A P.E.I musical homecoming

Popular Celtic singer Patricia Murray returning for Tartan Day concert in Belfast on Sunday

Sally Cole scole@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on April 4, 2014

Celtic singer Patricia Murray will headline Sunday’s Tartan Day Concert at St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Belfast at 7 p.m. She will also take part in  East Coast Music weekend, performing at the Olde Dublin Pub on Saturday at 4 p.m.


Patricia Murray is a popular Celtic singer.

For 20 years, the soft-spoken woman with the clear soprano voice was a musical mainstay at the College of Piping in Summerside, performing in stage shows and on college recordings.

And through her enthusiastic involvement, she developed a huge following.

“My last memory was three years ago when I filled in while the pipe band went to compete in Scotland. That summer, I performed for a week with Ward MacDonald, Ryan McNeil and Kearnsey Smith, the highland dance instructor. It was so much fun.”

Since then she has turned her attention to musical projects closer to home and helping her husband, Dr. Michael McNeil, a Halifax ear, nose and throat surgeon in his practice, as well as raising their three children.

So, when she was asked to headline Sunday’s Tartan Day concert at St. John’s Anglican Church in Belfast, sponsored by the Belfast Historical Society, she was thrilled.

“I jumped on this opportunity. It’s a homecoming, for sure. P.E.I. is my home, wherever I live, and I’m always delighted to come back,” says Murray, who recently moved from Halifax to Moncton.

In keeping with the Tartan Day theme and the language of the Scottish Highlanders, she will perform several songs in Gaelic.

“I’ll sing I Gave My Hand to the Islander. It talks about the man who (a young woman) is marrying who will be wearing his plaid kilt. It’s a song that I came across, shortly after I got married. It has a lovely melody and sentiment,” says Murray, during a telephone interview.

She’ll also be singing the heart-warming melody, Caledonia, in English.

“It’s my all-time favourite song, it talks about one’s sense of home and belonging and that often times you have to go away to really appreciate where you came from. This includes not only the physical landscape but the historical one, the people who have come before us.”

Organizers are thrilled to include this Island chanteuse’s name to the program.

“It’s an honour and a privilege for us to have such a talented singer/songwriter as Patricia Murray join us in Belfast. Her hauntingly beautiful renditions touch us and take us back in time to our Scottish roots. She is indeed a Celtic angel, and we welcome her with open arms to our Tartan Day celebrations,” says Donald MacDonald, director of the Belfast Historical Society.

That night, Murray will join performers Mary MacGillivray and Friends, Graeme and Victoria Sweet and members of the Belfast Pipe and Drum Band. In keeping with the spirit of the evening, actor Rob MacLean will provide some Scottish readings.

Also, at the concert, Margaret Ross MacKinnon will be presented with the Selkirk Award, recognizing her efforts in preserving and promoting her Scottish heritage. In addition, recognition will be given to the late Stanley Bruce.

To Murray’s delight, Frances McBurnie will be accompanying her on the piano.

“Growing up as a vocalist on P.E.I., being accompanied by Frances McBurnie is a true honour because she’s an amazing piano player. We’re lucky that she lives in Belfast.”

Sally Cole is a features writer with The Guardian. She welcomes comments about her column as well as suggestions for future columns from readers. She may be reached at scole@theguardian.pe.ca or by phone at 629-6000, ext. 6054.


If you are going

- What: Tartan Day concert.

- When and where: Sunday at St. John's Presbyterian Church, Belfast at 7 p.m.

- Admission: Tickets are $10 and available at the door.

- Organizers: It is sponsored by the Belfast Historical Society.