The Boston Kiltics at Agawam

Saturday, 2007 September 15
Captain Charles Leonard House, 663 Main Street, Agawam, Massachusetts
The Boston Kiltics, Doug Lamey, Cliff McGann, and Nathan Silva, accompanied by Dedo Norris on piano, kick off the fall season of concerts at the Captain Charles Leonard House entertaining on fiddle, guitar, and bagpipes, featuring traditional tunes, songs, and delightful stories.
$14 in advance (for reservations, call (413) 789-9267 or email Meg Sullivan) or $18 at the door


Meg Sullivan opens the 2007-2008 Captain Leonard House Concert Series

The Boston Kiltics:
Doug Lamey on fiddle,
Nathan Silva on border pipes (obscured)
and Cliff McGann on guitar
accompanied by Dedo Norris on piano

The Boston Kiltics:
Doug Lamey on fiddle,
Nathan Silva on border pipes
and Cliff McGann on guitar

The Boston Kiltics:
Doug Lamey on fiddle,
Nathan Silva on border pipes
and Cliff McGann on guitar

Dedo Norris on piano

Dedo Norris on piano and Doug Lamey on fiddle

Doug Lamey on fiddle

Doug Lamey on fiddle

Doug Lamey on fiddle and Nathan Silva on border pipes

Nathan Silva on bodhràn

Nathan Silva on Highland bagpipes

Nathan Silva on border pipes

Cliff McGann on guitar

Cliff McGann singing and accompanying himself on guitar

Cliff McGann singing a Gaelic song unaccompanied

Cliff McGann singing The Great Lobster Boil unaccompanied

Dan Sullivan listening at the sound board

Review for the Cape Breton Music List
(Posted 2007 September 17)

Saturday evening, Meg Sullivan opened the inaugural concert of the 2007-2008 series of concerts at the Captain Charles Leonard House in Agawam (Massachusetts) promptly at 19h30. The evening’s performers were The Boston Kiltics, a group formed by a trio of Massachusetts musicians who share a love of Cape Breton music and culture and have become very proficient on their instruments: Doug Lamey is the grandson of famed Cape Breton fiddler Bill Lamey (1914-1991) and therefore has deep roots in Cape Breton and its music; Nathan Silva, of Portuguese and Polish extraction, has spent a great deal of time learning and playing pipes in the Maritimes, much of it in Cape Breton, and has attended the Gaelic College in St. Anns during several summers; Cliff McGann is of Scottish and Irish extraction with relatives on his mother’s side in the Lanark area of Nova Scotia outside Antigonish (he is related to Troy MacGillivray), has a Masters degree in Folklore from Memorial University at St. Johns, Newfoundland, and has spent a great deal of time in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton seeking out Gaelic speakers and Gaelic songs. The three have recently been joined by Dedo Morris, a well-known multi-instrumentalist (piano, guitar, bass) who has played for contradances throughout New England over the past thirty years and who has played in the Cape Breton piano style for the last fifteen, having accompanied such Cape Breton fiddlers as Buddy MacMaster, Jerry Holland, Kinnon Beaton, John Campbell, and Gordon Côté. The Boston Kiltics also often appear with the fine step-dancing duo of Pamela Campbell (John Campbell’s daughter) and Christine Morrison, as they did at the Concert for Jerry Holland in Boston last Sunday, though they were not at the Saturday concert in Agawam. Having heard them play (together and individually) several times in the past at various venues, I knew I was in for an evening of fine music and I was not disappointed.

While pipes are not the usual accompaniment to Cape Breton fiddle music—they rather tend to replace the fiddle than to accompany it—Beòlach, Slàinte Mhath, and Dàimh all demonstrate that fiddles and pipes can coëxist very well together in a band. The Boston Kiltics’ sound is not, to my ears, close to that of any of these groups—for one thing, they are but four as against the five in the other groups—but it is certainly eminently listenable and enjoyable in its own right. I defy anyone hearing this group to sit immobile throughout a set; the music is so energetically and infectiously played that one just has to move in time with it.

