Along for the musical ride

Sally Cole
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Cynthia MacLeod displays her new DVD/CD, Cynthia MacLeod and Friends: Live at the Brackley Beach Ceilidh. It’s for sale at the Brackley Beach Ceilidhs on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m., this summer at the Brackley Beach Community Centre, 3330 Brackley Point Rd. The CD is an exact replica of the DVD with four bonus tracks.

When P.E.I. fiddler Cynthia MacLeod decided to make a live DVD/CD of her Brackley Beach Ceilidhs, she had one clear vision.

"The goal was to make people watching or listening to it feel like they were there," says MacLeod, who has hosted the popular event at the Brackley Beach Community Centre for thousands of visitors and Islanders since 2004 and continues to do so on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays this summer at 7:30 p.m.

In putting her plan in place, she invited all the P.E.I. performers she knew to come together for two nights of ceilidh tapings in September of 2010.

"They were all game for it. I asked them to bring a couple of songs they liked to sing. Some people couldn't make it due to scheduling, but there were still lots to choose from," says MacLeod, who is excited about her newly-minted DVD/CD package, Cynthia MacLeod and Friends: Live at the Brackley Beach Ceilidh, that arrived last week.

"With so many special guests, we're calling it the ultimate Brackley Beach Ceilidh," says MacLeod, noting performers include Brittany Banks, John Connolly, Mike Dixon, Kendall Docherty, Leon Gallant, Burton MacIntyre, Todd MacLean, Barry MacLeod, Bethany MacLeod, John Matthews, Mike Pendergast, Eddy Quinn, Norman Stewart and Lester Stubbert.

While most of the action is on the stage, every once in a while the camera pans out to catch audience members singing along and clapping. Naturally, anyone who attended the event might be curious as to whether or not they're part of the DVD.

"If you were there, there's a good chance that you're on it," says MacLeod.

Song selection was also an important consideration during the planning process.

"The musicians brought suggestions to me. I also had some songs in mind that traditionally went over well at the ceilidhs. For instance, Norman Stewart does a version of the Gumboot Cloggeroo that's very interactive with the audience. And that night everyone got into it," she says.

At times, selecting the songs from four hours of footage was tough.

"I thought, 'How do I pick between John Connolly's songs? They're all fantastic and they all had the crowd singing along.' In the end, I decided to go with Unfinished Business was because he wrote it," says MacLeod.

She's happy about sharing the experience with her musical friends.

"I already have four albums of me. I wanted to something different. That's why I wanted to focus on this project, the Brackley Beach Ceilidh. All summer long, I have wonderful people on stage with me," she says.

For the fiddle tunes, she picked a couple of new sets along with Road To the Isles, a set from a previous CD that is out of print.

"It was a really popular set, so I decided to do it live. The best part about it is my friend, Burton MacIntyre from Cape Breton, randomly showed up and started step-dancing. It was wonderful."

Sally Cole, a Guardian features writer, welcomes comments as well as columns ideas at 629-6000, ext. 6054 or

Organizations: Brackley Beach Community Centre, Brittany Banks

Geographic location: Cape Breton

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