J. J. and Kevin Chaisson at Agawam


J. J. Chaisson on fiddle accompanied by Kevin Chaisson on keyboards

J. J. Chaisson on fiddle

Kevin Chaisson on keyboards

J. J. Chaisson on guitar

J. J. Chaisson on fiddle

Kevin Chaisson on keyboards

Review for the Cape Breton Music List
(Posted 2006 September 18)

The inaugural concert in this year’s series hosted by Dan and Meg Sullivan was given yesterday at the Captain Charles Leonard House in Agawam, Massachusetts. This historic structure dates from 1805 and was admitted to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It was originally a tavern on the road from Hartford to points north where stage coaches deposited their tired passengers for overnight rest and refreshment before continuing on the next day with a fresh team of horses. Restored in 1938, it boasts original fireplaces and woodwork and is furnished with many pieces of authentic furniture, making it well worth a visit in its own right. It now serves as a Community House for the Town of Agawam and, in its present state, offers a room capable of holding 75 people for events of various sorts. That room yesterday was the site of a cèilidh given by J. J. Chaisson and his uncle, Kevin Chaisson, from Prince Edward Island; its acoustics are excellent and the atmosphere is one of intimacy and closeness—it really felt much more like a house party than a concert.

With the exception of one set, when he picked out traditional Scottish fiddle tunes at a devilish clip on guitar, J. J. played set after set of traditional Scottish fiddle music, barely stopping between many of the long sets. When he did, he talked with the audience, answering questions about himself and his large musical family, discussing lobster fishing, and bantering with Kevin; he also responded to a couple of requests for specific tunes. There were some beautiful slow airs; the lovely waltz “Icing on the Cake” that we also heard at this spring’s concert which he wrote for his wedding in tribute to his bride, Julia; some marches and strathspeys; and lots of jigs and reels, to one of which Zoë Darrow step danced. Kevin’s fine accompaniment on keyboards beautifully complemented J. J.’s driving music. My ear is not yet sufficiently educated to be able to identify what distinguishes a traditional PEI musician from a Cape Breton musician; so much of the repertoire is shared and the playing style, embellishments, and accompaniment that I've heard from PEI musicians seem to me to be well within the Cape Breton practice, not surprising since there is such frequent exchange of musicians between the two islands. In any case, J. J. is certainly as fine a fiddler as one hears in Cape Breton and true to that tradition. If you’ve not yet heard him, you will have another chance this spring when he will return for the St. Patrick’s Day concert; if you like Cape Breton traditional music, you are certain to enjoy it!

Sincere thanks go to both Chaissons for coming to Agawam (they drove down from Maine, where they had played at a wedding on Saturday night, and then returned to PEI after the concert—that’s a lot of driving) and to Meg and Dan Sullivan both for hosting this concert and for once again putting together what promises to be a terrific concert series throughout the coming year.