At Barak Obama's second inauguration yesterday, American Idol star Kelly Clarkson added a poignant chapter to the storied annals of America's least offensive patriotic anthem, My Country 'Tis of Thee. Seventy-four years ago, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let Marian Anderson perform at the association's Constitution Hall in Washington because the celebrated contralto was African-American. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned her DAR membership in protest, and weeks of controversy ensued. On April 9, 1939, 75,000 people turned out to hear Anderson sing at an outdoor Easter Sunday recital on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Interior Secretary...

The following death notice appeared in Cape Breton yesterday. Joseph Peter MacLean Hello, if you are reading this I am gone from the earth. I am here with my parents Charlie and Katie (Campbell) MacLean, also my baby sister Mary Margaret is here too. I never had a chance to know her on earth as she died when she was one and a half years old. I lived for 67 years, it was a good life. I enjoyed playing music and speaking my beloved Gaelic — my native tongue. I played with the Boisdale Trio, the Cape Breton Fiddlers Association, made a CD,...

Cartoonist Kate Beaton has momentarily lapsed into prose, with a story about the Canso Causeway in a new Alberta-based literary magazine called, fittingly, Eighteen Bridges. I once watched a travel show where Billy Connolly, the Scottish entertainer, journeyed across Canada. In Halifax, he expressed a distaste for the whooshing tartans, skirling pipes, and other superficial expressions of Scottishness, which he deemed tawdry and inauthentic. It was disheartening, because if he really wanted authenticity, he could have just called me up. I would have recited one of those tragic old Gaelic songs that have been a Cape Breton staple ever since Authentic Scottish...

"Will it hurt your Celtic Colours," asks Sydney-born slide-guitarist John Campbelljohn, with more than a hint of sourness, "If I paint them blue sometimes?” Rev. Greg MacLeod has long argued that the genre we think of as Cape Breton music is not simply warmed over Celtic, but an amalgam of styles rooted in Scotland but also reflecting the Central European, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, and Jewish immigrants who flocked here in the early 20th Century, when the opening of the steel plant triggered a coal mining boom. Here's the latest entry in the Not-Just-Celtic roster, courtesy of a three young Capers, Kyle Mischiek,...

Joan MacDonald (in red pajamas at left) starred as an increasingly cranky Bethlehem innkeeper deprived of sleep by the continuous nocturnal arrival of pregnant guests, angels, shepherds, kings, and ultimately a baby in l'Arche Cape Breton's annual Christmas pageant, this year titled, "One Night at the Inn." The musical troop played to an appreciative crowd at the Strait Area Education and Recreation Centre in Port Hawkesbury Sunday afternoon. Coralee MacDougall (seated, centre) played Mary....

Meet Juan Manuel "Bebi" Chavez, 19-year-old cellist with the Lanfillharmonic Orchestra, Cateura, Paraguay: This cello was made from an oil can, and wood that was thrown away in the garbage. The pegs are made out of an old tool used to tenderize beef. This was used to make gnocchi. Like the Facebook group here. A longer version is here. H/T: Jenn Power....

This show is not to be missed. It's rare for a single event in Atlantic Canada to bring together so many outstanding blues musicians from here and away. Organizers Katey Day and Bearly's mainstay Richard Stephenson hope to make it an annual event, and I hope they succeed....

The much admired Cape Breton musician Carmen Townsend holds the cherry red, 1965 Guild Starfire guitar that was stolen, along with three others, from the trunk of her car in a break-in last night on Willow Street in Halifax. Townsend, who performs as a soloist and also with such bands  the Tom Fun Orchestra and Motorleage, has owned the Guild since she was 19. "It is my baby," she writes in a Kijiji ad seeking its return. "I am crushed." Everyone who experiences a break-in or a burglary feels violated, but the theft of a struggling musician's tools of the trade is a...