The Beatons of Mabou
at the Judique Community Centre,
Judique, Cape Breton
(10 October 2005)

There are always concerts that touch a special chord with locals during Celtic Colours, and this was one of them. If the music pleases the locals, you can be pretty sure guests in Cape Breton will enjoy it as well. That's how it went when some family members of the late fiddler and composer Donald Angus Beaton of Mabou played in the Judique Community Centre during Celtic Colours 2005.

Having the concert in Judique turned out to be a comfortable fit, and it opened with some rousing good tunes. Then emcee Bob MacEachen talked about the late Donald Angus Beaton, using the words "exquisite timing" and "wonderful dance music." This fiddler-composer was a musician of note on Cape Breton Island, and was husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather to musicians on stage. (I'll tell you about the concert first and look at the family ties later.)

The music tonight was a tribute to the influence of Donald Angus and a wonderful expression of thanks for lessons learned. He raised a vibrant musical family and they share a high standard of musical discipline and craftsmanship in the island tradition, yet each musician on stage displayed a strong individual style.

Fiddlers Rodney MacDonald and Glenn Graham with piano players Mary Graham and Betty Beaton showed their trademark strong bowing and rhythmic body style by opening their set with a slow air but before long they were into the knee shifters. And then they really began to grind the music into the wool tartans and the wooden ribs of the building. Guitarist Patrick Gillis, who became "Patrick Beaton" just for this night, joined in.

Andrea Beaton led off her set with a patient quietness in the first two tunes -- and then she let go. Heel and toe, she got going as only she can do, and she had the biggest shiver factor of the evening. She plays like she is: fun-loving, sincere and hearty. For the first time, I saw a bit of Buddy MacMaster in Andrea's playing, just a bit of something physical in the way she moved and concentrated.

There was so much talent here tonight. Andrea and Glenn played while Rodney step-danced. A few people stood up in order to see his feet. It was a full house and a little hard to view the floor of the stage, but the crowd was appreciative and right into the music. "Pretty nifty," said Mary Jane Tracy, who had stepped over to the side to watch. That's worthy praise in Cape Breton.

A list of tunes included "Donald Angus Beaton's Lament," "Bog an Lochan," "Fr. Donald Michael Rankin's March," "Beaton's Delight," "Carl Beaton's Reel," "Tamarack 'er Down," and a set of John Morris Rankin's tunes including "Sally Rankin's Reel," "Way to Mull River" and "Weasel Reel." (John Morris grew up listening to Donald Angus's playing.)

Kinnon Beaton told of a time when he was younger, learning tunes, and he said to Donald Angus, "There's something wrong with that tune." It was "Tamerack 'er Down," Kinnon said to the crowd, " and if you know my father, he set me straight." Donald Angus was quick to let Kinnon know there was nothing wrong with the tune and he should know, as he had written it. Elizabeth Beaton accompanied Kinnon on the wonderful set.

There was some interesting piano/keyboard with Andrea and Betty Beaton opening a set after intermission, with Kinnon joining in for a pretty powerful set of tunes. Betty, a treasured accompanist, did a solo number, even though she doesn't like doing them. Mary Graham accompanied Rodney on a smart set of tunes and stepdanced later on.

Allison Beaton stepdanced and entertained with the spoons and debuted on the keyboard. Glenn took the guitar out and jigged a little mouth music, and Kinnon did a shift on the mandolin.

Getting back to regular business, Kinnon and Andrea played "a blast of dance tunes." Kinnon was rock solid, Andrea was animated and Betty's fingers flew across the keys.

The night ended with Bob inviting more of the family up on stage, and they come from the audience to finish off with a smooth-flowing square set. They could probably do it with their eyes closed.

It was fun, a satisfying night. The hall wasn't too crowded, and for those who had no kitchen to go home to afterwards on this windy, dark evening, a light tea was offered by the ladies in Judique, gratis.

A guide to featured players' family ties: Elizabeth Beaton, piano, wife of Donald Angus, lives in Mabou; Kinnon Beaton, fiddle, son of Donald Angus, lives in Long Point; Betty MacMaster Beaton, piano, wife of Kinnon, Judique native, lives in Long Point; Andrea Beaton, fiddle, daughter of Kinnon and Betty, lives in Judique; Allison Beaton, piano, daughter of Kinnon and Betty, lives in Long Point; Mary Beaton Graham, piano, daughter of Donald Angus Beaton, lives in Judique; Glenn Graham, fiddle, grandson of Donald Angus, son of Mary Beaton and Danny Graham, lives in Judique; Rodney MacDonald, fiddle, grandson of Donald Angus, son of Elizabeth Anne Beaton and Alex Angus MacDonald, lives in Mabou.

by Virginia MacIsaac
31 December 2005