2019 Friday’s Concert Under The Stars

Antigonish Highland Games

The line-up for the 2019 concert is coming together. The 2018 entertainment list is posted below. After the concert there will be a square set in the beer tent. These events are both included in the admission to the concert Under The Stars. Please remember after 9:00 pm those 18 and under are not permitted to attend where alcohol is served. Please join us for the Concert Under the Stars and the beer tent cèilidh .

Friday evening of Games Week has traditionally been set aside for The Concert Under The Stars. Local talent, singers, songwriters, fiddlers, highland dancers, choirs, step dancers show the incredible variety of local talent.

There is a singular beauty in a distinctive voice controlling haunting Gaelic songs. That is the feeling and sense when Abigail MacDonald is on stage. You simply want to listen! She was born and raised in St. Andrews, Antigonish County and grew up surrounded by Gaelic music and culture. We know her voice, her dancing, her guitar, and piano and you should know it as well. Come along Friday evening to understand the chatter about Abigail. She is the daughter of Brian and Jennifer MacDonald. When just 5 she began learning Gaelic. As Malcolm Gladwell wrote in Outliers, it takes 10000 hours of practice! Abigail has put in the time and is a “regular” guest at the Piper’s Pub Wednesday cèilidh. Did I mention she sings in Gaelic? Yes, I believe I did, but its worth repeating.  Abigail is thrilled to be a part of The Concert Under The Stars and the Games Committee is just that tickled she is with us this year.

Dara Smith-MacDonald, born and raised in Antigonish, with strong family roots in Inverness. Dara resides in Port Hawkesbury. Let’s just say she was drawn to the fiddle like a fish to water. She has been making feet tap and hands clap for more than 20 years with a bold, lively and traditional style. You’ve seen Dara at concerts, ceilidhs, and dances throughout Cape Breton. She has also played for many audiences on the mainland of Nova Scotia, in Prince Edward Island, Ontario and the United States. They could not help clapping hands, tapping their feet and some even dancing to the music in their seats! Its just impossible not to when she rosins the bow! She has performed for the Antigonish Highland Games, the Acoustic Roots Festival, Kitchenfest, the Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival and Celtic Colours. For the past 15 years, Dara has been teaching fiddle to students at St. Ann’s Gaelic College. As if that isn’t enough, Dara has many fiddle students in her home and she is also called upon worldwide via Skype. Dara is a musical director and a board member of the Cape Breton Fiddlers Association.

Bill and John Pellerin were born and raised in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. They often perform together. Bill started dancing when he was six and John at four. They were instructed by Margaret Dunn, the late Rev. Angus MacDonnell, Ellen MacPherson and Gary (MacPherson) Fiddler. Bill and John acquired a great wealth of music through family. Their father Kenneth has for a long time played fiddle for dances in the Antigonish area. Their maternal roots run deep through Cape Breton through their grandmother (a Beaton) from the Mabou Coal Mines. Dancing and fiddling has taken Bill and John to far and wide events in Canada, USA and Ireland. Both demonstrated their fiddle and dance alongside greats like Buddy MacMaster, Winnie Chafe, John Morris Rankin, Natalie MacMaster, and Ashley MacIsaac.

Sabra MacGillivray is one of Atlantic Canada’s leading ambassadors of Highland Dancing and Cape Breton Scottish step dancing. Originally from Antigonish, she was 5 when she began dancing under the direction of Janice MacQuarrie.  As an accomplished dancer she competed and performed in the award-winning MacQuarrie Dancers. As a member of this dance group, she performed with the musical production DRUM! She was invited to perform as a guest soloist at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Sabra’s talent was aptly demonstrated as a two-time world-finalist at the World Highland Dancing Championships in Dunoon, Scotland. At the World’s she placed 8th in the adult category and proudly wears the Cowal ring. She has champion titles as a highland dancer, is reputed as a step dancer and renown for her award-winning choreographer.

