Intermediate & Advanced
Cape Breton Fiddle Workshop
with Buddy MacMaster
at the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre,
Judique, NS
(14 October 2004)

The Celtic Colours International Festival is not only entertaining, but also very educational. It supplements the wonderful concert series with a variety of workshops, so that people can learn more about what they are hearing and seeing. Today, I had the pleasure of attending one of the workshops in the little coastal town of Judique. It was a fiddle workshop taught by a master of the instrument and an idol of mine, Dr. Buddy MacMaster.

The workshop took place at the lovely Celtic Interpretive Center. I, unfortunately, was late getting there because the drive was about 20 minutes longer than I thought it would be but, luckily, I only missed part of the first tune that was being taught. When I got there, I was happy to see that about 20 people were there to learn from Buddy. I later found out that the student group consisted mostly of people from the States, but there were a couple locals, too.

After getting my instrument out and my recorder going, I started to pick up on the jig that was being taught. Buddy was playing it slowly so we could jump in on the parts we could figure out. After playing the tune straight a few times, he began to show us how to put ornaments in the tune. This is the most fascinating part to me, because it is what makes the tune sound like it's from Cape Breton and not some other Celtic nation. It is also interesting because almost every fiddle player ornaments the tune slightly differently from another, so to hear Buddy's interpretation was really neat.

The jig was followed by a typical Cape Breton medley. We learned a march, a strathspey and a reel in the key of A, of course. Now, if it was really typical, the medley would consist of three more strathspeys and five or ten more reels, but we only had two hours with Buddy so our time was spent on a few simple tunes -- enough for everyone to go home feeling like they had accomplished something that day. Buddy taught the tunes one at a time, and then had us put them together in a medley.

Buddy also took some time to play through some other medleys and show his stuff. This was my favorite part of the workshop. I am always happy to hear Buddy play because I am such a fan of his. Although Buddy is about to turn 80 years old on Monday, I can still see the "little boy" in him when he plays. His playing is still full of spirit and spunk. I only wish that I am still playing when I am his age. Another student asked him if he would be teaching during the festival next year, and he replied with a chuckle, "well, I guess if I'm still walking and talking...." That's what I like to hear. It was an honor to be in his class.

- Rambles
written by Kaitlin Hahn
published 13 November 2004

Visit the Celtic Colours website.