Troy MacGillivray,
Musical Ties
(Trolleymac, 2001)

Throughout Nova Scotia, everyone has musical ties to someone. Antigonish's Troy MacGillivray's family background is no exception. His late grandfather is Hugh A. MacDonald, one of the first to record Scottish fiddle music back in the 1930s. His grandmother is Winnie MacDonald, a noted pianist who used to accompany her husband. Troy's sister Kendra is a well-known fiddler and his other sister Sabra is a noted Highland dancer and bodhran player. It's no wonder then that his long-awaited debut CD is called Musical Ties.

Troy's nimble fingers bring to life traditional piano and fiddle music from Nova Scotia. This Celtic musician started stepdancing at age 6, playing the piano at 7 and the fiddle at 10. There was always music in the house, from Troy's parents, sisters and guests, so it's no wonder Troy is pursuing a musical career. The 14 sets of tunes on Musical Ties bridge the old and new music that Troy was brought up with.

Troy composed his first two tunes, "Musical Ties" and "Cool Cuts," when he was 10 "because I wanted to try writing a tune or two." Both are included on the CD. They certainly show maturity way beyond the age of the composer. A couple of more recent compositions of Troy's, two reels, are also included. Other composers featured include J.S. Skinner, Dan R. MacDonald, Raymond Ellis, Glenn Graham, Hilda Chiasson, Garcon Volange, John McGlashan, Angus Chisholm, Alexander Walker, John Niven, Winnie MacDonald and Sandy MacIntyre.

Troy is already a well-respected musician in the Nova Scotia music community, and his peers showed their respect by joining him on the album. Some of his guests include Troy's parents Janice and Tony, Troy's sisters Kendra and Sabra, John Allan Cameron, Tracey Dares, Scott Ferguson, Matthew Foulds, Jamie Gatti, Gordie Sampson, Dave MacIsaac and Mac Morin. Certainly a very high calibre list!

Troy's chording and accompaniment techniques are hard to come by. His fingers fly across the keys, faster than you can blink. Troy has been seen as a backup musician for many years with his fiddler sister Kendra: however, he can certainly stand on his own and this CD is certainly a reflection of this.

With all of this performing as well as teaching music in Antigonish, Troy still manages to find time to fit school in. He is finishing up his last year of a music degree at St. Francis Xavier University. As you can see, music is very much a part of Troy's life. He says, "I'd have to be pretty sick to miss a day without tunes."

Musical Ties starts off on a very lively note, with "Frank Gilruth" by J.S. Skinner. A couple of clogs and hornpipes introduce the listener to Troy's piano stylings. Dave MacIsaac's guitar playing starts off track 2, leading into the piano for the traditional strathspey "Perthshire Volunteers," followed by the popular Dan R. MacDonald tune "Trip to Windsor." Another reel and hornpipe follow.

Three jigs are included on track 3: "Murray the Woodcarver," "Miss Anderson" and "Jack's Hall." This set has a nice light feeling to it. Troy says that the tunes on track 4 "especially fits the Musical Ties theme because my parents appear on piano and guitar. We recorded this set in one take on my dad's lunch break." A march, hornpipe and two reels are included.

Troy slows the pace down on track 5 with a beautiful pastoral air by Neil Gow, "Robert Cormack of Aberdeen." The spotlight on this tune is just on the piano. It's a tear-jerker of a tune.

Traditional tunes and a Skinner tune comprise track 6. Troy's piano is complemented by Dave MacIsaac's guitar for some strathspeys and reels. Some fancy drumwork by Matt Foulds introduces track 7, which begins with a composition of Troy's called "The Grand Piano" written in 2000. That lively reel is followed by two more. Gordie Sampson and Jamie Gatti are featured on guitar and bass on this tune.

Legendary Celtic musician John Allan Cameron joins Troy on track 8. "These three tunes are typical of the John Allan style," Troy says, "and it seemed fitting to have him sit in for this set." The set features compositions by Glenn Graham and Hilda Chiasson.

Another slow air brings the pace down a few notches for some relaxation on track 9. "The Lone Highland Glen" is a Gaelic song composed in 1928 as a tribute to the Highland Strathspey & Reel Society of Inverness, Scotland. Troy certainly does this tune justice with his light playing style. The pace of the CD is brought back up a step on track 10 with a couple more of Troy's original reels. Again, Dave and Troy are the featured musicians.

Track 11 continues with another set of jigs, this time featuring Troy on fiddle. Mac Morin backs up on piano and Dave MacIsaac on guitar. Troy is just as lively on fiddle as on piano and he brings these tunes to a new life. Track 12 is a selection of tunes that were often played by Troy's late grandfather Hugh A. MacDonald in the 1930s. Troy is joined by his sister Kendra for a twin fiddle set, which is very much a part of their live show. These tunes take on a life of their own in the hands of these talented siblings. Their grandfather would be very proud indeed, I'm sure!

Nearing the end of the CD, Troy brings out his first two compositions, introduced and complemented by Troy's sister Sabra's stepdancing. Sabra is a champion Highland dancer and a noted stepdancer, who choreographs her own routines ... there's no shortage of talent in this family!

Musical Ties ends with a big blast of tunes, featuring a piano duet with Troy and pianist Tracey Dares. Guitarist Gordie Sampson rounds out the musicians on this track. Two clogs and three reels are part of this set including a composition by Troy's grandmother Winnie MacDonald, appropriately called "A Tune for Troy." One of Troy's favourites, "Devil and the Dirk" by J.S. Skinner, finishes off the CD.

Musical Ties shows off the wealth of talent Troy MacGillivray possesses at a young age. The future looks very bright indeed for this Antigonish musician!

[ by Kimberley Marie ]
Rambles: 24 November 2001