‘Portals’ a musical treat in Sydney, Louisbourg

Cape Breton Post, Opinion, July 21, 2014

If you are looking for a musical treat this summer, for yourself or for your unexpected visitors from Walla Walla, Wash., the must-see-and-hear event of the season is “Portals” by Robyn Cathcart and friends (Matthew Campbell, Ross Hunter, Margaret MacPherson, Morgan Reid and Michele Stephens) playing at the former Holy Angels convent chapel in Sydney and at the Louisbourg Playhouse.

I chanced upon it quite by accident while shopping for my Celtic Colours tickets at the box office at what was once Holy Angels High School. I was led to it by way of a chat with the new janitor, Brian MacNeil, former janitor for Sacred Heart Parish. Brian, by the way, is an added jewel to the treasure which is the Holy Angels complex, now the New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation.

Brian is not only an excellent janitor, but the most personable of custodians, with a rich sense of the history of Sacred Heart, Holy Angels and Sydney’s north end. A great public relations asset for the centre!

Back to the musical event. With a cast of six top-of-the-line youthful performers who move easily back and forth from song to drama to a turn at the keyboard, you are seduced, in a too-short hour, by rich renditions of Gaelic laments, made vulnerable by poignant dramatizations of mine disasters, and brought to your feet by a rollicking version of “The Island.”

The production is a very compact musical history of Cape Breton, perfect for tourists, and super perfect for Cape Bretoners who want to indulge themselves, if ever so briefly, in their own musical tradition.

It is not like “The Rise and Follies” or “The Cape Breton Summertime Revue,” although I had the same feeling I remembered having at those wonderful productions of the past. Perhaps it is like a distillation of those past productions, more reflective and more compact, with an enriched development of the music.

By all means, enrich your own summer and check it out in Sydney or Louisbourg, and bring your friends from Walla Walla. See www.facebook.com/EnterleftProductions for more information.

Dan Doucet