The Tune Makers
at St. Matthew's United Church,
Inverness, Cape Breton
(8 October 2005)

After a long ride through the rain, I arrived at St. Matthew's United Church to see that the place was packed and there was only standing room, so that's what I did. It was so worth it, though.

After an introduction by emcee Eric MacEwan, Phil Cunningham kicked off the show. Well, it wasn't really a kick -- more of a tap, actually, because he began by playing a lovely slow air. He explained that the Scots are only truly happy when they're absolutely miserable, so there are many slow airs written in Scotland and he had to show us one of his.

Fiddler Brenda Stubbert followed this and she really did kick off the show. Along with Mac Morin on the piano, she played an upbeat set of tunes that she had composed over the years. After saying she wasn't going to talk as much as Phil, she began with the "Goose Cove March," and followed it with "Willie Kennedy's" strathspey and some lively reels. Then, she played another blast of tunes of the same sort. Her sets represented the music of Cape Breton well and got the audience going.

Next up were Kinnon and Betty Lou Beaton, who got hugs from half the people on the stage as she walked to the piano. The Beatons began with a slow air that Kinnon wrote for a lady named Jane Anders, and followed it with some jigs that were composed by himself, his daughter Andrea, and his father. They were all wonderful and had the audience's toes tapping. Joella Foulds and Mac Morin must have enjoyed the traditional set they played, as well, because I could see them dancing to it through the backstage door.

After that, it was Ryan J. MacNeil's turn. He began with an air on whistle that he composed for his fiancee. Then, he "put the big noisemaker on" and he and Mac played his strathspey called, "King Cole's Boot," (written for a boot he lost in Sussex, New Brunswick) and followed it with a tune by Brenda and some reels. It was a great set of tunes and the audience was bouncing, again.

Following Ryan was Dougie MacDonald. This was a treat for me because he was the one Cape Bretoner in this show that I had never heard in concert before. His playing and his humor blew me away. He began with "a lot of tunes he doesn't know the names of," which were "written years ago when he had hair." Although he was vague with the titles, they were really great tunes.

Finishing the first half of the show was fiddler Jerry Holland, with Marion Dewer on piano. They began with the very popular "Boo Baby's Lullaby," a lovely waltz by Jerry. Phil provided some harmony on accordion. When they finished, they shared a story about the time Phil called Jerry to ask if he could use the tune on a recording. Phil had been making chili and just as Jerry answered the phone, he rubbed a seed into his eye, so all he could do was scream in pain. Jerry asked, "Did you call because you need help cursing, Phil?" After the hilarious story, Jerry finished with a blast of tunes that had the audience going.

After intermission, each performer played again. Phil began with another slow piece! This time, he and Duncan Chisholm and Kris Drever kicked into some reels after it, though, and it was great to hear some lively accordion playing.

Kinnon followed with a traditional Cape Breton set of tunes. Then, Jerry played a new tune that had no title yet (he asked for suggestions), and following that, Dougie joined him on a tune that they composed together. While this was happening, Phil was making the audience laugh and taking pictures of them from the stage. When it came to Brenda's turn to play, she first hit Phil for taking a candid picture of her and then excused him from the stage. Of course, he took another picture of her from the audience's view.

After all the jokes, she played her tune, "The Longest Night." It was a beautiful air that she had composed for a plane that crashed. Following her was Dougie, who played some reels, including "Rabbit Called Dinner," which was written for a stuffed animal that Jerry had given him when his son was born. When he asked Jerry if the rabbit had a name, he said, "Dinner." He joined Dougie for the last reel because it was another one they wrote together.

Last up was Ryan. Before his last set of tunes, Mac played a weird chord while he was tuning his pipes, so he asked him if he wanted to take a moment to tune the piano. When everything was in working order, they played a slow tune and a jig.

For the grand finale, everyone played a blast of tunes together. It began with a slow air and kicked into reels. It ended with "Silver Spear" and a standing ovation. This was a wonderful concert and I was happy that I had come.

by Kaitlin Hahn
3 December 2005