Piano Summit 2002
at the Judique Community Centre,
Cape Breton, NS
(15 April 2002)

The fourth annual Piano Summit in Judique Community Centre Sunday afternoon was a feast of traditional Cape Breton tunes, some of them brought from Scotland 200 years ago and some that were composed here by Dan Hughie MacEachern, Donald Angus Beaton, John Campbell, Winston Fitzgerald and Dan R. MacDonald.

The afternoon began with a group medley, a medley of jigs including "Ann Marie MacInnis's Jig" and "Trip to Toronto," and ended with another group number that included "The Night the Goats Came Home Reel" and "Neil Gow's Lamentation for James Moray." In between, knowledgably introduced by Bob MacEachern, the audience heard slow airs and strathspeys, jig and reels from Joey Beaton, Mac Morin, Callum MacKenzie and Kimberley Fraser. There were piano solos and duets, of course, but also stepdancing from Morin and Fraser, and a violin solo by MacKenzie, illustrating the versatility of these young players. (Fraser had graciously consented to replace Maybelle Chisholm, who was unfortunately unable to appear, and many here were pleased to have a chance to hear her play.)

Sponsored by the Highland Guitar Society, the Piano Summit is intended to showcase the piano players whose contribution is so important to the music. This year, as always, the players were a wide range of ages, proving that the efforts of musicians to maintain the continuity of the music has been successful. Summit organizer Leona MacDonald says that in traditional Cape Breton Celtic music, though their contribution is vital, "often piano players are in the background, so this is a chance for them to shine, for us to see what they do."

Mingled with the sounds of rain on the roof was the steady tapping of feet on the floor as the audience kept time with familiar tunes. Joey Beaton, who organized the music this year in addition to playing, noted, "We were hearing the bare bones today. This is the real thing, the real music, in the midst of all that is happening and changing today."

With such luminaries in the audience as Buddy MacMaster and Dougie MacPhee (who has himself played for the Summit, and organized last year's music), how could the young performers not feel connected to their roots?

Father Allan MacMillan of Judique, himself a noted Gaelic singer, was impressed by the "beautiful choice of tunes, imaginatively done." He liked that the musicians introduced their choice of tunes, and found the afternoon "Just pure music ... one of the best."

[ by Joyce Rankin ]
Rambles: 18 May 2002