Cashbox and the Celtic Connection


Submitted by Cashbox Magazine

The Beach Celtic Festival, Toronto’s only outdoor ceilidh, is marking it’s 10th Anniversary on September 7th and 8th at Kew Gardens in The Beach.

Cashbox Magazine COO and co-founder Sandy Graham created The Beach Celtic Festival in 2004 to honour her late mother, Jemima Sutherland Graham, who was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and immigrated to Canada when she was 12 years old. “ As kids growing up Mum was always reminding us of our Scottish heritage and teaching us the importance of Scottish traditions. She was a proud Canadian but never forgot her roots. It was important to her that we didn’t forget ours either”, Graham said in a recent sit down. “And I have instilled the same values in my two boys, Graham and Ian. Graham plays the pipes and Ian is a musician as well, like his great grandpa, Pipe Major Donald Sutherland, Mum’s Dad and his Great Uncle Murray Graham, a renowned piano player during the 1940’S and beyond.’

So what defines Celtic and what is a ceilidh ? (pronounced kalee). Celtic folks are Scottish, Irish and  Welsh  and a ceilidh is traditional Gaelic gathering , always involving music and dancing. “ Unlike some of the other “gatherings” or highland games, The Beach Celtic Festival is not a competition, there are no contests, just music, dancing and fun” Graham said. “ I think that sets us apart from the other events. There is also no cover charge as it is in a beautiful park and is free for all to enjoy.”

The two day event in the picturesque park is going to be epic this year with Celtic superstar and platinum recording artist John McDermott headlining the show. McDermott has been playing to sold out houses since the early 90’s, starting out as an opening act for the Chieftans and in 1994 toured Australia and New Zealand promoting his #1 recording of ‘Danny Boy’ and in 1995 toured Britain with The Seekers. Since then, John McDermott has his own sold out concerts and events.

A Real Leprachaun at the CelticA Real Leprachaun at the CelticRadio host, MC and recording artist Hugo Straney is also on the bill, bringing his strong Irish tenor and comedic skills to the stage. Straney has been with festival from the beginning and is an important cog in the festival machine. This year also marks the milestone of Hugo Straney being named Beach Celt of the Year, an honour bestowed on Celts who have volunteered their time and talents to others.

Country recording artist Don Graham, the brother of founder Sandy Graham, has also been with festival from the beginning and brings his brand of music and entertainment to the festivities. Graham penned a song for his late Mum called ‘The Pipes and the Mist’, that pays homage to his Scottish roots. He performs  it every year in honour of his mother.

Meghan Bold and the Bold Step Dancers are always entertaining and bring their unique style and colourful show to the Festival each year and each year are a crowd favourite. Combining traditional Highland dancing with (Ottawa) step dancing, the Bold Step Dancers are a unique blend of then and now, and give a dance presentation like no other.

Scotland ForeverScotland ForeverRory Gus Sinclair and Caledon County bring pipes, fiddle and guitars to the show and taps the roots of Scottish airs and toe tapping reels. Rory Gus Sinclair, Stephanie Militec on fiddle, and Gaye Zimmeran-Huycke on acoustic guitar.  This trio have a united love for traditionl Scottish music and are dedicated to crafting their music around ancient melodies merged with modern twists.

Also on hand will be the Gilchrist-Canavan School of Dance. With Patricia Gilchrist at the helm, every year these dancers present traditional Irish dances and offer a stellar performance for all to enjoy.

Pat Beaven, also a former Montreal girl, Highland Dancer and BWR history in her relatives as well, comes every year to show the wee ones and adults what Scottish country dancing is all about.

A special guest this year is Bernie Jessome. Bernie  has made his mark as one of the top Roy Orbison tribute artists in the world, endorsed by none other than Sam Orbison, Roy’s late brother, But Jessome  is also a phenomenal Irish tenor and was born in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia and raised  in the Beach. Welcome home Bernie!

The Toronto Black Watch Pipes and Drums are the featured pipe band and how fitting that is. Sandy Graham’s grandfather Donald C. Sutherland was the Pipe Major of the Black Watch in Montreal and the song ‘The Red Hackle’ is performed yearly in honour of the Sutherland.  The song has been performed by the Black Watch for years but listed as author unknown. Sandy Graham set that straight a few years ago and now it is listed as “written by PM Donald Sutherland.”  ‘GaGa’ would be proud Sandy.

Graham Motto Never ForgetGraham Motto Never ForgetThe fact that this is held in September is fitting as well. The Celtic people knew that after summer and fall, with colder times coming, the importance of putting aside staple foods for the coming months, because it would be many months before anything fresh grew again.  So with this festival the Celts think about , what the family has put aside -- both material goods and things on the spiritual plane.

The food is put away for the winter,
the crops are set aside to feed us,
the cattle are come down from their fields,
and the sheep are in from the pasture.
The land is cold, the sea is stormy, the sky is gray.
The nights are dark, but we have our family,
kin and clan around the hearth,
staying warm in the midst of darkness,
our spirit and love a flame
a beacon burning brightly
in the night.
So congratulations go out to Sandy Graham and the entire Beach Celtic Festival team for holding up the Celtic tradition and pride for all to see.
Hope to see you all there and as Sandy Graham says “ Come on out, it’s a great way to spend a beautiful fall day or two and it’s great Scottish price…’s free!!!!!  Failte!”