Musical Collaboration

Carmel Mikol and Otis Tomas collaboration celebrates festival’s 5th Anniversary

This fall the Cabot Trail Writers Festival is celebrating its 5th Anniversary by commissioning an exciting musical collaboration. Renowned local musicians Carmel Mikol and Otis Tomas will create five original pieces of music based on literary works from previous Festivals. They will debut the music at the Festival’s Opening Gala, Friday October 4th, at the North River Hall in Cape Breton.

Carmel Mikol is a rising young star in the burgeoning Americana music scene. In 2010 she won the folk category in both the Great American Song Contest and the International Singer Songwriter Awards Song Contest, and was a triple nominee at the 2011 East Coast Music Awards for her debut album “In My Bones”. Carmel has toured extensively and wowed festival audiences across Canada and the US. She recently released her ‘live off the floor’ CD “Creature” and a companion book “Creature of Habit”. A true original, Carmel adds her own special twist to the folk tradition, whether she is tackling thorny political issues or delving into her own heart with searing honesty.

Otis is a celebrated North River luthier, composer and musician. His “Fiddletree” concerts were highlights of the 2009 and 2012 Celtic Colours International Festivals. Otis is also a talented wordsmith and photographer, as shown in his 2011 book “The Fiddletree”. Although Otis has deep roots in traditional Celtic music, his compositions are an eclectic blend of original fiddle tunes, gypsy jazz and musical whimsy.

Carmel and Otis may come out of different musical traditions, but they both have deep roots in North River. Carmel grew up just down the road from where Otis still has his home and workshop. A natural-born musician, Carmel was already crafting songs and poetry when she was still a child ‘running around the horse barn’ with Otis’s daughter. Now an accomplished musician in her own right, Carmel feels honoured to work with Otis as a creative peer.

Their creative collaboration begins with Carmel digging into the big stack of books by Festival authors and reading “with no intention. I wait for a word, image, sentence, idea, or character to strike me … then let it stew in my brain for a few days or weeks. The next time I sit at the piano or guitar, I bring it forward in my mind and try to write something with that central image or idea.” Carmel sends her lyrics and song ideas along to Otis, who responds with original tunes and instrumentation that might be a good fit. Over the summer the musicians will work together to fuse these creative elements into five cohesive works. Carmel and Otis will then perform these five original works at the Opening Gala. You won’t want to miss this exciting musical premiere.

by Sue McKay Miller