Beòlach gets up to dance
By Paul Marek, Staff Writer
The Coronado Theatre was the setting for a night with Beòlach, a new traditional Celtic band from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, March 8. The six-member group presented a lively mix of music and dance to an audience of enthusiastic supporters. Proceeds from the concert benefited the Girl Scouts of Rock River Valley. We got to know the members of the band as each took his or her turn introducing the next set, speaking about themselves and joking with the other band members as well as the audience.
The group members also spoke about their home and how their small island was isolated by the sea until the mid 1950s when a causway was built connecting the island to the outside world. Because of the hundreds of years they were allowed to live their own lives, the island kept its Celtic heritage. A mix of Scottish and Irish developed into the culture of Cape Breton.
I was impressed by each of the members musical talents. Each seemed to have several CDs and a vast experience performing. In one set, Ryan MacNeil, the bands pipe and whistle man, had three instuments in his lap, switching from one to the next with seemless effort. Then, as the music moved them and they could no longer just sit and play, each member would step up to the front of the stage and dance, much to the delight of the audience.
Beòlach brings us this unique mix of music and comfortable island style. On stage they instantly put the audience at ease and brought them quickly into their family. I began to wish that the very beautiful but very formal Coronado was replaced by a pub, where I could get up and dance rather than simply tap my toes to this energetic performance.
Thanks to Alf McConnell, the promoter of this event, for giving us this unique opportunity to see, through music and dance, another way of life.