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Celtic Colours Festival, Savoy Theatre, Cape Breton
Review by Sue Wilson, The Scotsman **** (4 Stars)

A MAJOR highlight of this year's Celtic Colours programmer was the premiere of Full Circle, a hands-across-the-ocean collaboration composed and created by Phil Cunningham for the Cape Breton Chamber Orchestra, plus local and Scottish soloists. The piece comprised a mix of newly-written Cunningham originals with vocal numbers drawn from the contemporary Cape Breton songbook, orchestrated for the occasion by islander Scott Macmillan, who also featured on guitar. Besides Cunningham on accordion and whistles, the other solo chairs were occupied by Wolfstone fiddler Duncan Chisholm and Orcadian guitarist Kris Drever, while home-grown stars Bruce Guthro - best known as lead singer with Runrig - and Raylene Rankin shared the singing honours.

Although the resulting musical college may have lacked somewhat in overall cohesion, any such quibbles were easily outweighed not only by a tremendously happy sense of occasion but by a wealth of memorable music. Cunningham needs no introduction as a writer of sparkingly beautiful tunes, which were complemented here equally by excellent lead performances - especially from Chisholm, in a couple of gorgeous slow airs - and Macmillan's sure-handed arrangements. The latter were also richly in evidence when Guthro and Rankin took turns at the mike, with the winning contrast between his ruggedly grainy delivery and her exquisitely dulcet tones, in a selection of powerful folk-pop ballads, underlining the diversity of talent fostered by Cape Breton's unique blend of traditions.

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