Troy MacGillivray, Jake Charron, and
Brent Chaisson
at the Franco-American Heritage Center
in Lewiston, Maine

Event Summary

2009 October 20 (Tuesday)
The Franco-American Heritage Center/Le Centre d’Héritage Franco-Américain, 46 Cedar Street, Lewiston, Maine
Troy MacGillivray, accompanied by Jake Charron and Brent Chaisson, present a concert of fiddle music as part of the Franco-American Heritage Center’s Celtic Tuesday Series.

Review for the Cape Breton Music List
(Posted 2009 October 24)

I had originally planned to return from Celtic Colours on Monday, 19 October, but when I learned that Troy MacGillivray would be touring in New England this week, I decided to stay a bit longer so as to catch his show on my way home. In fact, I had my choice of Lewiston (Tuesday), South Carthage (Wednesday), or Unity (Thursday), all in Maine venues on or close to my normal return route.[1] Since the weather gods in Cape Breton were still in a funk on Tuesday morning, I left then, concluding what had been three fantastic weeks of nearly non-stop music, great fellowship, and vivid fall colours (though, sadly, almost completely bereft of the sun needed to show them off to their best advantage).

It was my first time at the Franco-American Heritage Center/Le Centre d’Héritage Franco-Américain in Lewiston. This cultural institution now occupies the large and beautiful St. Mary’s parish church in Lewiston’s “Little Canada” that served, until the diocese closed it in 2000, both the Francophone French-Canadian immigrants, who were drawn to and worked in the thriving mills of early 20th century Lewiston, and their descendants. The nave has been transformed into a performance hall with tiered comfortable seating and superb acoustics; the remainder of the building hosts a museum, a French book and music library, and facilities for business meetings, conferences, and family celebrations. It was in the basement that Troy led a jam session of local musicians, where it became obvious that the Québécois musical heritage remains alive and well in the area.

Joining Troy on fiddle for the concert were Brent Chaisson on guitar and Jake Charron on keyboards. I had seen Brent, a member of the Chaisson clan in eastern Prince Edward Island, perform this and previous summers at the Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival, though not as much as I would have liked; a multi-instrumentalist as well as a traditional composer, he has been touring with Troy since 2004. I had not heard (nor heard of) Jake previously: hailing from Barrie (Ontario), he has been the house accompanist at the Canadian Old-Time Fiddle Championship in Shelburne and has been in demand as a piano accompanist on Ontario’s old-time fiddle circuit. This evening was to show off his skills on whistles and guitar as well as keyboards. Troy had met him while touring in Ontario and invited him to play with him on this tour. Other than the afternoon’s sound check, it was the first time all three had played together; even so, their professionalism and fine musicianship brought them through this initial concert with barely a bobble.

The concert’s first set began with Take It Easy and continued with some strathspeys and reels. The second set was of jigs, beginning with the Tea Gardens jig. Next came a very fine Québécois tune set, with Brent starting on snare drum and finishing on guitar; needless to say, this set was well received by this audience. It showed me a side of Troy I hadn’t seen before and I really hope he considers putting it on his next CD, along with some other sets from this tradition. Troy then moved to the keyboards to give us the lovely Niel Gow’s Lament for the Death of his Second Wife; Jake joined Troy on whistle, adding another dimension I had not previously encountered to the air. Troy then launched into a right-hand-only set of Celtic tunes and wowed us with his technical proficiency and blazing speed; halfway through, he added his left hand and, with Brent on guitar, gave us a tour de force performance that was breathtaking to witness and a joy to hear. Troy then took a break, leaving Jake and Brent to play a jig set (including, if I heard correctly, Anna’s Jig and The Idle Jig) on dual guitars: fine toe-tapping music in the style of a mini guitar summit! Troy returned to fiddle, Jake to keyboards, and Brent to guitar for a great jig set, including one by Andrea Beaton whose name I did not get; Jake added foot rhythm à la québécoise to his keyboard accompaniment and the playing of all three was wild—it was a memorable set! The final set of the first half was formed of tunes Jerry Holland composed; it began with his Old Faithful march and continued with strathspeys and reels. This audience knows Jerry’s music well and the superbly played set was very well received.

