Dance at the French-American Victory Club

2007 November 24
French-American Victory Club, 193 Elm Street, Waltham, Massachusetts
A Cape Breton night of square dancing, step dancing, and music on Thanksgiving weekend featuring the popular fiddler, piano player, and stepdancer Troy MacGillivray accompanied by Allan Dewar on piano and also featuring the Country Masters. For information, call Gabe Arsenault at +1 (781) 893-2884 or +1 (781) 718-4394.
The link to the French American Victory Club given above was taken from the Online Waltham Community Directory; at the time of writing, the server at this link was not responding, causing attempts to connect to the web site to fail. This may be a temporary condition, but it has persisted over a span of two weeks. In any case, the primary contact is Gabe Arsenault at the numbers given above.


Troy MacGillivray on fiddle accompanied by Allan Dewar on keyboards

Norman MacEachern prompting a Boston set

Troy MacGillivray on fiddle accompanied by Allan Dewar on keyboards

Judy McKenzie step-dancing

Troy MacGillivray on fiddle step-dancing
accompanied by Allan Dewar on keyboards

Review for the Cape Breton Music List
(Posted 2007 November 27)

Saturday evening, Gabe Arsenault put on a Thanksgiving weekend dance at the French-American Victory Club in Waltham (Massachusetts). It was my first time at this venue and I was delighted to see that the fine, large hall was pretty well filled and that a good number of younger folks were there as well as the older crowd. The featured performers were Troy MacGillivray and Allan Dewar, both superb Cape Breton style players from Antigonish, and the Country Masters, a local Boston group dating from the late 1950’s with roots in the Maritimes, consisting this evening of four players/vocalists: Edmond Boudreau, Jim Spellman, Alfred Larade, and Jim Blais.

The evening began with Troy and Allan playing, as if in a cèilidh. Five sets of fine tunes, two of jigs, one of hornpipes and clogs, and two more of air/strathspeys/reels, opened the evening. Dancers then took to the floor for an Inverness set. A number of very long sets followed, one including a schottische, and with hornpipes such as Fisher’s Hornpipe included in the mix.[1] Four sets of precisely four couples each then took to the lovingly built and beautifully maintained hardwood floor for a Boston square set, prompted by Norman MacEachern.

Around 21h30, the Country Masters took the stage, playing and singing a repertoire that was mostly danceable country/western music, but included a few instrumental numbers (I especially liked the two mandolin pieces featuring Edmond Boudreau’s playing), some blues, and even one number approaching Louisiana Cajun music, though sung in English (which I also enjoyed). I most definitely do not like country/western music, but my taste was clearly in the minority, as the floor was filled with couples round dancing, some singing along with the music as they danced.

After about an hour of the Country Masters’ music, Troy and Allan returned to the stage and played for two more Boston square sets, between which were more blasts of Cape Breton tunes as well as sets featuring polkas and waltzes, both of which attracted lots of enthusiastic round dancers to the floor.

The Country Masters came back for another half hour and then Troy and Allan returned. A step-dancing set attracted perhaps eight gifted step-dancers to the floor. After they had finished, a call went out for another Inverness set, but the sated dancers said no, asking instead for more tunes, which they got. Troy closed off the evening with a great blast of tunes, during the last of which he step-danced as he fiddled.

While I would have much preferred an evening devoted entirely to Scottish traditional music, of which it seems I can never get too much, the alternating Cape Breton and country/western musics seemed to be much more to the taste of the attendees, who were far more numerous than those at Gabe’s Thanksgiving dance I was at last year, which featured traditional Scottish music only, so Gabe was certainly justified in including both to avoid taking a financial loss, as happened then. As it was, I had nearly three hours of the finest Cape Breton music played by two superb musicians, so I have absolutely no complaints.

Troy’s latest CD, Live at the Music Room, on which Allan also accompanies him (in addition to Dave MacIsaac and Brad Davidge on guitar and Sabra MacGillivray on bodhràn and step-dance), is now available at the usual online outlets, as well as from Troy’s web site (which has several clips available, including some not on his CD’s—it’s definitely worth a visit!). The liner notes begin with Burton MacIntyre’s most enjoyable account of his trip in very nasty winter weather to Halifax to attend the recording session, a mini Cape Breton saga of a true music aficionado! This is a very fine recording with superb playing and, except for the applause at the end of each track and a very occasional hoot or whistle, with the audio quality of a studio recording rather than of the live session it actually was. This CD deserves a place in everyone’s Cape Breton music collection; I am sure it will be being played many years from now because this is Cape Breton music at its very finest.

As was the music we heard on Saturday evening! Thanks, Gabe, for organizing these annual Thanksgiving dances! And thanks to Troy and Allan for coming south and giving us such a memorable evening of music!

[1] Thanks are due to Marcia Palmater for these tune identifications.