Maiomi (A Gathering)
at the Sarah Denny Memorial Cultural Center,
Eskasoni, Cape Breton
(13 October 2005)

I made it to Eskasoni with time to spare before the show began, so I checked out some of the CDs by the artists who would be showing their stuff this evening. It was a stellar line-up: Buddy MacMaster with Joey Beaton, Carl MacKenzie with Pat Chafe, Mooney Francis and Old Blind Dogs. As you can see, I had a good reason to be as excited as I was. I could hardly wait for the show to start. I had been looking forward to it all week.

I made my way through a very chatty bunch of people and took a seat on the end of a row, by the center aisle, so I could see.

The show began with an introduction by an extremely nervous emcee named Richard. While he stumbled on his words a bit, he had a wonderful sense of humor, so the audience got a good couple of laughs. Richard did a pretty good job of introducing Mooney Francis, a native of Eskasoni. He explained that Mooney had been invited to Ottawa to share his talents and that he is the only Mi'Kmaq artist who has ever had such an honor.

The first thing I noticed about Mooney is that he had to prop his arm on a table to play. I later learned he had injured his arm, twice, and can no longer move any part of it, except for his wrist. Knowing this, I'm pretty amazed at his talents. He played several reels, which I probably would have enjoyed more if there wasn't a lady snapping her gum right behind my head. The set that really got the audience going was one that included the infamous "Orange Blossom Special." Mooney received explosive applause for his performance.

The next artist to take the stage was Carl MacKenzie. I had never heard him play live before, so I was especially excited to hear him. However, I didn't really get to focus on his first set because some of the locals who were sitting around me were having conversations, about anything but music, at a volume level that was loud enough to ruin my experience. I was so annoyed that I got up and stood in the back.

For Carl's second set, he played some jigs that were all composed by Cape Breton fiddlers. He has a very dynamic tone that sounds much like classical music. His bowing is very smooth and he uses a lot of dynamics. I found it to be very unique and interesting to listen to.

After the intermission, I took my standing place at the back of the room so I would be able to hear Buddy MacMaster, one of my all-time favorite fiddlers. However, in the middle of his first set of jigs, some more locals decided to come to the back of the room to have their conversation, so I had to move to the front of the room and sit on the floor! Buddy kept right on playing and swaying to the music. With his eyes closed and his foot tapping, he played the "Old Faithful" march, followed by some strathspeys and reels. My favorite piece that he played, however, was the air, "Hector the Hero." It was a beautiful rendition that brought tears to my eyes. After another lively set, and a lot of tapping feet in the audience, Buddy received a long standing ovation.

While the music that I did get to hear was really great, I was, honestly, so appalled by how rude the local audience was, when they were in the presence of such great musicians, that I did not stay to hear Old Blind Dogs. I would have loved to hear them, but I could not take anymore. My apologies to the band.

by Kaitlin Hahn
1 April 2006