Sandy MacIntyre's Trip to Toronto
at St. Matthew's United Church, Inverness, Cape Breton
(10 October 2009)

This tribute to Sandy MacIntyre was a concert and more. The delight and appreciation for the man of the hour was evident from the opening moment to the final note. The venue at St. Matthew's in Inverness is a small, intimate setting, but the music was vast and vibrant.

Near the end of the show, Sandy MacIntyre told of how he left his Cape Breton home in 1955 to find employment. He told the audience, "If I couldn't be home, and I always wanted to be, I decided to extend the boundaries of Cape Breton and that's what I tried to do ... and now, you know, Ontario is part of Cape Breton."

Sandy and his wife Lucy are married 52 years. She's a home girl from Margaree, Cape Breton, so Sandy was surrounded today by sisters, brothers, sons, nephews, grandchildren, grandnieces and grandnephews and uncles-by-marriage. As well, a contingent from Ontario -- fondly known as Sandy's Army -- followed him all the way to Inverness.

With this in mind, it's not surprising that his family's music traditions are some of the strongest in Inverness County with MacDonnells, Beatons and MacIsaacs mixed in with the MacIntyres. In addition, Sandy taught at the Gaelic College. Former students and fellow instructors were on stage at this tribute. Without a doubt, even though the concert was one of the smaller venues, the musical choices and arrangements were all top quality.

Colin Grant on fiddle and Kimberly Fraser on keyboard opened the show with "some jigs, some of the first we learned from Sandy." After this, Kimberly remained and Colin was joined by fiddler Jeffrey Gosse. Jeffrey's music traditions also go back along way in the MacDonald "Long Johns" and O'Hanleys, including the noted composer, Dan R. MacDonald. This set was called the "Bow & Arrow Set," and it just got unbelievably better and better as the energy went up several notches on each additional tune.

In contrast, when Dawn and Margie Beaton emerged they slowed things down with a soulful air by Phil Cunningham called "The Gentle Light that Wakes Me." As their fiddles mournfully cried, moist cheeks and misty eyes filled the room. After this, Margie moved to the keyboard, Colin joined them and they started the next lively set with the "Golden Keyboard Jig." Everyone's gaze was riveted to the front where soft, warm light shone on the fiddles, the wooden walls and the players' bowed heads.

Next on stage were students and fellow instructors of Sandy's, Kimberly Fraser and Tracy Dares on fiddle and keyboard, respectively. This was an exercise in endurance for both, well done, and included tunes "The Sweetness of Mary," "Devil in the Dirt" and "a lot of strathspeys." Then Sandy came out to play with Jeffrey, and Tracy stayed on the keys. Sandy got right down to business and as he and Jeffery played, the audience anticipated every tune and were treated to a beautiful dance hall medley.

After the intermission, Sandy and Steeped in Tradition, his family band, filled the church to the rafters with music. They were "gonna play a slash of tunes" that started with "The Ewe With the Crooked Horn." Everyone in the band sounded so good. The bodhran, with Stephen MacIntyre, added a slightly military-band flavour at times, giving a special layer to the music. Mickey Andrews on steel guitar did some "Hawaiian" Celtic and tradition was honoured with folk songs from Brian MacInytre, Mary Jessie MacIntyre and Tom Leadbetter. Some young stepdancers joined the band on stage and Sandy himself got up to show his steps. They played as smooth as molasses and I can't imagine a more special afternoon with so many aspects of the music presented.

I'll leave you with one groaner from the show, via Kimberley Fraser via Sandy:

Why does a seagull fly over the sea instead of the bay?

If it flew over the bay, it would be a bagel.

You shoudda been there.

review by
Virginia MacIsaac

24 October 2009

what's new