Salute to the Cape Breton Fiddler
at Strathspey Place, Mabou, Cape Breton
(18 October 2008)

Salute to the Cape Breton Fiddler is a presentation written by Ron MacInnis that includes fiddlers from the Cape Breton Fiddlers' Association, narration and a video presentation, along with live performances by established and upcoming musicians. MacInnis was the famous -- or, in some minds at times, the infamous -- creator of the television documentary Vanishing Cape Breton Fiddler, first broadcast in 1971, which touched off a resurgence of local fiddle traditions.

Ron sat on a stage set like a living room and told the musical story to his young grandson. As the history progressed, musicians played complementary music to develop an idea or attest to the memories shown by photos on a backdrop.

Ron spoke with Sheldon and Frank MacInnis about how the fiddling festival in Glendale developed after the original documentary was broadcast. Theresa MacLellan, Joey Beaton, Kinnon Beaton, Betty Beaton, Andrea Beaton and Glenn Graham all played in support of the story as Ron shared the development and the context of the times the musicians found themselves in.

Eddie Rogers, Stan Chapman, Fr. Francis Cameron and the player of players Doug MacPhee were more examples of the quality of players of our time who played that afternoon. The young players were no doubt encouraged by the experience and expertise of the players they rubbed shoulders with on stage that day.

It was a pleasant, casual afternoon, with old video footage and photos causing ripples of laughter or a tear or two. Andrea Beaton spoke about what made the music so special. For instance, her grandfather Donald Angus Beaton was said to "strathspey his reels."

This was an afternoon of reminiscing, learning and sharing, depending on your age. There weren't 100 fiddlers on stage, as in the 1973 gathering, but there was a fine, large showing and a pleasant set that created new fiddling memories for the young players. It's something that many people wanted to revisit and the multi-media format maintained interest and covered a lot of ground. It was a special way to show the roots of music development in Cape Breton over the last 30 years, and not least of all, aspects of Celtic Colours itself.

review by
Virginia MacIsaac

30 May 2009

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