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Cape Breton group Beòlach earns four ECMA nominations thanks to latest album

It only took about 16 years to come up with their third album but the members of Beolach are getting plenty of recognition for it from the East Coast Music Awards and the Canadian Folk Music Awards. From left to right are Matt MacIsaac, Mairi Rankin, Wendy MacIsaac and Mac Morin. CONTRIBUTED
It only took about 16 years to come up with their third album but the members of Beòlach are getting plenty of recognition for it from the East Coast Music Awards and the Canadian Folk Music Awards. From left to right are Matt MacIsaac, Mairi Rankin, Wendy MacIsaac and Mac Morin. CONTRIBUTED
SYDNEY, N.S. —

It took about 16 years to come up with their latest album but for Beòlach (Bee-Oh-Luck), it’s been a worthwhile effort.

The third release from the internationally respected Celtic group received four nominations from the East Coast Music Awards Association Tuesday, following two nominations from the Canadian Folk Music Awards in December. The ECMA nominations were for best instrumental album, roots traditional album, group recording and fans choice entertainer of the year.

“It’s really nice to come around full circle and make an album that we are just super proud of, in the midst of this crazy COVID,” said fiddler and step dancer Mairi Rankin. “Our mandate was to keep one foot rooted in tradition and then pushing it a little bit, not anything too out there but just seeing what newer arrangements we could come up with using the old tunes. 

“It’s definitely something that we couldn’t have done without Mike Shepherd who was our engineer and editor. He’s one of the best to work with in every sense of the word. He’s calm, he’s efficient, he’s a riot.”

He’s also a fellow nominee, receiving a nomination for studio engineer of the year. They, along with artists and music industry professionals from Cape Breton, scored at least 23 nominations in this year’s upcoming East Coast Music Awards, to be held in Sydney, May 5-9. 

Maxim Cormier is up for two ECMA awards. CONTRIBUTED
Maxim Cormier is up for two ECMA awards. CONTRIBUTED

 

Although the nomination announcement was supposed to held in Sydney Tuesday, it was held as a virtual event from Halifax on Facebook and YouTube due to provincial restrictions announced Feb. 26 limiting travel from Halifax due to COVID-19 concerns.

“We were really looking forward to reconnecting with everybody,” ECMA CEO Andy McLean told the Cape Breton Post before the press conference. “There was going to be opportunity to meet with some of the stakeholders and then the announcement on Friday happened. And since then, I just didn’t want to risk bringing my whole team up to Sydney from Halifax. So we’ve been scrambling like crazy because everything now has to be online.”

The virtual press conference went smoothly with appearances from McLean, CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall and a performance from Keith Mullins and Isabella Samson.

Cape Bretoners receiving nominations included Beòlach with four, Mike McKenna Jr. with three, Maxim Cormier with two, SHiFT FROM THA 902 with two, Celtic Colours International Festival with two, Jamie Foulds with two, and one nomination each for Hauler, Jordan Musycsyn, Lakewind Sound Studios, Launch Media, Mike (Sheppy) Shepherd, Norma MacDonald, Pretty Archie and Soundpark Studios.

Overall, Classified led the nominations with eight while Rose Cousins followed with six. Beòlach, Catherine MacLellan, David Myles, Neon Dreams and Rich Aucoin each had four.

Nova Scotia scored 94 nominations in total, New Brunswick had 39, Newfoundland and Labrador had 35 and Prince Edward Island scored 25.

SHiFT FROM THE 920 received two nominations from the East Coast Music Awards on Tuesday including best Indigenous artist and best Rap-Hip-Hop recording. CONTRIBUTED
SHiFT FROM THE 920 received two nominations from the East Coast Music Awards on Tuesday including best Indigenous artist and best Rap-Hip-Hop recording. CONTRIBUTED

 

For SHiFT FROM THA 920, who grew up in We'koqma'q First Nation, said his two ECMA nominations were proof that his music was becoming better known throughout Atlantic Canada.

“It’s always great to be recognized for your music and also getting my first nomination outside of the Indigenous category and getting my first hip hop/rap recording of the year (nomination) for my project, 'This Ones For You,'” he said.

“I just hope to be able to take home one of them and be able to share it with my community, my family and my friends.”

For Sydney musician Jordan Musycsyn, the nomination is a bright light in what has been a dark year with many performers kept off stage because of COVID-19 restrictions.

"I'm thrilled to be nominated for an ECMA," said Musycsyn. "It's been a trying year for the music community for sure but we have managed to stay connected and creative through it all and the ECMAs are a reflection of that."

For Sydney musician Jordan Musycsyn, the nomination is a bright light in what has been a dark year with many performers kept off stage because of COVID restrictions. CONTRIBUTED
For Sydney musician Jordan Musycsyn, the nomination is a bright light in what has been a dark year with many performers kept off stage because of COVID restrictions. CONTRIBUTED

 

In addition to the nominations, several other announcements were also made. The Children’s Entertainer of the Year category has been brought back and all showcase submissions have been made free. As well, fees have been reduced to all award applications to $15 per award and a $20 flat fee for applications to the Export Buyers Showcase program. A new submissions platform that provides a better online experience was introduced and some new awards that address shifts in the industry were introduced. There will be a new African Canadian Artist of the Year Award and the annual Bucky Adams Memorial Award will be now designated as an honorary award. New board members, Delvina Bernard, Patricia Bourque and Eva George, were also announced to build within marginalized communities.

Tuesday’s press conference focused mainly on the nominees but further announcements including showcasing artists and conference details will be unveiled in the upcoming weeks. Many of the main events, including the awards show and main concerts, will be held at Centre 200 while the conference and the international export side of things will be held about 70 per cent virtually. 

McLean says while the pandemic has made organizing the ECMAs more challenging, it won’t stop his organization from putting on the best event possible.

“We’re so excited to come there, we really are,” he said. “It will be fantastic if we can pull this off. It will provide so much positivity and inspiration on this side here that we can find a road back for live music. 

“One thing about the pandemic is that people will come out realizing just how important music is. They really will.“ 

Elizabeth Patterson is a culture and health reporter at the Cape Breton Post. 

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