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.
The 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.
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!