Baddeck Gathering Ceilidhs turns 20
Nancy Maclean never picked up the piano or the fiddle, but she knows a good fiddler, piano player (or piper!) when she hears one.
This summer marks twenty years since Maclean launched the Baddeck Ceilidh Gatherings at St. Michael’s Parish.
For the first two summers, fiddler Raymond Ellis played, accompanied by piano players Robert Deveau of Chéticamp and Susan Maclean of Washabuck. By season three, other musicians were picking up nights they preferred to play. From then on, countless musicians throughout Cape Breton have played the hall. Many have regular weekly gigs.
“I just love the music. I follow it, and I know who's good,” said Maclean on July 26 while she greeted ticket buyers just as she has, seven days a week, 5pm through 7pm, throughout July, August and the first three weeks in September, for the past twenty years.
Raised in Washabuck, Maclean comes from a musical family – fiddlers on both sides.
“My uncle played fiddle. He would barely get his foot in the door, when everyone would say, 'come on, come on, get the fiddle out.'
Maclean’s love of Cape Breton music runs deep. She may not have had the patience as a child to learn the fiddle or piano, but she happily listened and danced to it, and still does.
“It's in the genes, I think. You hear people talk about a nice tune, and it's just there, you know? I can't explain it. It’s all I ever listen to.”
Scheduling 80 shows per year over twenty years might leave others bored with the job. Not Maclean, though.
“I never wake up in the morning and say, 'Oh, I have to go to the Ceilidh tonight.”
During ceilidhs, audience members are encouraged to get up and try square dancing to the music.
“It's like pulling teeth to get couples on the floor. But once they’re up there and they get the rhythm, they love it.”
The evening of July 26, most of the 70 seats were sold, including 31 reserved by a tour bus group. Except for slower periods in early July, most shows fill up. Maclean’s investment in advertising through brochures, word of mouth, her web page, and the sign on her car has paid off.
“Now it's at the point where all the motels, hotels know, and they'll call me and they'll say they have guests that want to go tonight. So there's hardly anybody that doesn't know about it throughout the island.”
To view this summer’s line-up of musicians, visit http://www.baddeckgathering.com/sched.html. Tickets on sale at the door between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Cash only. Reservations available for groups over 10. Call Nancy Maclean at (902) 295-0971.
Nancy Maclean of Baddeck Gathering Ceilidhs. Photo by Carolyn Barber / The Victoria Standard