Doing what he loved
Fiddler Peter Chaisson dies at fiddle festival
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.
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.