A Suite of Cape Breton Tunes
A musical journey to a place I’ve yet to visit. Each movement in this three-movement suite of fiddle tunes captures a different mood or scene you might expect to find during a céilidh — the Scottish-Gaelic word for a party where there will be singing, dancing, and storytelling.
In traditional Cape Breton music, piano accompaniment typically provides the bass line and rhythmic foundation for an undulating fiddle while also “filling in” chords and harmony. To impart that special flavor, I split musical roles between all three members of the trio.
I. Natalie Fraser is based on a hornpipe tune written by pianist Joey Beaton of Mabou. The hornpipe is a dance many northern European cultures share. In Cape Breton, it’s usually a lively dance in 4/4 time with contrasting A & B sections.
II. The Rosebud of Allenvale is based on a simple tune by the famous Scottish fiddler, dancer, and prolific composer J.S. Skinner (1843-1927). Since a traditional céilidh would contain at least a little storytelling, I thought this charming lyrical melody would be a great segue from first movement’s dancing. I like to imagine the speaker is enthralling his listeners with a tale from the old homeland, perhaps about a love he had to leave behind.
III. The Night the Goats Came Home is a traditional Cape Breton reel tune. Here’s the moment in the céilidh where everyone has likely had one too many and the party’s getting decidedly rowdy! The fiddler takes the stage to get the crowd on its feet. Similar to the hornpipe, a Scottish reel has contrasting A & B sections which are repeated (often growing faster and faster)
Premiered 30 September, 2016, at the Oliver Art Center, Frankfort, MI: Manitou Winds.