Troy MacGillivray and Janine Randall
at a House Party
in Lebanon, New Hampshire

Event Description

Saturday, 2007 September 8
Dan Crook and Carla Sandstrom’s house, 181 Stevens Road, Lebanon, New Hampshire
House party with Troy MacGillivray and Janine Randall.
$15; call Dan Crook at (603) 448-2544 for reservations


Troy MacGillivray on fiddle
accompanied by Janine Randall on piano

Troy MacGillivray on solo piano

Review for the Cape Breton Music List
(Posted 2007 September 11)[1]

Dan Crook and Carla Sandstrom, whom I had met at the Tommy Peoples and Jerry Holland concert in Montpelier, are avid anglers who greatly enjoy fishing in the Margaree area; while there over the years, they have developed a taste for Cape Breton music, which they have recently started sharing with their friends and colleagues in a series of house concerts, providing another venue to visiting Maritime musicians in the New England area.

I heard about the Saturday house concert from a posting on this list. Since I was planning on attending the Jerry Holland benefit concert in Boston on Sunday, and since Lebanon, New Hampshire, is not too far out of the way, I e-mailed Dan to see if he still had room for another attendee; he did, so I decided to treat myself to an evening of Troy MacGillivray’s fine music on the way to Boston.

Dan and Carla’s house parties begin with a social hour with appetizers and BYOB from 18h-19h. They are followed by music until the musicians want a break, at which point dessert is served. More music then follows until the musicians decide to quit for the evening. When I arrived, the happy hour was in full swing and I got to meet several of the attendees. I also got a chance to chat with Janine Randall, who was Troy’s accompanist on this mini-tour, which also included appearances at the Skye Theatre in South Carthage, Maine, at a house party at Clint and Beth Telford’s home in Braintree, Vermont, and at the Jerry Holland benefit concert in Boston.

Troy and Janine started playing around 19h20 and provided a couple of fine Cape Breton sets which were very well received by the attentive audience. The acoustics were excellent and Troy played without amplification, so one was able to hear the music au naturel, so to speak. After the second set, Troy provided introductions to some of the tunes in the sets he played; in each case, there was a tidbit or more of information of which I was previously unaware. The third set began with Space Available March, composed by the fiddler, comedian, and actor Marcel Doucet (1948-1992) [locally pronounced as if written “Doucette”], who was heavily involved in the musical productions The Rise and Follies of Cape Breton Island and Cape Breton Summertime Review, and in whose honour the state-of-the-art sound and recording studio, Studio Marcel Doucet, from which CKJM broadcasts in Chéticamp, was named. The fourth set started with Elmer Briand’s slow air Beautiful Lake Ainslie (which appears in a version by Jerry Holland in his The Fiddlesticks Collection CD), for which Janine Randall’s accompaniment was superb; I don’t know how she did it, but she brought to my mind the rippling waters of Lake Ainslie under a clear blue sky, shimmering in the summer sun, whilst Troy’s beautiful rendering of the fiddle melody floated above the rhythmic pianistic waves. After another set (or possibly two—my notes are not clear), Troy took over the piano bench and played solo a fine set of tunes, none of whose names I have, starting with a slow air and ending with a virtuosic piece in which his fingers were flying through the descending cascades of notes with which it ends so fast that they were simply a blur to my eyes (I was seated not more than ten feet away), though not to my ears! The stunned audience, most of whom had never heard Troy play before, burst into applause at the end of this bravura performance!

It was time for a brief break. Troy had his latest CD, Eleven, for sale; I noticed beside them a 7 × 8.5 inch booklet entitled Troy MacGillivray Fiddle Tunes. Published this year and designed by Troy and Pam Wamback, it contains fifteen of Troy’s compositions, four of which appear on his CD’s and one of which appears on his sister Kendra’s CD, in addition to some brief geographical, cultural, and biographical notes. I had a chance to chat briefly with Pam, who works in Nova Scotia’s Ministry of Tourism in Halifax; she was there overseeing the CD and booklet sales.

Once everyone was refreshed, Troy and Janine resumed playing. After a fiddle set beginning with the Carnival March, composed by Shetland composer and fiddler Gideon Stove (a version appears on Natalie MacMaster’s CD Fit as a Fiddle), Troy switched his fiddle tuning to high bass and gave us a Christy Campbell set (in introducing it, he misnamed it as Krispy Kreme, to the amusement of all, including Troy’s). Next, he explained that Antigonish square sets consist of five figures, with two of the five being danced to hornpipes and polkas; this led into a wonderful medley of hornpipes and polkas, many of which Troy got from his grandfather, Hugh Angus MacDonald, the celebrated Antigonish fiddler (1889-1976). A request from the audience led to a set with Gordon MacLean’s popular reel Mortgage Burn (which appears on Troy’s CD Eleven) and which Troy said had also been requested at the previous evening’s house party in Braintree. The next set began with the blind Scottish piper Archie MacNeill’s (1879-1962) pipe march Donald MacLean’s Farewell to Oban. This was followed by a long set containing Tulloch Gorm, ending in Troy step-dancing while he continued to play the fiddle at breakneck speed. A standing ovation ensued for this incredible performance! The encore featured a Jerry Holland tune (whose name I didn’t get) along with several other tunes. Janine’s piano accompaniment throughout was first class, never obtrusive and never pedestrian, but always solidly imaginative, complementary, and interesting; it sounded as if they had been playing together for years rather than three days. Indeed, she remarked how easy it was to accompany Troy as his playing was so true to the fiddlers she had heard and accompanied when she was first getting into the music, though she did admit, at the end of the evening, that her fingers were tired from keeping up with his hectic pace over the past three days.

The concert finished near 22h. I had an opportunity to speak with Troy afterwards and thank him for his fine music. His next CD, recorded live in Halifax, is currently in production; he hopes to have it available for Celtic Colours.

My thanks go to Troy and Janine for an evening of memorable music beautifully and energetically played with passion, and to Dan and Carla for their fine hospitality and for their kindness in fitting me in at the last moment. Their efforts to pass on to others the incredible richness and beauty of Cape Breton music through the quality of the performers they invite to play there are certainly off to a fine start and I wish them all possible success in this endeavour.

[1] This version corrects the erroneous dates given for Archie MacNeill in the original posting and adds a missing comma.