A brief calm before the musical storm

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Artists, industry reps arrive for ECMAs

ECMA-nominated Newfoundland and Labrador musician Allan Ricketts stops at the front desk of the Delta Hotel in Sydney Thursday evening, as Andrew Doyle, Carmel Mikol and Jason MacDonald perform nearby on the ECMA Radio stage. Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/

Sydney, Cape Breton -

The Dash 8 from Halifax to Sydney came down through an on again, off again snow that eventually turned to freezing rain and then back again. The wind was constant, though.
As the luggage started to go around the conveyor, it became obvious this was not the normal Thursday at the Sydney airport. Instrument cases were almost as plentiful as the pieces of rectangular black luggage.
It is the mark of opening day at the East Coast Music Awards (ECMAs) and Conference.
Allan Ricketts grabbed his banjo case off the belt and began the search for a cab. Ricketts is based in St. John's and is nominated for an East Coast Music Award in the category of Roots/Traditional Solo Recording of the Year for "Rivers."
Throughout the day, musicians and other industry members were stopping at the Delta Hotel, the hub of activity for this year's regional meeting, to register at a table beside a hotel ballroom.
Sound spilled out each time the ballroom door was opened, from the first of the conference's musical sets.
Daylight Thursday was a time for brief greetings and reunions. and the calm before the storm, as musicians disappeared upon arrival, to relax in preparation for a weekend of schmoozing, workshops and showcases.
The break won't be long. The Once and country duo The Keats were set to perform the same night at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre.
Meanwhile, The Novaks were part of a campus kickoff concert at Cape Breton University and, at the Capri Cabaret, Karla Pilgrim and The Navigators were playing concerts into the wee hours of the morning (the Navigators would only take the stage to start their set at 12:30 a.m.).
As the sun went down, already on their shift on transportation of delegates from one venue to another, John Kennedy (he smiles knowingly as he introduces himself) and fellow Kiwanis Club of Cape Breton, Golden K, member Clarence Seward waited just inside the main doors of the Delta, not far from ECMA radio table.
The men are local volunteers and said there is a marked difference in the feeling around Sydney now the East Coast Music Awards weekend is finally here.
"It's very exciting and there's a lot happening," Kennedy said.
They know some of the Newfoundland and Labrador performers, but said Cape Breton's music would blow everyone away at the awards gala Sunday.
"This is the Nashville of Canada for Celtic music," said Seward.
And their favourite sound? The fiddle.
"Do you realize every family on Cape Breton Island - somebody can play a fiddle. Really. It's our trademark," Seward said.
For an example of the fiddle fervour, look no further than the big fiddle.
"The Big Ceilidh Fiddle," created by steelworker Cyril Hearn, stands 16 metres high. It was raised in 2005 on the Sydney waterfront, near the government wharf and has been an attraction ever since.
Whether or not Newfoundland and Labrador's musical acts can draw attention away from Cape Breton's fiddlers as they hit the stages in Nova Scotia remains to be seen.
Look for coverage on overnight events at the ECMAs online at www.thetelegram.com.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Roots, Delta Hotel, Membertou Trade and Convention Centre Cape Breton University Kiwanis Club of Cape Breton

Geographic location: Sydney, Cape Breton Island, Halifax St. John's Newfoundland and Labrador Nashville Canada Nova Scotia

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