In a little more than a week, the streets of Maxville will be bumper-to-bumper as excited fans head to this year’s 70th edition of the Glengarry Highland Games. For two full days, August 4th and 5th, the sounds of pipes and audience cheers will fill the air as the annual celebration of all things Scottish takes place. One of the best-attended events at the Games is the Scottish Fiddle program which promises an exciting schedule over the two days.
Glengarry Style Meets Cape Breton
When the Scots immigrated to Canada during the Highland Clearances in the late 1700s, two areas where they settled in large numbers were Glengarry County and Cape Breton Island. These Highland Scots brought with them their traditions of language, dress, sport and music. Today in both Glengarry and Cape Breton, the traditions of these ancestors remain strong influences with one of the strongest being the playing of the fiddle.
Over the years, fiddle playing in the two locations has evolved to its own unique style. Games Past President and fiddler Donaldson MacLeod explains that, “The Glengarry and Cape Breton styles of fiddle playing are very similar. Minor differences include the fact that many Cape Breton tunes have more of a Gaelic ring to them due to Gaelic being spoken for so many years. Both groups have a common repertoire of music, however Glengarry fiddlers tend to feature Marches, Jigs and Waltzes while the Cape Bretoners tend to favor Strathspeys and Reels.”
This year at the 70th Games the two styles come together for two days of learning and ceilidhs. The Cape Breton Fiddlers Association has been raising money all year playing concerts and holding raffles to allow thirty of its members to journey to Glengarry and celebrate the Games 70th and Canada’s 150th as the Scottish Fiddle special guests.
For more than a generation, the Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Association has been dedicated to preserving and promoting traditional Cape Breton fiddle music. The Cape Breton Fiddlers' Association was formed while preparing for the first Festival of Cape Breton Fiddling in 1973 which attracted more than 130 Cape Breton fiddlers for one of the most memorable and influential concerts in Cape Breton history. Twenty-five years later, 202 fiddlers filled the stage at the Gaelic College for their silver anniversary. Games Scottish Fiddle Director Ian MacLeod welcomes the fiddlers and says, “Cape Breton and Glengarry fiddlers love the opportunities to get together and when they do, whether here or in the Maritimes, they revel in playing together. We welcome them and we are sure you will enjoy seeing and hearing them as they share their music.”
The Cape Breton Fiddlers will perform twice late Friday afternoon, first in the Metcalfe Centre at 4:10 pm followed by an appearance in the Arena at 5:00 pm. The Glengarry Fiddlers will join them at 5:30 for the warm-up for the traditional Massed Fiddlers presentation on the infield stage at 6:30 pm. Saturday will be a busy day as well when they join other fiddle groups for an amazing fiddle concert in the Arena from 1:30-5:00 pm.
Join one of the performances in the air-conditioned venues and discover the magic of Cape Breton Fiddling.
Scottish Fiddle Workshop on Saturday is a Family Affair
Some of the best Cape Breton fiddlers have come to the Games over the years to share their unique style with local fiddlers at the Saturday morning Scottish Fiddle workshops. Names that resound in the world of Scottish fiddling such as Buddy McMaster and his niece, Natalie, Jerry Holland, Troy McGillivray, Andrea Beaton, Mike Hall and Kimberly Fraser, along with Glengarry’s own Kelli Trottier and Ashley MacLeod have led workshops for jam-packed audiences of eager learners.
This year’s workshop will be a little different in that it will be a family affair as the Leahy family led by father Doug conducts the workshop and also presents a mini concert from 9:30 am until 11:30 am. Doug and his wife Jennifer have instilled a love of music in their children which shows in the high-energy and infectious performances for which they are famous. Fiddlers will want to get there early to ensure that they have a place in the Arena Hall. Bring your own fiddle and music stand and take part in this one-of-a-kind workshop.
There will be lots of opportunities to enjoy one of the performances of the Next Generation Leahys at the Games. Catch them in the Friday Night Concert, the Saturday Fiddle Workshops or in the Metcalfe Centre on Saturday afternoon at 3pm.
A Great Fiddle Ceilidh Celebrates The Games
With the Cape Breton Fiddlers coming as special guests for this year’s Games and the Leahy Family leading the Saturday morning Scottish Fiddle workshop, that would fill most programs for an exciting lineup, but the 70th Glengarry Highland Games fiddling program offers so much more.
Starting at 2 pm on Friday, August 4th, the fiddling program gets off to a much-anticipated opening with the Youth Fiddlers’ Showcase. The air-conditioned Arena Hall is filled to capacity as some of Glengarry’s upcoming fiddle stars show off their skills to the much appreciative audience. Make sure to get there early to ensure a spot in this ever popular event.
Later in the afternoon, the fiddling just gets better when the Cape Breton Fiddlers take to the stage at 5 pm to be joined at 5:30 pm by the Glengarry Massed Fiddlers. This Glengarry group made up of local fiddlers numbering anywhere from 50 to 80 musicians practice all year just for their performances at the Games. Their ages range from 11 to 80+ and their enthusiasm for playing is limitless. Both groups of fiddlers will combine for the Massed Fiddle on the infield stage at 6:30 pm kicking off an evening of the finest entertainment in the area.
Saturday is another busy and full day for the fiddle events. Saturday morning’s workshop and mini-concert with the Leahy family will be a first of its kind event followed by the very popular Fiddler’s Ceilidh in the Arena Hall. This must-see kitchen party brings together not only the Cape Breton Fiddlers and the Glengarry Fiddlers, but it has many more group and individual performers including The MacLeod Fiddlers, Scotch River Fiddlers , Cassie & Kelsey McDonell and Bernard McDonell just to name a few.
The entertaining young MacLeod Fiddlers, one of Glengarry’s favourite groups, will also have a full schedule at the Games starting on Thursday evening at the Tartan Ball when they provide the pre-dinner music. Friday afternoon, they perform as part of the Youth Showcase and then Saturday join the Fiddle Ceilidh to round out a busy Games.
The Scottish Fiddle tradition is well and alive in Glengarry and the Games provides the venue to bring them all together for everyone’s viewing and listening pleasure.
See you at the Games!