Baddeck Gath­er­ing Ceilidhs turns 20

The Victoria Standard - - Arts - CAROLYN BAR­BER

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

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