My Cape Breton Home,
Celtic Colours 2002
at the Judique Community Centre
in Judique, Cape Breton, NS
(14 October 2002)

A great line-up of musicians took the stage in Judique this evening and the musicians were having a whale of a time. Jerry Holland appeared amazed and overwhelmed at times by the concert that explored parts of his life in music.

As the evening passed in this little community, which is also the "Cape Breton Home" of Buddy MacMaster, Jerry slowly come to realize that this concert was indeed a sincere tribute to him from the musicians.

Paul MacDonald emceed, and he not only led the way through a roll call of many fine players, he played a spontaneous duo with Jerry. It was great but I couldn't pick one combination of players over another this night. Everyone was a pleasure to listen to. Dave MacIsaac also played with Jerry, as did Doug MacPhee, Marion Dewar, Hilda Chaisson-Cormier, Mary Jessie Gillis and Alan Dewar. Sometimes trios formed for numbers, sometimes solos; it was all the best of music.

The pace was fast and intense and Jerry Holland was on the stage almost all night. For a while I wasn't sure if Jerry or Paul was the emcee! It was a pleasure to see Jerry's face as he watched the performers come to the stage, play his music and tell stories of his travels with them. As the night progressed, you could see it slowly dawning on him, that, indeed, he had contributed to the musical expression of a great many performers. Originally from the Boston area, Jerry has made Cape Breton his home for many years and is one of the best composers of Cape Breton music ever.

I don't think it would have mattered if the audience was present or not, the night and the musicians were focused on him. On stage, he and the performers laughed and chatted, and of course, played a lot of music.

Jerry was most relaxed when he'd pick up his fiddle to play which I think he could do with his eyes closed, backwards, and in his sleep. He'd lift the fiddle, mention a couple of tunes, and shrug and say "I don't know what we'll play. We'll see." And he'd just begin playing with whoever was on the stage following his lead. He has a strong original style that flows firmly in the Celtic tradition with what, I think, are Irish-sounding flavours.

Doug MacPhee joined Jerry for a rich blast of sound. MacPhee always surpasses my expectations and tonight was no exception. Hilda Chaisson-Cormier took over the bench a few times during the evening. She plays with spritely movements adding a dash of Acadian zip to the stage and with her a fiddle-piano combination becomes a duet. That's not a criticism, but an observation and her playing this evening sure kept toes tapping. She's a delicate player with a powerful presence.

Jerry was joined by accompanist Marion Dewar and their playing was seamless.

From overseas, Frankie Gavin, an Irish fiddler, and, Brian McGrath, an Irish piano player, were able to change the pace a bit and give us a listen to some real Irish overtones. I thought I was hearing some music from the old silent movies, and sure enough when I read McGrath's write-up, one of his specialties is music from the '20s. Daniel Lapp from British Columbia made some amazing sounds with his fiddle and for variety added a horn number.

Danish players Malene Beck, pianist, and Tove de Fries, fiddler, played tunes they learned from Jerry's repertoire and five or six "wild vikings" (as Tove described them) arrived on stage with fiddles.

Near the end, the stage was really crowded with musicians, but they were all determined to get together to play Jerry's composition "My Cape Breton Home," and on the right hand side of the stage, Marion Dewar and Doug MacPhee both sat on the piano bench and shared the keyboard while Hilda and McGrath shared on the other side.

The concert was a long one, but the music was never repetitive, the musicians had great energy, and there was a mix of tradition and visiting music that should have pleased everyone. At times it felt like the visiting musicians were trying to give us a lesson in music with their intros. It was more easily and enjoyably done with their play. I think everybody had a good time tonight, audience included.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 11 January 2003