Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Connecting Family and Gaelic Culture

Sisters, and recent Talent Trust scholarship recipients, Abby and Ella Hanson share their thoughts on culture, family and community.

Question: What are your earliest memories of Gaelic culture in your family or community?

Ella and Abby: “We’ve always loved going to visit relatives in Cape Breton and, during the summer of 2014, we decided to go to the Gaelic College for a weeklong summer camp. While we were there, we took fiddle lessons and Gaelic language class and we began to talk more in our family about our own Gaelic ancestry. Because we loved spending time at the College so much, it was a natural progression into taking more intensive Gaelic immersion courses in addition to fiddle, step-dance, piano accompaniment, and Gaelic song lessons. We spend most of our vacation time in St Ann’s, whenever classes, events, and camps are held”

Question: What program/s are you participating in this summer and how has it been adjusting to studying online during the global pandemic?

Ella and Abby: “We know that all of the camps that we were going to be involved in this year both in Cape Breton at the Gaelic College and in Boston at the Boston States Fiddle Camp are going to be online, but details are still being worked out. Because of having to stay at home, we are going to be continuing with our weekly online fiddle lessons with mentor and teacher Wendy MacIsaac; Ella will also be doing step dance lessons and Abby is going to continue taking piano accompaniment online with performer Mac Morin and Gaelic song lessons with performer Cathy Ann MacPhee. For both of us, as it is for most people, giving and taking online lessons has been challenging but we are grateful that we can at least have something available.”

Question: How is it to study together as sisters?

Ella and Abby: “Sometimes challenging because we have completely different personalities when it comes to practice and performances, but also great because you always have someone to share the experiences with.”

Question: Why do you feel it is so important to share your culture with your community?

Ella and Abby: “We love knowing that we’re a part of such a unique and amazing community of people. Like members of any culture, we are proud of our language, history, music, and traditions and want to share with others; it is so important to learn from one another in order to understand and appreciate what we have in common and what is special about our differences. The Gaelic community is ensuring that their culture and language not only survives but is growing and thriving. Because of connections with the Gaelic College, Gaelic Affairs, and the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia, we feel like we have an integral part to play. It’s also fun to visit with elementary school kids and introduce them to what it means to be a Gael in Nova Scotia today!”

Abby and Ella Hanson are teenage sisters from Dartmouth with strong ties to Cape Breton and the Nova Scotia Gaelic community. They perform together in the traditional Cape Breton/Scottish Gaelic fiddling tradition; Ella also stepdances and Abby sings traditional and contemporary Gaelic songs. The sisters are partners in their business “Up With Gaelic” and have given Gaelic Culture demonstrations and presentations to community associations, government groups, educators, and over 5000 elementary students in the HRM and surrounding areas.

Ella's and Abby's Performances and Social Media links

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