Sunday was a lovely day, with blue skies and sun, as I drove north through western New England, where the leaves were showing signs of yellowing but no real colours (other than the occasional exceptional tree here and there along the route) into New Hampshire for my first concert at “The Barn” on the Black Bear Farm in Lyme, New Hampshire. I waited too long to get a decent photo of the whole site, so you will have to picture the barn at the right sitting on a wide green field across the road from Post Pond nestled below the surrounding mountains, a pretty spot in the declining sun as I arrived at 18h. In conjunction with Carla Sandstrom and Dan Crook, who have been hosting the “Plantation” concert series at their home in Lebanon for several years now, Kari and David Allen, owners of the Black Bear Farm, had held two previous concerts there, one last July and one this July, both featuring the Colin Grant Band (which I missed because I was in the Maritimes); both left very pleasant memories in the minds of those who attended, as I was made aware by several audience members who had been to either or both. So, when the opportunity arose of holding another, featuring two Cape Breton fiddlers well known in the area (who happened to be in New Hampshire for the 38th New Hampshire Highland Games at Lincoln), they all jumped at the chance. The concert started earlier than usual at 19h because the following day was a work day or school day for many in attendance.
Dan Crook opened the concert with a few brief remarks and then turned it over to the musicians. The surprise musician was Seph Peters, who was with Andrea and Wendy at the Games (there is more biographical information here at the bottom of the page) and has been working with Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy on a new CD to be released later this year.
The initial number was a blast of tunes with Andrea and Wendy on dual fiddles and Seph on guitar; it was such a delight that I neglected to write anything down about the set. The second began with the popular Donald Angus Beaton march, Memories of Paddy LeBlanc and was followed by strathspeys and reels. Jerry Holland’s In Memory of Herbie MacLeod followed, with Andrea this time on lead fiddle and Wendy on backing fiddle; the set then continued with jigs, two of which were Howie MacDonald compositions (I’m sorry I didn’t get their names down—my short term memory is getting very short!). Wendy then went to the keyboards as Andrea on solo fiddle played the march, For Grandma, she had written for Elizabeth Beaton’s funeral earlier this year and continued with other “family tunes” in a beautiful and beautifully played set. Another blast of tunes followed, none of whose names I got written down. Then, Wendy and Seph played a set from the forthcoming CD entitled The Yellow Coat, consisting of The Lass with the Yellow Coat (which Wendy played solo), more tunes whose names I didn’t get, Kinnon Beaton’s tune Angus the Winemaker (on track 13 of Kinnon’s Eoghan Dubh CD and track 1 of the Cape Breton Live Radio, take one compilation CD)¹, and The Green Fields of Glencoe (about which I can find no information, leading me to suspect I may have misheard). With Andrea on keyboards, Wendy then played a set of jigs in G, including The Drover Lads and Maid on the Green. The first half of the concert concluded with another blast of tunes, with Andrea and Wendy again on dual fiddles, beginning with Kinnon Beaton’s jig, Buddy’s Order of Canada, and including a John Campbell strathspey for which no title was given.
The air outside was very brisk, if not frosty (+7°C/45°F, according to my car’s thermometer), and the open doors of the barn let a lot of the cold air in. The concert’s organizers had foreseen that this was likely to be so, suggesting attendees bring a sweater or other warm apparel, and, during the break, provided the audience with a very welcome glass of hot apple cider which, along with an array of desserts, including some absolutely scrumptious chocolate brownies, really hit the spot. The black starry night, lit only by candles from the barn to the serving tables, had many staring up at the beautiful skies while others engaged in animated conversations as we all enjoyed the fine evening and relaxed in the afterglow of the marvellous music.
The second half commenced with a jig set, including Arthur’s Jig (about which I have no information), The Trippers,² and Portree Bay. Next came Josephine’s Waltz (about which I have no certain information), during which a black cat entered from stage right and jumped up on Andrea’s lap as she was playing; startled, she pushed the cat back down (before I got a photo) and kept on playing. The cat paid her no mind and continued to walk around the stage, brushing the legs of the musicians, and then disappeared. A great blast of tunes, none of whose titles I got, followed. Then Andrea and Seph, with Wendy sitting out, did a set of jigs and reels. With Andrea on keyboards, Wendy gave us a new tune (currently untitled, but tentatively named Lisbon Nap in memory of a nap on an epic train ride from Lisbon to Paris) that will be on the forthcoming CD and some strathspeys including her Strathspey for Mary Jane. It was at this point that the cat returned (when the accompanying photos were taken), eventually lying down on the hay bale seen at the left of the last photo and listening to the final selection of the concert along with us. The concert ended with Andrea and Wendy back on dual fiddles giving us a march-strathspey-reel set that included Christy Campbell. Greeted by a standing ovation, the crowd slowly dispersed to their separate destinations.
I had hoped to see Wendy at three different events this summer in Cape Breton, but she had to cancel out of all three because of the pain she has been suffering from a herniated disk (from no known cause), so it was especially great to hear her fine music once again; alas, she is still in great pain (though one would never know it from her marvellous playing at the concert) and is contemplating her choices to alleviate it (she and Seph started back to Halifax immediately after the concert). I wish her courage and good luck as she battles this affliction. Andrea, of course, is a delight wherever she plays and was in her usual superb form this evening; I simply cannot get enough of her music. We talked during intermission about her move to Montréal, where she is now making her home base; I wish her the very best, while knowing how much she will be missed in Cape Breton though, as she pointed out, she can be there in a day and intends to maintain a playing presence there on trips home. This was the first time I had the pleasure of hearing Seph play and I was pleased to meet him—Wendy introduced me to him as we spoke briefly at the end of the concert. I will certainly be looking forward to their collaboration on the forthcoming CD with Mary Jane.
I cannot find words to adequately express how enjoyable an evening this was for me and I was not alone—the other attendees with whom I spoke were all in agreement. For sure, this evening will go down in the annals of “The Barn” concerts right up there with the previous ones.