Cape Breton Music

July 8, 2009

Traditional Scottish Cape Breton fiddlers have up until recent years played with a piano accompaniment only. The rhythm and feeling of the music begins within the fiddler, moves through his/her fingers, through the bow and violin and out to the audience. Just watching a Cape Breton fiddler transmits to the listener the feel, the drive, and power of every note. These musicians have always used their feet to keep the beat. It has a very special effect. The vibrations echo back from the wooden floor making a very unique sound as well as giving a very special feel to the already driven music. The listener not only hears the music but sees the rhythm flow out from the fiddler’s talented hands and feels the vibration from the dancing feet. What more is needed.

I personally feel to add more in some cases is to take away from the uniqueness and beauty of the old tradition brought to Cape Breton Island many long years ago by our ancestors. Having said that, there are times and a circumstance where an addition of an instrument can add interest but it is not really necessary is it?

Looking back, thirty-five years ago, I remember the guitar being used occasionally to accompany a fiddler. It was in many cases a necessity as a piano was not always available. The Cape Breton guitarist skill is rather unique I believe. The guitarist must be able to adapt his way of playing to enhance the fiddle. Not all guitarists can do it. It takes the talent of a great musician like JP Cormier to accomplish the task. I heard JP play a fiddle tune unaccompanied on his guitar. It was pure magic.

The addition of the bodhran changes the sound dramatically. In my limited opinion the bodrhan is an Irish instrument used to add the beat to airy, light, lively Irish music.

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