Just how much fun did Phil Cunningham have at the Celtic Colours festival?
“I had to go to the hospital for a smile-ectomy when I got home!” (Cape Breton Post 2002)
In my last blog I mentioned that the Celtic Colours International Festival will be bringing back some favourite performers from previous years. One of those is the brilliant Scottish accordion player & composer, Phil Cunningham, who first appeared at the festival in 2001.
Phil is well known for his days with the legendary band, Silly Wizard. However, his career since those days has seen him travel the world as a musician and television presenter. The body of his work has been honoured with an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the University of Sterling and he was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire.
His many visits to Cape Breton have endeared him to musicians, fans and festival volunteers. His musical ability is one aspect of the love that Cape Breton has for him. His beautiful composition, “The Colours of Cape Breton” is another.
Then there is that smile. A smile that says “I love my life and am so glad you are a part of it!” Phil clearly loves what he does and has a lot of fun doing it. His wonderful sense of humour and love of life invariably leads those who have met him to want to share a Phil story.
I am no different in that regard. The only difficulty would be just telling one. This story speaks to his generosity and childlike delight in making people laugh.
The Volunteer Drivers travel some 80,000 kms over the festival each year. Along with other volunteers and festival staff, folks get a little weary in the final days each year. On one such day some years ago, a large black American sedan (driven by Shetland's Davie Gardner) came around the corner of the festival office with the horn honking and trunk lid wide open. You can imagine the delight of these tired people when the car came more into view and there on their knees in the trunk playing a tune were Phil Cunningham and guitarist, Tony McManus! (who also appears at the festival this year)
Celtic Colours is known as an artist friendly festival and Phil has publicly commented on this point. In a 2002 interview with the Cape Breton Post he said, “I can’t wait to get there,” he said. “It’s such a great event from an artist’s point of view – no egos to contend with, just honest-to-God good fun with music at the heart of it. I really believe that if the artists are in that frame of mind, it can’t help but transmit itself to the audience and the end result is one big, happy festival.”
Phil will appear with Shetland fiddler and musical partner, Aly Bain. You can visit the Celtic Colours site to get a program and see what shows Phil & Aly appear in.