Jerry Holland at the Skye Theater
in South Carthage, Maine

Event Description

Thursday, 2006 November 9
19h30-21h30 (jam session at 19h)
Skye Theater (New England Celtic Arts), 2 Highland Drive (off Winter Hill Road), South Carthage, Maine
A “house concert” featuring Jerry Holland, Cape Breton fiddler and composer, in a concert room that will seat about 100-110 people in a comfortable setting; see concert poster here.
$10.00 by advance reservation by phone at +1 (207) 562-4445 (which answers as McIntyre Auctions)


Jamming with Jerry Holland

Jerry Holland

Jerry Holland on fiddle accompanied by Jody Kasregis

Jody Kasregis

Jamming with Jerry Holland on keyboards

Jamming with Jerry Holland

Review for the Cape Breton Music List[1]

Last night, I had the great pleasure of hearing almost three solid hours of Jerry Holland’s music, live! Thanks to a post to this list on Monday by John Erdman, I was made aware of a “house concert” featuring Jerry Holland at the Skye Theatre in South Carthage, Maine. Since I am a rabid fan of Jerry Holland’s music and didn’t get enough at Celtic Colours, and since the weather was forecast as beautiful fall days, I hopped in the car at 7h10 yesterday and drove off to eastern Maine via Vermont and northern New Hampshire, which I hadn’t seen in twenty years or so, arriving there just as the sun was setting. The venue is a big warehouse in which a large room has been finished off that can hold roughly 125 people. I was very glad to have found it in (waning) daylight, as its location is remote: on U. S. Route 2, about three miles east of Dixfield, one leaves the Androscoggin River valley and climbs steadily for four miles up a mountain, from which one takes a gravel road which continues to rise smartly; at the point it begins to descend, about a mile later, one turns right onto a road (the aptly named Highland Drive) which shortly delivers one at the venue. Finding it for the first time after dark would have been a real challenge, as, if one does not know where it is, it is hard to see where to turn off Route 2 onto the gravel road!

Phill McIntyre is the host of this ongoing series of house concerts, which have included a number of Cape Bretoners—Melody and Derrick Cameron, Beòlach, and Troy MacGillivray and Kimberley Fraser, none of which I knew about. For future reference, those able to attend will want to watch this web site. When I saw Phill last night, I recognized him immediately as someone I had often seen in Cape Breton and he made me feel right at home. The crowd was very large—every chair was taken and some additional ones had to be found elsewhere to seat all those who had turned out. A number of the attendees were fiddlers, including several members of the Maine group Fiddle-icious, and the remainder were Cape Breton music enthusiasts who knew the music well.

The proceedings got under way promptly at 19h, when Jerry sat down with those fiddlers present who had brought their instruments—roughly a dozen—for a pre-concert “jam”. It sounded to me rather like a mini-session of the Cape Breton Fiddlers Association: with tempi the players were comfortable with, they sounded quite good. They were clearly all thrilled and a bit awed to be playing with Jerry!

After a brief break, the concert proper started at 19h30, with Jerry playing alone at the request of the fiddlers present who were ferociously concentrating on his fingering and every move of his bow. If you are familiar with Jerry’s Crystal Clear CD, you will have a good idea of how an unaccompanied fiddle played by a master sounds. The fiddle was unamplified, but no one had any trouble hearing it anywhere in the room. As a rule, I am not a great fan of unaccompanied fiddle, but I really enjoyed this session and I must admit that not having any accompaniment makes the fiddler’s choice of volume stand out much better, as Jerry played across most of the dynamic range, from the softest of pianissimos to exuberant fortes. He didn’t announce titles for many of the tunes he played, but I recognized nearly all of them, though I know very few of their names; those he did mention in the first half were Tears and Memories of Herbie MacLeod, both favorites of mine. He did one set (including Memories of Herbie MacLeod) in high bass tuning. In another set, of hornpipes, I recognized one tune from a piece Troy MacGillivray plays on the piano. This half of the program concluded with St. Anne’s Reel and an impromptu stepdance by Phill. On this last set, a local lady, Jody Kasregis, also accompanied on keyboards.

The concert resumed after a twenty-minute intermission, during which refreshments were available by donation, Jerry’s CD’s and books were on sale, and the room was abuzz with socializing (I was pleased to see some Maine friends I had first met in Cape Breton in attendance and was delighted to be able to thank John Erdman in person for tipping me off to the concert). This half, Jody played along with Jerry, serving up tasteful accompaniments that fit the music very well. I spoke with her after the concert and, since she sounded to me like she was experienced in accompanying Cape Breton musicians, I was quite surprised to learn that she has not had a lot of direct exposure to the music, but has been practicing from tapes and CD’s of Cape Breton music over the past five years. She clearly knew a lot of the tunes Jerry played and, whether spontaneously or not, added her own understated decorative touches which I found solidly traditional, yet original, apt, and pleasing. In the second half, Jerry played his compositions Lonesome Eyes; a recently composed march in memory of Marie MacLellan; a piece he originally wrote for his father that has come to be known as My Cape Breton Home; Boo Baby; and Brenda Stubbert’s Reel. He played a Winston Scotty Fitzgerald set, a set of jigs, and a set including Alex Menzies’, among others. He was in a chatty mood and conveyed a lot of information about his music and its sources. I wished it could have gone on for a lot longer, so fine was the concert!

After the concert proper was over around 21h30, another “jam” started up and kept going until well past 22h. On the initial set, Jerry played keyboards while the fiddlers played; on the remaining numbers, Jody provided the accompaniment. It was again a privilege to hear these players play tunes, many of them Jerry’s own, in an informal atmosphere.

I learned that Jerry often conducts fiddle workshops and performs at concerts organized by fiddler Beth Telford of Randolph, Vermont; indeed, she has scheduled a concert with Jerry there this Saturday evening, which I would have liked to have attended. She currently has no web site, so I encouraged her to announce her events on this list, which she agreed to do in the future. For me, and I suspect for a lot of others in western New England, Randolph (in central Vermont) is a much easier stretch than eastern Maine; I look forward to catching Jerry and other musicians she invites to the area in the future.

Today, I drove home, trying a different route that would have shaved a half hour off the trip had it not been for a construction tie-up outside Holyoke, Massachusetts, that ate up the savings. It helped that the weather was fine and that it had been so long since I had last been there that it was like seeing the gorgeous countryside for the first time. So, was eighteen hours of driving for a three hour concert worth it? When the artist is Jerry Holland, you bet! I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

[1] This version is a very slightly modified version of the original posting: 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.