Wendy's World
at the Judique Community Center, Judique, Cape Breton
(8 October 2007)

Wendy MacIsaac and her crew came to the stage with laughter and friendship in Judique Monday night and produced a real Cape Breton concert for her audience.

Ryan J. MacNeil, Mairi Rankin, Jackie Dunn-MacIsaac, Patrick Gillis, Stephanie Wills, Glenn Graham, Ashley MacIsaac, Mary Jane Lamond and Tracey Dares were the main characters, while Willie Kennedy was the respected tradition bearer whom Wendy invited to the stage. His presence reminded all just how rooted the music is and how lucky we are that skills and techniques have been passed on through the years. In Wendy's case, Willie played an important part in her musical development -- and she now has international tours with Beolach and Mary Jane Lamond to her credit.

Emcee Bob MacEachern opened the show and reminded us that Wendy's musical heritage goes back many generations. Wendy and her fiddle settled onstage with Patrick on guitar and Tracey on keyboard -- and away they went. We heard "Skean Dhu," and a wonderful strathspey followd in the mix. The last reel in the set was "The Guns of the Magnificent Seven."

Wendy is a natural with the crowd. She's charming and funny. She introduced her young son to the audience and she had a lot of fun ribbing her cousin, Ashley, who settled into some lush, romantic music with Jackie accompanying on keyboard. He sounds like his own orchestra, his music is so rich, and he's an amazing musician. The lady sitting in front of me has opera glasses trained on Ashley as he played.

"Nancy's March" and "Sterling Castle" are two tunes they learned from lessons with Stan Chapman, played once again here, brightly and with sparkle.

Wendy shared her world with the audience as she told stories about her and Ashley's first fiddles and lessons, school days, her health, her friends and her family. The night was a round of musician after musician, duets and features, as the hall filled with music. Glenn and Tracey stepdanced, Stephanie picked up the pace with her fine set, Jackie wound out the pathos, Ashley played keyboard, Mary Jane sang Gaelic songs and gave Wendy a bit of her own right back.

The crowd was well behaved with lots of great toes and heels - no unruly clapping at the wrong times. (Just kidding about the unruly, it's enthusiasm.) The wooden floor was vibrating with the charge of 500 feet tapping. Wendy keyed for Willie Kennedy, who was cool on stage in an autumn-red jacket. He delivered some great sound and great moves, and there was one gorgeous tune that I simply absorbed but, unfortunately, can't name.

Wendy plays with Beolach and most of the group was here except for Mac Morin, who he was traveling with Natalie MacMaster. Wendy called him up on her cell phone, from the stage, to let him know what he was missing.

There was just way too much going on to give a whole play by play; Glenn with his lifting dance music was in high flight, Glenn and Patrick put together a beautiful slow tune, Mairi glowed as did her playing, Ryan J. MacNeil made his woodwinds sing. It continued into the night.

Wendy's show reminded us quietly, yet strongly, that performance itself is not the ultimate goal; it is reaching out, sharing culture and tradition. It's community, with performance simply a tool to enhance that.

And then there was the finale....

And then free tea and cookies....

And then on to sleep before the next event....

Or maybe not to sleep, 'cause the music continued somewhere.

(A practical note of interest to those who plan to attend next year: It's sometimes difficult to find a convenient food venue if you're driving a long way to go to a concert in a small village. To help make things more comfortable and accessible for concertgoers, the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre in Judique did a trial run and remained open 'til concert time on Monday and Thursday evenings last year, serving up a pub menu. This was a place to relax and grab a bite to eat or have refreshments before the concert started. The Community Centre venue is right next door they share a common parking area. It'll likely be a service offered again in the village during Celtic Colours 2008. Keep watch at www.celticmusicsite.com.)

review by
Virginia MacIsaac

9 February 2008

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