In Rita MacNeil’s Cape Breton, the beloved songstress celebrates the island’s stunning beauty and unique musical heritage with special guests Jimmy Rankin, Ashley MacIsaac, Aselin Debison, North America’s only coal mining choir, Men of the Deeps, legendary gospel singer Mavis Staples, Canadian Idol’s Gary Beals and native ensemble, Sons of Membertou.
Rita was thrilled to work with some of her favourite East Coast artists. “I was so completely blown away by Jimmy when we sang together, that, except for the chorus, I just hung back and let him go,” she said. “What a voice. What a star!”
“All the guests brought something special,” MacNeil added. “Aselin has the voice of an angel and she’s only 16. Ashley is an original, a musical revolution unto himself - and Men of the Deeps tell us of the hardship they endured with every emotional note they sing.”
“The nighttime chants on that silent fire-lit lake of the Sons of Membertou are with me still,” continued MacNeil. “And, when we went to Arichat, even though many of the townspeople only speak French, they waited in line and packed the church to hear legendary gospel singer Mavis Staples who sang up a storm with Canadian Idol’s Gary Beals.”
Rita MacNeil’s Cape Breton was shot entirely on location including Mabou in Inverness County, home to the Rankin family; Plaster Rock in Iona; Ingonish; Neils Harbour; the historic Savoy Theatre in the coal mining town of Glace Bay; Rita’s famous tea room in Big Pond; one of Nova Scotia’s oldest communities, the French town of Arichat and the breathtaking Middlehead Peninsula, a conservation area surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean.
“I’ve done lots of shows with Sandra [Faire, Executive Producer of the special], and she always takes us to the most remote areas - like Middlehead Peninsula where we shot the opening,” said MacNeil. “To get there, you have to hike almost one mile by foot or helicopter in. Guess which one I chose,” joked MacNeil.
A native of Big Pond on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, Rita MacNeil is a legendary Canadian singer/songwriter. She is currently touring across Canada in support of her latest CD, Songs My Mother Loved.
Rita MacNeil’s Cape Breton is produced by Leopard Productions Inc. in association with CTV, with the assistance of the Canadian Film and Video Tax Credits and The Ontario Film and Television Tax Credits.