Troy began the second half with a set of reels played on solo fiddle. With Jake on guitar and Brent on banjo, Troy then played a set of three Irish reels. Next was a set from Troy’s CD Eleven, beginning with Brent’s tune Knittin’ and Drinkin’; for this set, I think Jake was back at the keyboards and Brent on guitar, but I do not have the instrumentation in my notes and so may be misremembering. Troy then returned to the keyboards and gave us a selection he had prepared and played at the Piano Summit concert during this year’s Celtic Colours Festival; Jake joined in on whistle mid-set. Troy introduced this selection as “a tune you will know”; I took it to be variations on the Londonderry Air. Remaining at the keyboards, Troy next gave us a solo piano set he had also prepared and played at the Piano Summit, this one very different from the previous one. Most of the tunes in the first two thirds of this set were not familiar to me, though I judged them to be Celtic-based. The piece was a technical tour de force with a blur of hands and fingers; while Troy’s incredible playing veered from the traditional well into what I would call Celtic jazz (Troy was in the jazz music program at St. F. X.), a genre I don’t normally much like, I still found Troy’s music quite enjoyable, though I was not unhappy when it returned to a more traditional style to end with tunes I did know. Returning to his fiddle, Troy then gave us, with Jake on piano and Brent on guitar, a marvellous final traditional set beginning with Wilfred Gillis’ Welcome to the Trossacks and ending with John Morris Rankin’s Jack Daniels Reel, during the conclusion of which Troy step-danced while fiddling. This end of the concert was greeted with a standing ovation and the audience insisted on another set, which the three musicians duly gave us, choosing another one from Troy’s CD Eleven, this time The Road to Errogie, including Gordon MacLean’s The Mortgage Burn.

It was one very satisfied crowd that left the performance hall after congratulating the musicians for the fine program they had given us. Indeed, I was sorely tempted to stay in Maine another day to catch them again at the Skye Theatre on Wednesday, but it was more than time that I got back home. Anyone in driving distance of any of the remaining venues in the tour (which continues on to Vermont, New Hampshire, and then back to Maine: see his schedule for details) should definitely take in this show: you will encounter three very talented multi-instrumentalists and a musical feast you will long remember!

[1] This is no coïncidence: in order to attract larger audiences for the world-class talent he brings to the Skye Theatre in South Carthage, Phill McIntyre has initiated programs at the Franco-American Heritage Centre in Lewiston, at the Rangeley Theater in Rangeley, and at Unity College in Unity; join the mailing list at this page to be kept up to date on all of Phill’s Celtic Music evangelization activities, which deserve everyone’s full-hearted support.


The Performance Space at the Franco-American Heritage Center

Troy MacGillivray on fiddle
accompanied by Jake Charron on keyboards and Brent Chaisson on guitar

Troy MacGillivray on fiddle
accompanied by Jake Charron on keyboards and Brent Chaisson on guitar

Jake Charron on keyboards

Troy MacGillivray on fiddle

Brent Chaisson on guitar

Troy MacGillivray on fiddle
accompanied by Jake Charron on keyboards and Brent Chaisson on snare drums

Troy MacGillivray on fiddle

Jake Charron on keyboards

Brent Chaisson on snare drums

Troy MacGillivray on solo keyboards

Troy MacGillivray on keyboards accompanied by Jake Charron on whistle

Jake Charron on whistle

Troy MacGillivray one-handed on solo keyboards

Troy MacGillivray on solo keyboards

Jake Charron and Brent Chaisson on dual guitars

Troy MacGillivray on fiddle
accompanied by Brent Chaisson on guitar and Jake Charron on whistle

Phill McIntyre opening the second half of the concert

Troy MacGillivray on fiddle
accompanied by Jake Charron on guitar and Brent Chaisson on banjo

Troy MacGillivray on fiddle
accompanied by Jake Charron on guitar and Brent Chaisson on banjo

Troy MacGillivray on fiddle
accompanied by Jake Charron on keyboards and Brent Chaisson on guitar

Jake Charron on keyboards

Troy MacGillivray on fiddle

Brent Chaisson on guitar

Troy MacGillivray fiddling and step-dancing during the show’s final number