Buddy & Natalie MacMaster
at the Judique Community Centre,
Judique, Cape Breton, NS
(28 August 2005)

A $10 ticket to hear Buddy and Natalie MacMaster play in Judique could not be passed up. And for extra oomph, Dave MacIsaac and Betty Lou Beaton were joining them for this CD release party and live recording for an Internet broadcast.

We arrived at the community hall at about 6:45 for a 7:30 p.m. start time. About 7:10 piper Ryan J. MacNeil began a series of tunes on stage for us.

The main stage under the big fiddle wasn't centre stage as it was covered with chairs for family and "officials." Over on the west wall a high platform stage had been set up. The backdrop was full tartan pieces hung over the western windows that glowed in bright colours in the evening sunset.

Piper MacNeil, of the band Beolach, tuned up the crowd for a bit. Then host Shane MacDougall explained what was happening tonight. Besides being a CD release for Buddy and Natalie's new recording, this was also the inaugural show that was being taped live for broadcast on Sept 4 over the Internet at www.capebretonlive.com.

The concert was one of five shows that Natalie and her husband, musician Donnell Leahy, were working on to bring the musical sound of home to Cape Bretoners everywhere and to send the down-home sound to the rest of the world as well.

What started out months ago as a private CD of Buddy and Natalie playing together on a recording to give to their families was quickly recognized as something many more would and should enjoy.

I'm not sure how the Internet radio show came about, but the CD was the start of it. Shane MacDougall was easy and relaxed with the audience. He knows the musicians and the audience very well. The crowd was encouraged to get up and move around. There was no room for dancing, but the bar was open, and the crowd was responsive.

Shane introduced Natalie and Buddy as "One from up the road, and one from down the road," and Betty Lou was from "up the road just a little way."

Natalie and Buddy sat down to play with Betty Lou at the piano behind them and Dave MacIsaac to their left. The bright light poured onto Betty Lou, making a sharp shadow behind her that played along with the group for the entire evening.

I wish I could tell you all the tunes they played, but even Natalie said she needed to "brush up on her tunes" and just mentioned "a couple of good reels" or "a slow air" as she introduced what she and Buddy would play.

She did introduce Buddy playing "The Bonny Lass of Head Lake" and when she asked him if he had anything to say about it, he took the mike and said, "Well now, I knew the bonny lass of Head Lake."

As a primer for the CD, the concert was pretty good. Have a listen on the Internet. The music is clear. You may not hear all of the talking, but the music contains great selections. Four other shows were held around Cape Breton Island and they're all available to hear on the website.

This is a pilot project that may take some tweaking. The guestbook mentioned offering the shows in a different format. We'll have to wait and see what happens.

by Virginia MacIsaac
17 December 2005