to Louisburg to visit the re-creation of a French colonial fort. This involved a 20-minute drive southeast along the Louisburg highway.

The world's largest fiddle

One might expect that the area's most well-known tourist attraction would remain open during the area's biggest annual event, but one would be wrong--the fort had closed for the season. We did some exploring of the area and drove out to the Louisburg lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in Canada, now automated and supported by a trust and volunteers.

Louisburg Light

With no fort to explore, we decided to take the long way back and pass through Glace Bay, the site of that evening's concert. Along the way we passed Pensioner's Point, and as pensioners we felt obliged to preserve the moment for posterity.

My new friend doesn't talk much, but he dresses for the weather

It's good to be a pensioner

We had tickets for another local group dinner, this time at nearby Donkin, but the idea of another meal of overcooked meat, frozen vegetables, and instant mashed potatoes didn't appeal. We headed back to Sydney to the pub we'd located in the morning, The Governor's Pub and Eatery. John had fish and chips, while I tried the special, pizza with pulled pork, which I washed down with a pint.

We had high expectations for the Friday concert at the Savoy Theatre in Glace Bay. The concert featured a formidable cast of female musicians from Cape Breton and from Ireland (Nuala Kennedy), Newfoundland (The Once), and Scotland. Local women Mary Jane Lamond (vocalist) and Wendy MacIsaac (fiddle, bouzouki, mandocello) are neighbors who record together. It was fun to watch the ultra-feminine Kennedy interacting with the outdoorsy MacIsaac and the gender-neutral Sylvia LeLievre.

Rita MacNeil is the grand matriarch of Cape Breton music. She carries more than 300 pounds these days, and confided to the full house that she had fallen in the dressing room, "and even worse, I took the curtains down with me." Nevertheless, she limped onto the stage, a legendary songstress and raconteur.

The high point of the evening came from two groups with successful recording careers. Madison Violet features two women from Cape Breton Island who blend their voices and guitars beautifully.

The Once is composed of two young men who play a variety of instruments and a young woman who sings. All hail from Newfoundland.

As it turned out, our high expectations were not high enough.