Nova Scotia – Spirit of the Fiddle Concert

Oh Danny boy, the pipes the pipes are calling . . . “

The mournful tones of a bagpipe filled the air and we followed the sound to our gathering place in Cape Bretton, Nova Scotia. As people assembled, the tune changed to a reel. Toes tapped and hands began to clap to the jaunty music, and it wasn’t long before this pied piper had a captive audience. Finally, with a nod of his head, he motioned for us to follow as he walked past the world’s largest fiddle and into the Cape Bretton Music Hall. We were going to a concert!


Cruising with Royal Caribbean in October 2019, we boarded in Quebec Canada and sailed down the Eastern seaboard to Florida. We’d had lots of adventures so far but were especially excited about our musical excursion to this windswept island. 

Cape Bretton played an important role in the revival of Celtic music. In the late 1700s, it became home to a steady stream of Scottish refugees who were evicted from their homes during the clearances. The Scottish fiddlers introduced a unique style of fiddle playing characterized by up-bowing, which forever changed the sound of many traditional tunes.

Eager to experience this legendary music in person, our group of 20 wound through the concert hall and up the stairs to a meeting room where our musicians waited.


After a warm welcome and a brief history of Celtic music, they got down to business.
“We’re playing the same music our ancestors played 350 years ago,” said guitarist Chris Garrity. “This one’s called Cutting Ferns, and it’s about a man who walks through a forest filled with fairies. They agree to let him go only after he cuts down all the ferns in the wood – an impossible task.”

With that, the players dove into a bouncy tune that filled the room and lifted everyone’s spirits.

Kimberly Fraiser – fiddler, singer, and stepdancer extraordinaire, told of another favorite melody. “This is so beautiful that brides often ask me to play it at their weddings. I always hate to tell them the title of the song  – Heavy is My Fate.” The lovely melody that followed was anything but heavy and it was easy to see why a bride would choose it for  her special day.

It wasn’t long before the musicians, energized by their own music, were on their feet singing and dancing as they played.  We were tempted to join in and eventually got to do just that as they called a few audience members up to learn the steps to a folk dance. We were soon twirling and stomping and feeling very Gaelic. Laughing and out of breath, we returned to our seats to enjoy the rest of the excellent performance. When the concert ended we sampled traditional oatcakes, and visited with the musicians. We were sorry to leave, but while the concert was over the music lingered, and I often catch myself humming the catchy tunes.

cape brettonThe remainder of the day was spent wandering the town of Cape Bretton, tasting local delicacies and enjoying the geriatric grandeur of the architecture in the Heritage District.

I would love to return and spend more time in Nova Scotia. The very name brings back childhood memories (fueled by music-loving parents) of a haunting tune by Ian and Sylvia called Nova Scotia Farewell.

nova scotia

Have you ever been to this beautiful part of the world? Where did you go? What did you see? I’d love some recommendations for my next trip.

That’s all for now. Happy travels!

Wait! The Glasgow Gallavanter just sent me this great link to a post about her travels in Nova Scotia. Check it out!







35 thoughts on “Nova Scotia – Spirit of the Fiddle Concert

  1. I have been to Nova Scotia twice, (once as a child, once with my kids) but I definitely want to go back again. I love Celtic music and there is so much history and scenery in the area. So glad you got to enjoy some of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. great photos and story well told!

    I often think of Nova Scotia, it’s developed some kind of romanticism in my mind but never got to Canada … maybe next life. Yet the pipes, quadrilles, reels etc I grew up with … somehow the Scots that migrated kept these aspects alive while on my visit to Scotland I struggled to find any pipes or dancers other than the few doing it for tourists 😦


    • I’m sorry to hear that. I’d hate to think these wonderful markers of Scottish culture had dwindled into tourist attractions.
      I love bagpipe music. In fact I’ve tried over the years to get one of my children to learn to play, but never had any takers. Maybe I should learn? 😬

      Liked by 1 person

      • lol have to have great lung capacity as they are not easy … we had a mate who played and we would do the jigs and reels around the caravan park … early buskers now that I think of it 🙂


  3. You weren’t just stringing us along with that picture of the giant fiddle. I love that kind of music and I understand that celtic and bluegrass music have the same antecedents. I bow to anyone else’s expertise in music history. Anyway it was an interesting note on what was an amazing trip. Well thanks for the post. I need to stop fiddling around and get back to work. Don’t want the boss to give me a bad case of the blues. Everybody pick up the tempo and stay well!


  4. Nova Scotia has always been on my TO VISIT list. As well as Vancouver and Calgary. Thanks for sharing your adventures. Pretty soon it will be time to get back out there and make plans again. In the meantime I am happy to live through your travels! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Me too, it’s thanks to lots of ballads I’ve always pictured it as romantic and seafaring. It was.
      Thanks for stopping by. I’m waiting for a new one from you too. Although your current post is really timely. See you later.


    • Hi Jo, it was lots of fun. One of my favorite travel memories, but then I have a lot of favorites. Guess I’ll be focusing on those for awhile since I’m not going anywhere soon. Luckily there is a gorgeous mountain range near us so I can always go walking.


    • Hi Anabel, I read all your Nova Scotia posts and will link the first one to this article. You mentioned the bad weather in Halifax – that was one of our big disappointments. We had been looking forward to visiting the Maritime museum there, but the weather was so bad we couldn’t even dock. Ordinarily, we aren’t that into museums, but this was based on the Great Halifax explosion which we had just read a book about, and the Titanic recovery efforts.
      It sounds like you did a lot of hiking too, which we were not able to do since on a cruise. So fun to hear about your different experiences. Thanks for your input.


  5. HI Lady, this looks like so much fun. I love fiddle music, bluegrass, Celtic, or whatever. I loved the link to the Cape Bretton fiddler, too. These melodies sometimes make me cry, but in a good way. Thanks for the share.


    • Thanks Cynthia, I know what you mean about how emotional Celtic music is. They really put their heart into those songs and play like they mean it. I could have listened to that concert all day.


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