Remembering Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald,
Celtic Colours 2001
at the Octagon Arts Centre,
Dingwall, Cape Breton, NS
(11 October 2001)

Although Celtic Colours is well known for its plentiful concert venues, the festival is also host to a number of workshops throughout the week. One such workshop is held each year in memory of Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald, a well-known Cape Breton fiddler from the Dingwall area. This year's workshop was headed by Sandy MacIntyre and Don Brown, both of whom are musicians who came to share both music and friendship with the fiddling great.

The workshop lasted approximately two hours and consisted of tales and anecdotes of Fitzgerald, as well as a smattering of tunes which he was known to play. The small crowd was entertained by stories of Fitzgerald's first square dance, parties and dances in Toronto, travels throughout the country and his humour and wit until the day he died. Those who did not know Fitzgerald personally, like these men did, were able to get a sense of the kind of man who existed behind the music.

MacIntyre and Brown paint a picture of Fitzgerald as a selfless, giving man, infused with musical energy and a desire to share his music with others. He always wished to provide his audiences with the best possible music, refusing to play a tune in public until he knew it inside out and backwards. He was generous with his time and his talents and an eternal optimist. He had time for everyone, and loved the music, often continuing to play long into the night with friends and family. He was also the kind of low-key person who would absolutely spin in his grave at the thought of people having an event dedicated to him -- but, as MacIntyre and Brown indicated, he no longer has a choice, and his talents can be properly celebrated.

Workshops such as this one are a good experience for someone who is truly interested in music and musicians. One is given the chance to have a more intimate discussion with an artist and find out exactly what they want to learn. MacIntyre and Brown were more than willing to answer questions (although there were few) and gave the workshop's participants a good idea of what Fitzgerald was like as a person rather than simply a musician. With the addition of several sets and tunes that Fitzgerald used to play, it made for a well-rounded and informative afternoon.

To add to the informal atmosphere, Paul Cranford arrived early for a sound check for that evening's performance, and promptly joined in the discussion, playing a few tunes as well. The workshop ended up being rather like a regular day in a Cape Breton household -- friends dropping in for good tunes and good conversation, and discussing old friends. I would highly recommend events such as this workshop, as there is so much more opportunity for learning and discussion than in a concert-style setting. Getting to know the musicians makes their music just that much more enjoyable in the long run, and enjoying the music is what it's all about!

[ by Cheryl Turner ]
Rambles: 24 November 2001