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East Coast sound comes to stage of the Empress

The Cape Breton band Coig performs Saturday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. at the Empress Theatre.

The Cape Breton band Coig performs Saturday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. at the Empress Theatre.

Folks who are originally from the East Coast will feel like they’re “home” again Saturday at the Empress Theatre.
And if you’re not from the East Coast originally, you can find out what all the fuss is about when Coig takes the stage at 7:30 p.m.
“When we get going, the atmosphere becomes quite energetic, and fun,” Coig’s Darren McMullen said. “We’ve all honed our skills in pubs and dances back on the East Coast, so we welcome the chance to make a crowd let loose, sing, clap and stomp along.”
“We hope by the time we’re a few tunes in that the crowd feels as though they’re having a good time with some new friends on the stage.”
Coig’s concert is the latest installment in the Empress Theatre Society’s 2015-’16 Center Stage Series.
The Cape Breton band comes to Fort Macleod with a suitcase full of awards for its debut album Five.
That includes the Canadian Folk Music award for traditional album of the year, as well as awards from Music Nova Scotia and the East Coast Music Association.
Coig features McMullen on guitar, mandolin, mandola, banjo, bouzouki, whistles, flute and vocals, Chrissy Crowley on fiddle and viola, Jason Roach on piano and Rachel Davis on fiddle, viola and vocals.
The musicians were solo artists brought together for a promotional tour of the Celtic Colours International Festival, and immediately realized they had something special.
“We had a fantastic time on that tour, and at that point we had all played with each other in smaller duos and trios,” McMullen said. “This was the first time we had a chance to add it all together and see what the end result would be. The overall sound was that of a full band, and it was all so easy and natural.”
The musicians honoured other commitments as performers while getting together as Coig as often as possible.
Coig takes pride in their role in preserving and promoting the traditions behind their music.
“The music we do, while being alive for generations, has had its ups and downs,” McMullen said. “There was a time when there was a real risk of losing it altogether.”
Irish folk singing had a resurgence in Canada thanks to Tommy Maken, Liam Clancy and the Clancey Brothers, while Irish celtic instrumental music got a boost from bands such as Panxty and Bothy Band.
McMullen said the unique fiddling tradition of Cape Breton came close to dying out until a big push was made in the 1970s by acts like the Rankin Family and Natalie MacMaster who were able to make Cape Breton music known around the world.
“Today there are fiddle, piano and guitar players of all ages playing the music, and learning the Gaelic language on the island,” McMullen added. “For us, it’s important to be thankful for the efforts of those who came before us to keep the traditions alive.”
“It’s also important for us to do our part to help them stay alive and grow with each new generation of players and singers. While we have to have our own personality as a band, and explore our own interpretations of the music, it’s important for us to make sure the audience knows where it came from as well.”
Coig performs mostly instrumental celtic music, with some songs in English and Gaelic. The selections range from Gaelic melodies that date back hundreds of years to more contemporary songs from Ireland and Scotland.
Audiences learn the background to the songs and members of Coig let their individual personalities shine through.
Coig is working on another record to follow Five and a Christmas album.
“We have a good time at our shows and we hope the audience does too,” McMullen said. “Bring your funny bones and your toe-tappin’ shoes.”

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