Sabra has performed and taught throughout the world continuing to share her love for dance, Celtic culture and tradition. She created an instructional step dancing DVD entitled “Gaelic in the Feet” and produced a CD with her brother, “National Dances” featuring Highland Dancing Music from Nova Scotia. Sabra has performed with her sister, Kendra and brother, Troy all of her life, most often as a dancer, or accompanying the fiddle on piano or bodhran. She has her own dance documentary entitled “Steps with Sabra” which is part of a Dance Atlantic series by New Scotland Pictures.

The Celtic Touch Dancers, Sabra’s dance school, has competed and danced on the local, national and international levels. Sabra is a Scottish Dance Teachers’ Alliance licensed teacher and Scotdance Canada member. Her troupe, “Celtic Touch Dancers” has been invited to perform across Canada, in Florida at Walt Disney World, and in Scotland. Her dance performing company always draws a large audience at The Celtic Colours International Festival.

Sabra lives in Creignish, Cape Breton, NS with her husband and daughter. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition (St. FX) and recently graduated with a Bachelor of Education (St. FX) after a 17 year career as a Registered Massage Therapist. In 2016, Sabra graduated from University of Limerick, Ireland as a Masters of Arts in Traditional Dance Performance with First Class Honors.

Ruby Janice MacDonald, the 5 year old daughter of Sabra MacGillivray and Iain MacDonald, started Highland dancing under the direction of her mother when she was 3 years old, and is a member of the Celtic Touch Dancers. She lives in Creignish, Cape Breton and attends Grade Primary in Port Hawkesbury. She loves Highland dancing and already has 31 medals, 4 of which are from Scotland when she competed there in 2017. She has recently started taking fiddle lessons as well as step dancing lessons, and also has a few Gaelic songs in her repertoire that she loves to sing. Ruby is very proud to carry on the tradition that her great-grandmother, Winnie and grandmother, Janice instilled in their children.

At the Games of ’18 we are excited to have our friend Stan Chapman back on the Friday night stage! Stan is a renowned fiddle player and teacher. At an early age he progressed through the Toronto Conservatory violin and music theory programs, with his interest in the fiddle tradition coming from his father and uncle, both fiddlers. Stan, a retired school music teacher, lives in Antigonish. He has taught the Cape Breton style of fiddling for close to 40 years, in private and group lessons.  Natalie MacMaster and Ashley MacIsaac were past students. Stan has directed the Cape Breton Fiddler’s Association and many youth groups in public performances. Stan has conducted fiddle workshops in Canada and the United States as well as having taught at the Gaelic College for many years. Presently a part time lecturer in Culture and Heritage at Cape Breton University in Sydney, he teaches a performance course in CB fiddling.


The Highland Games takes great delight in presenting Adam Young’s talented piano playing. Adam, from the French Road, tickles the ivories with a unique style showing depth, solidity, and a joyful forward motion creating a zest in the music. He was instrumental (pun intended) in creating and directing the Louisbourg Playhouse’s  popular music and comedy revue, Cape Breton Lyrics & Laughter, with over 350 performances since inception, 15 years ago. Adam regularly plays concerts, ceilidhs, square dances and musical sessions throughout Cape Breton. His talent has been showcased in Scotland, Ireland, across Canada and the United States. He can also be heard on recordings by Dara Smith-MacDonald, Colin Grant, Cape Breton Lyrics & Laughter, Eric Angus Whyte, Jason MacDonald and Marilyn MacDonald-MacKinnon.


Fiddler and step dancer Hailee LeFort from East Margaree, Cape Breton, started playing and dancing when she was 5. She began step dance lessons with dancer Melanie Murphy then began picking up steps on her own. Her fiddle lessons began with Chrissy Crowley when she was 8 years until 13. She also took lessons from Douglas Cameron and Kristen Shaw. Hailee began teaching at 15. She has played at the Normaway Inn, Margaree Valley; the Family Square Dances, West Mabou; the Cabot Public House, Inverness; and many local variety concerts. She has completed her first solo album at 21 featuring Ward MacDonald on piano and Brent Chaisson on guitar. Hailee is presently employed at St. Ann’s Gaelic College as an assistant KitchenFest coordinator.

