Steeped in the rich traditions of Ireland and Scotland, Celtic music has the unique capacity to convey great sorrow and great joy in equal measure. It’s become synonymous with Nova Scotia, a Canadian province with unflappable charm and sincerity.
The lilting reels of the fiddle are often accompanied by a clear high voice and steeped in richness and a sense of history. From festive kitchen parties (dubbed céilidh or visit) in vibrant small towns, to the concert halls of Halifax, Celtic music inspires, moves, and soothes.
Fiddles and singing are the norm, but there’s sometimes an accordion (or squeezebox, if you’re local) adding an extra layer. It’s a form of musical storytelling unique to the Maritimes and a source of fierce pride for locals.
So if you’ve had enough of the Boston scene and are craving an aural adventure with mettle (not metal, ahem) and authenticity, Nova Scotia has it going on.
During the Celtic Colours International Festival in October, 250 acts from around the world play in venues ranging from intimate pubs, to opulent music halls. A must experience event for lovers of all things Celtic. Looking for full on musical immersion? There’s a weeklong fiddle school at Cape Breton’s Celtic Music Interpretative Centre that runs during the festival.
Pub it up in Halifax
Featuring the most pubs per capita of any city in Canada, Halifax is a party lover’s paradise. Rowdy college kids mingle with weathered old timers over their shared love of the music. Kick back with a pint or three at the Old Triangle, dubbed the Celtic heart of the Maritimes. Irish set dancing is much more captivating than watching hipsters try to outmoustache each other anyway.
Go full Celtic in Cape Breton
Take the legendary Cabot Trail to Cape Breton, and actually experience all those Instagram photos your buddies have been posting. It’s so much better IRL, (trust this). It’s a magnificent stretch of coastal highway with bends and twists that offer up astounding views. Then gussy up for a night on the town in the self-titled Celtic hub of the Maritimes, Cape Breton. Pubs and chortling locals abound and there’s always someone eager to strike up a conversation or do a wee jig.
A wee visit (on a boat)
From June through October, bring your sea legs and your flask for a twist on the traditional kitchen party, on a boat. The Kitchen Party Boat cruise takes revelers on a wee adventure around the harbor. Fiddlers and singers bring the Celtic vibe, you bring a cooler. Just make sure you pack some anti nauseants if you’re wobbly on the water.
Symphony Nova Scotia fuses Celtic, rock, pop with a full orchestra for eclectic and stimulating experiences. Artists range from the hip-hop hybrids of homegrown favourite Buck65 to the catchy as bleep Meaghan Smith. Concerts run all year.
If you’re keen for a level of freshness and sincerity that seems hard to source in busy Boston life, look no further than the heartfelt simplicity of Celtic music, offered up with a spirit of generosity and plenty of rum and craft beer in Nova Scotia.