Kimberley Fraser
at the Captain Charles Leonard House
in Agawam, Massachusetts

Event Description

Saturday, 2006 November 18
Captain Charles Leonard House, 663 Main Street, Agawam, Massachusetts
A Cape Breton kitchen party with Cape Breton’s Kimberley Fraser on fiddle and Janine Randall (founder and director of the Cèilidh Trail School of Music outside Inverness) on piano.
$14.00 by advance reservation via e-mail to Meg Sullivan at
or by phone at +1 (413) 789-9267; $18.00 at the door


Kimberley Fraser on fiddle

Janine Randall on piano

Judy McKenzie step-dancing

Kimberley Fraser on piano

Zoë Darrow step-dancing
(Sorry about the head-chop, Zoë, but you were too close!)

Kimberley Fraser step-dancing

Kimberley Fraser and Greg Dorchak

Post-concert group photo of hosts and musicians

Review for the Cape Breton Music List[1]

I remember very well the first time I heard Kimberley Fraser: it was at the Gaelic College in St. Anns 2002 July 24 (having a good photo collection helps with getting exact dates!), where she was teaching that summer. Together with Joël Chiasson on keyboards and Allie Bennett on guitar, she put on a concert that won the audience’s heart with her marvellous fiddle playing. I have heard her many times since and the clarity, precision, power, vigour, and beauty of her playing have always stood out. Last night at the Captain Charles Leonard House in Agawam, she put on a concert to a capacity audience that again demonstrated her mastery of the fiddle, piano, and step dancing.

Kimberley, beautifully accompanied throughout by Janine Randall, opened with the first set from her new CD, Falling on New Ground, which begins with Mrs. Crawford and ends with The Fairy Dance. Her second set was of jigs. Her third set started with The Sweetness of Mary, a lovely slow air composed by Joan MacDonald Boes, and was followed by a long blast of strathspeys and reels; at the end of this set, the applause was sustained, lasting nearly a minute—Kimberley seemed surprised at the audience’s enthusiastic reaction to this superbly played set. In Memory of Herbie MacLeod, the lovely Jerry Holland lament, followed: Kimberley played this tune purely and gorgeously and Janine’s marvellous accompaniment, full of dancing triplets, transported me back to the Bear Trap Trail this fall where I heard in the music echoes of MacIsaac’s Glen Brook tumbling over rocks down to the sea; I know the history of this haunting tune, but this performance gave me a mental picture full of sparkling light and warmth and joy. Another jig set followed and then the first half of the concert closed with a set of strathspeys and reels during which Judy McKenzie step danced beautifully.

Kimberley opened the second set with a piano solo, The Sweeps, from her first CD, The Heart Behind the Bow; this piece was familiar to me from long listening to this excellent CD, issued in 2000 according to an interview on Highland Fling that aired tonight (the CD itself has no publication date that I can see). A march, strathspey, and reels followed as the second set during which Zoë Darrow provided a vigorous step dance. Then followed another gorgeous slow air, Aberdeen, which Kimberley learned from the playing of Sandy MacIntyre and which also appears on her latest CD; Kimberley’s tone was incredible, almost viola-like in the low register. Next, Kimberley did a fine step dance while Greg Dorchak, Kimberley’s friend, played fiddle to Janine’s piano. Then came a set of tunes Janine had requested. These were followed by the beautiful slow air, Killikrankie, from her first CD, a favourite of Terry MacAskill, who was in the audience; gorgeous, pure, playing of the highest order! Greg and Kimberley then did a fine dual-fiddle set consisting of Molly Rankin’s Reel by John Morris Rankin, Brenda Stubbert’s Reel by Jerry Holland, and an Irish reel called The Fox Hunter’s Reel, if I heard correctly; Judy again gave us a fine step dance. Playing alone again, Kimberley and Janine did a final set including Tullochgorm, one of my favourites, and ending with The Mason’s Apron. At its end, this marvellous set drew a prolonged standing ovation; Kimberley and Janine graciously consented to play “one more”, this time a set starting with The Bonnie Lass of Headlake (again, Janine’s accompaniment was outstanding, bringing to my mind water lapping on a lake shore), a reel (from the first CD, I think, but am not certain), and The Orange Blossom Special, also on the first CD, and played in the “old-time country” style. It was a rousing end to a marvellous concert.

Sincerest thanks go to Kimberley, Janine, and Greg for a splendid concert—it was an especial delight to hear so many slow airs so beautifully played—and to Meg and Dan Sullivan for hosting it. If you missed it, you still have a chance to hear Kimberley in Boston this coming week-end, where she will play for (American) Thanksgiving dances with Brenda Stubbert and Bonita LeBlanc at the Canadian-American Club on Friday and the French-American Victory Club on Saturday. And, if you can’t make either of those, be sure to get her two CD’s—she said the first is out of print, but it’s still listed at the Castle Bay Music on-line store—and the second is available at the Cape Breton Live on-line store.

[1] This version is a very slightly modified version of the original, written on 2006 November 19, but posted after midnight and hence dated 2006 November 20: I have used a richer character set, made typographical embellishments HTML text allows that pure text does not, changed references to web sites to embedded links, corrected a misspelled name, etc., but have not changed the meaning of the original.