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Celtic band subject of Scottish Documentry

By Laurel Munroe - Cape Breton Post

A Scottish film company is hoping a hot young Cape Breton Celtic band will inspire Scottish schoolchildren to embrace their heritage.

MJW Productions Ltd. discovered Slainte Mhath on a trip to Cape Breton last fall, says the band's manager, Phil Dubinsky.

"They were here sort of prospecting, looking for an act to use for an educational project," he explains. "When they saw Slainte Mhath, they were blown away."

The company will travel to Cape Breton next week to film a workshop session and an all-ages show featuring the group.

The educational documentary Tartan Jam, aimed at 7-11 year olds, is being produced in co-operation with Channel Four films.

"It's to put Celtic music into schools, to educate kids that it's cool to know your heritage."

Next Thursday morning, the Scottish film crew will be on hand when Slainte Mhath's Ryan MacNeil, Boyd MacNeil, Bruce MacPhee, Lisa Gallant and Brian Talbot present a workshop at Sherwood Park Education Centre for music students from several local schools.

"We'll be showing our instruments and talking a bit about how we grew up with music all around us," says Ryan MacNeil. "We'll also talk about the oral tradition of passing down tunes."

The band will do some hands-on work with the students as well, in the form of square sets and step-dancing lessons.

Slainte Mhath's unique sound is achieved partially through the incorporation of a variety of unusual instruments, including Latin percussion and piper Bruce MacPhee's reel pipes.

"(The reel pipes) are sort of a lost instrument in Scotland," notes MacNeil.

At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, the band will perform a free all-ages show in the Sherwood Park gym. The event is open to the general public.

"It's been a while since we've played around here, so people will get to hear a few new numbers we've been working on," MacNeil says.

Slainte Mhath will spend the next few weeks on the road, with dates scheduled in and around southern Ontario and Quebec. Saturday, May 15, they will be home for a rare appearance, at Daniel's in Sydney.

A new CD is also in the works, with the band planning to head into the studio to begin recording sometime next month.


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