They started the concert with a fine medley of Cape Breton tunes, with Doug on fiddle, Dedo on piano, Nathan playing border pipes, and Cliff on guitar. The second set started with Neil Gow’s Lamentation for James Moray Esq. of Abercairney and was followed by two strathspeys and some reels; if memory serves, Nathan played both the border pipes and the bodhràn in this set. Cliff then sang Stan Rogers’ The Jeannie C., accompanying himself on guitar. Next, Nathan took up the Highland bagpipes and played, unaccompanied, a slow march followed by ever faster tunes as the set progressed; switching back to the border pipes, he gave us another solo set in which his feet were a fine accompaniment to the pipes, in the real Cape Breton style! At the start of the next set, Doug remarked that, as of this fall, he will have been playing fiddle for eighteen years; he then related a story about his grandfather’s fiddle behind the sofa that he was told, as a young child, not to touch and how he felt such irresistible attraction to that fiddle that he was finally unable to resist the temptation to open its case. This set started with an old pipe tune, The Drunken Piper, continued with a few tunes by James Scott Skinner, switched to a tune by Captain Simon Fraser, and ended with John Campbell’s reel Sandy MacIntyre’s Trip to Boston; Nathan was on bodhràn in this set. Cliff then switched moods again, this time singing a cappella a Gaelic milling frolic song, encouraging the audience to sing the refrain along with him. Next, Nathan on border pipes and Cliff on guitar started out together with a pipe march and moved on to strathspeys and reels in which the two others joined in. An hour of very fine music had sped by far too quickly—I hadn’t even realized it was break time when we paused for refreshments.

The concert resumed with a set consisting of Amelia’s Waltz, two strathspeys, and three reels; Doug and Dedo played the waltz alone, Cliff then joined in on guitar, and, on the last two reels, Nathan added the border pipes. Cliff then sang a Gaelic song, whose title I didn’t hear, written by a MacDonald who had moved to the Antigonish area from Mabou; from Cape George, he could, of course, see across St. Georges Bay to his beloved Cape Breton and he describes the communities he sees across the water with longing and love. This was followed by a great set starting with a march by Dan Hughie MacEachern, a traditional strathspey, Brenda Stubbert’s Reel by Jerry Holland, and Neil Dickie’s The Clumsy Lover. Nathan then brought out the Highland bagpipes for another fine solo performance, starting with a slow march and continuing on with some strathspeys. Dedo and Doug next played a set consisting of a strathspey and some reels, joined only by Nathan on bodhràn. Cliff then sang a cappella the rollicking Newfoundland song, The Great Lobster Boil; this was great fun—he said it was one he often sings with children when he does folklore programs in schools. The evening ended with a set of Jerry Holland reels with everyone playing. Yet another hour of wonderful music that had passed in a flash!

The group did very well in interacting with the audience and brought them into the music. Given the alternation between full blown instrumental sets, Nathan’s pipe solos, and Cliff’s vocal solos, and given the wonderful intimacy of the Captain Charles Leonard house, the feeling was much more that of a cèilidh than of a formal concert. Even though the four had not been playing together for all that long—they worked out the contents of several of the sets they played in the afternoon before the concert—there were no rough edges and they sounded great together. Dedo’s piano accompaniment was fine throughout and adds a necessary element that was missing from the music I had heard from the group before she joined them; they have done very well by adding her to the mix. In short, this is a dynamic, energetic, and passionate group of very competent musicians who play great Cape Breton music in the Cape Breton style. I encourage you to seek them out and give them a listen; like the near-capacity audience at the Captain Charles Leonard house (there were only five empty seats), you are sure to be much more than pleased with what you hear.

Finally, I would like to convey my thanks to Meg and Dan Sullivan for continuing this wonderful run of concerts over the years with such fine talent. Doug played without a pick-up and Dan’s work on the sound board made sure that the group sounded well-balanced and seamless. Their love of Celtic music is behind all that they do and they have succeeded in building a loyal audience for the music in Western Massachusetts, though alas this evening the youngest people there were those on stage. Kudos to all for a very fine start to this year’s series of concerts.