Do­ing what he loved

Fid­dler Peter Chais­son dies at fid­dle fes­ti­val

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEVE SHARRATT

The man who helped turned an empty farm field into one of the top fid­dle fes­ti­vals in At­lantic Canada has died.

Peter Chais­son of nearby Bear River col­lapsed Sun­day while do­ing what he loved – play­ing or lis­ten­ing to fid­dle mu­sic. He was 72.

The heavy down­pour on the fi­nal day of the 39th an­nual Rollo Bay Fid­dle Fes­ti­val had driven the stage shows in­side the ceilidh barn and it was just af­ter 2 p.m. when Chais­son top­pled over in his chair.

“We’ve lost Peter…. such a shame,’’ said friend and fes­ti­val goer Fran Stewart. “He was sit­ting there try­ing to coax a tune out of his nephew An­drew ( from Aus­tralia) and he just fell over.”

Iron­i­cally, it was the last day of the three-day fes­ti­val and it could be its last day pe­riod. The 60-acre grounds were listed for sale ear­lier this month with Chais­son ac­knowl­edg­ing he wasn’t a young­ster any­more.

When he fell over, peo­ple rushed to his aid, in­clud­ing a num­ber of nurses who were in the au­di­ence. He was trans­ported by am­bu­lance to hos­pi­tal, but died of an ap­par­ent heart at­tack.

He was the con­sum­mate fid­dler, teach­ing his nieces and neph­ews to carry on the tra­di­tion and play­ing mostly in a trio with Kevin and Lem­mie Chais­son. Lem­mie died in 2013 at age 67.

For the last two years Peter played with his brother Kevin at the Benev­o­lent Ir­ish So­ci­ety and weekly dances at the Lorne Val­ley school house.

He couldn’t read mu­sic, but had hun­dreds – if not thou­sands – of tunes in his head. He made up some of his own tunes in­clud­ing, “Joseph and Mar­garet Chais­son,” in mem­ory of his par­ents. De­spite the sud­den death, his wife Doreen en­cour­aged mu­si­cians at the fes­ti­val to stay and wel­comed those from be­yond to join in a farewell trib­ute jam ses­sion Sun­day night.

BRIAN MCINNIS/THE GUARDIAN

Peter Chais­son per­forms dur­ing a St. Pa­trick’s Day ceilidh in Char­lot­te­town in 2014 in this Guardian file pho­to­graph. The well-known Is­land fid­dler, mu­si­cian and key or­ga­nizer of the Rollo Bay Fid­dle Fes­ti­val died Sun­day do­ing what he loved - work­ing and play­ing at the fes­ti­val.

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