Songs, Tunes & Stories
at Bras d'Or Community Hall,
Bras d'Or, Cape Breton
(10 October 2005)

I made it to the Songs, Tunes & Stories concert early and took a seat in the second row. I couldn't wait for it to start because the line-up was fantastic: David Francey, Brenda Stubbert, Kimberley Fraser, Darrell Keigan, Joe Derrane and the Boston Edge. Needless to say, I was pretty excited about this one.

After the lights dimmed and the audience hushed, Darrell took the stage. He was doing double duty as emcee and a performer for the evening. After a couple of witty jokes, he sang a Scottish folk song for the nearly full house. It was a great way to begin the show.

Then, he introduced David, who came onto the stage and said, "Thanks for lettin' me on the island without a fiddle!" After a roar of laughter, he sang his song called "Waking Hour." He explained that he used to be a construction worker before he was a performer, so some of his songs came from that experience. His next song was about an experience he had while stuck at a bus station. It was called "Ankle Tattoo," after a beautiful girl he saw there who had an unnecessary tattoo on her ankle, considering how pretty she was. He also sang a song called "Come Rain, or Come Shine," which he wrote for his wife, Beth. It was about the eight-hour drive he used to make from Quebec to see his wife, then-girlfriend, before they were married.

I enjoyed David's performance. His songs are very pleasant to the ears and he has a wonderful sense of humor. He ended by saying, "Enjoy the rest of the evening. There are lots of fiddles ... you'll love it." Then he sang a song with the common story of leaving Cape Breton to find work. This earned explosive applause and a standing ovation.

Next up was Kimberley, with Brenda on piano and Paul MacDonald on guitar. She began with a set of lively jigs, which brought "Cape Breton hisses" from the audience. For those of you who have never been to Cape Breton, a hiss is the equivalent of a good, loud "Woohoo!" which she earned throughout her performance. After that, she played a nice, long Cape Breton set. It began with "Niel Gow's Lament for the Death of... well, somebody who died," as she put it (sometimes the titles are longer than the tunes!). This was followed by some rousing tunes, including "Tullochgorum" and "The Mason's Apron" with variations. Now, some people might say I'm biased, because Kimberley is a good friend of mine, but after seeing this performance, and some performances last year, I can honestly say that she is probably the best up-and-coming fiddler from the island today. The audience seemed to agree. They clapped in the middle of her sets and, like David, she got a standing ovation.

Brenda must have agreed as well, because she began her set by saying, "Now, how am I supposed to follow that?" But, she did, and did it well. After switching places with Kimberley, she too began with some original jigs. Then, she played a beautiful air, "The Longest Night," that she wrote for a plane that crashed off the coast of Peggy's Cove some years ago. This was followed by a march, the strathspey "Devil in the Kitchen" and some fun reels that earned more applause from the audience before she was even finished playing them. After that, Brenda played another long Cape Breton set, and her daughter, Tracy, took the stage and blew the audience away with her dancing. It was a great way to end the first half of the show and it got yet another standing ovation!

After the intermission, David sang a couple more songs, including one with the stage manager. Then, he brought Joe Derrane and the Boston Edge to the stage. This band is stellar. Along with Joe were 10-time All-Ireland champion Seamus Connolly on fiddle and U.S. mandolin champion John McGann. Together, they switched things up a bit and played some rousing Irish tunes. They began with some reels to get the audience going, again. This was followed by a set of jigs and then some hornpipes, which included a bit of jazzy guitar from John.

For good measure, each member did a solo. First, Seamus played some hornpipes and reels, which received much-deserved whistles from the audience. Later, John took his turn. As he put it, he did "Scottish tunes that he learned from an Irish fiddler, which were now being played by an American mandolin player." His set included a phenomenal rendition of "Jenny's Chickens."

Then, it was time for an accordion solo, so Joe played a waltz that he composed called "Nancy." It had some pretty impressive runs of notes. To conclude their portion of the show, the Boston Edge played a set of Cape Breton reels, including "Devil in the Dirk" and "Trip to Windsor." Once again, the audience stood and applauded.

To top the show off, the finale included the song "The Lord of the Dance," and a set of reels with some dancing. There was, of course, another standing ovation. In other words, this was a great show all around.

by Kaitlin Hahn
14 January 2006