Gaelic Cultural Expression

In Nova Scotia, Gaelic culture continued to be passed on orally. Nova Scotia Gaels practised Ceilidh or visits to each other’s homes. Ceilidh served as informal schools where social and cultural skills could be shared amongst kin and neighbours. Gaelic storytelling and song in Nova Scotia were preserved by the Ceilidh tradition. Also, Gaelic music and step dancing have remained popular in Nova Scotia since Highland settlement, especially on Cape Breton Island. 

The Ceilidh – An institution for passing on our Gaelic traditions.

The foundations of Gaelic social expression have been based for centuries in a vigorous environment of oral transmission. An important vehicle of this has been the céilidh. Originally a céilidh meant a drop-in visit. The number of céilidh participants ranged from a few individuals to large numbers of neighbours.

Find out more about the céilidh tradition click here.

Gaelic Songs – An old tradition being kept alive in Nova Scotia

If you could walk back in time through rural Gaelic Nova Scotia, you would certainly be surprised to hear singing on the breeze coming from everyday people who unconsciously went about setting their chores and everyday lives to music. They naturally and effortlessly continued the old tradition. From their collective memory, Cape Breton Gaels sang songs that had been wonderfully honed by centuries of singers.  

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Music and Dance – A Celebration of Culture

Gaelic musical traditions flourished in Cape Breton throughout the 1800s largely due to the island’s geographic and linguistic isolation and the improved social and economic circumstances here. The musical traditions were highly conservative. Hundreds of traditional tunes were retained in Cape Breton as were hundreds more composed here. Much of the learning of style and of tunes was done by ear as many could not read music. This probably contributed to the strong influence that Gaelic language had on the music. As well as there being a variety of styles on the island, a fiddler or piper usually learned a tune and then “made it his own” by using his own ornamentation in playing, thus flavouring it to suit his taste and that of listeners.

To find out more about music and dance click here.