Maureen Fraser’s dance school is on Route 7 just outside the town. She began her dancing at an early age with Margie Dunn. If there is a stage in the Maritimes Maureen has probably been on it. She has danced Breakfast Television on the ASN, in Celtic Colors 2008 with well known dancers, Mary Janet MacDonald, Minnie MacMaster and Jean MacNeil in a concert called “Mary Janet’s Bunch”, has adjudicated step festivals in PEI and was the director of the Antigonish Highland Games “Concert Under the Stars” from 2008-2013.  Her second Celtic Colours appearance was the 2010 “Close to the Floor” show. Maureen has been running her own dance studio for over 25 years. She has an annual showcase performance where her students shine. Maureen has familial ties to Cape Breton thru cousins Mary Janet MacDonald and Ian MacDougall (fiddle player) and is dedicated to passing on the tradition of Cape Breton step dancing. Maureen can often be found enjoying and dancing at the Sunday ceilidhs in Judique!

Sheumais MacLeod has been singing and songwriting on local stages for nearly 10 years. You may have heard Sheumais perform in the Ships of 1801 concerts. Several of his songs were performed in the shows. He has had the pleasure of sharing the stage with East Coast musicians J.P Cormier, Bruce Guthro and Dave Gunning. Sheumais was spotted recently in the Carol Ann MacKenzie directed, Everyone’s Way of the Cross at St. Ninian’s. Sheumais released his “Lost without You” album in 2010 at 14. In recent years he has been writing new music, and working towards several larger projects. On tonight’s “The concert Under The Stars” stage you will see why he is in constant demand as a performer.

Heather MacIsaac grew up in Antigonish and now works at the local hospital. She began playing music with piano at age 5, added bagpipes at 12, and for the past few years has been working on Irish whistles, accordion, and singing. She has played for many years with the 78th Highlanders Halifax Citadel Grade 1 pipe band and competed in professional solo competitions. Currently taking a break from competitive piping, but she can be heard each week at the local traditional music session at a local pub and at various community events.

The Grant School of Dance is under the direction of Shelley (Grant) Rovers of Antigonish. Shelley has been a highland dance instructor in the Antigonish Highland Dancing Association for over twenty five years.  Before starting her own Performance Group, Shelley was one of the choreographers for the highly acclaimed Scotia Highland Dancers.

Members of the Grant School of Dance have been Nova Scotia Champions, Atlantic Champions, and New Scotland Champions, with several being runners up in the Canadian and North American Championships.

The Current Travel Group consists of 13 local Antigonish premier highland dancers between the ages of 9 and 14 years.

The dancers have competed at the Nova Scotia Championships with several Grant dancers earning recognition as representatives on the Nova Scotia provincial team over the past two summers, including three Nova Scotia champions.  Two dancers were members of the former Scotia Highland Dance troupe, and they all have several years of choreography experience.

Recent accolades include the Highest Achievement 12 & Under Large Group award at the 2018 InStep competition in Sydney.  The Grant Dancers won a national bronze medal at the 2017 ScotDance Canada Championship Series in the small group age 13 and under choreography competition, and were silver medalists at the 2016 Atlantic Canadian Choreography Championship. The dancers have performed at various concerts and events throughout the Highland region of Nova Scotia and will be expanding their performance opportunities and travels with a trip in 2018 to perform on the Disney World international stage to represent the Maritime region.

The Grant Dancers Travel Group members are:  Emma Barrett, Karly Boyle, Allison Gilfoy, Reanne Jean, Adelaide MacDonald, Carmen MacMaster, Abby McKenna, Katie McKenna, Julia Murray, Ainslee Pictou, Jaelyn Rovers, Anna Silver, and Megan Smith.

Audrey Cochrane has been singing her whole life. She first began singing in the St. Ninian’s Children’s choir. She then sang in multiple New Glasgow music festivals. In 2014 and 2015, she sang and step-danced in The Ships of 1801’s production of “Strathglass Farewell” and “The Year of the Burning”. Throughout the years, Audrey has sung in numerous concerts. Audrey has also taken dance classes since she was 3 yrs old. She is currently taking courses at St.F.X. and is on the St.F.X. dance team.