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Re: PEI Sinclair musicians?
Kay Wilson wrote:
> I'm interested to learn that there were Sinclairs on Prince Edward Island --
> by any chance were any of them fiddlers or other musicians? (How about
> Sinclairs in general -- does this family have a musical tradition?)
> I didn't know until recently that PEI is a treasure trove of celtic music
> (along with Cape Breton). Here are excerpts from Ken Perlman's tune book
> "The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island: Celtic and Acadian Tunes in
> Living Tradition" (Mel Bay, 1996):
> -- PEI is home to about 130,000 people -- almost all of whom are of
> Scottish, Irish or Acadian French origin...Kings County is most Scottish in
> terms of ethnicity and culture...
> -- PEI is also home to one of the oldest, strongest, and most vibrant
> traditional fiddling cultures in North America...this small island (roughly
> 150 miles long by 40 miles at its widest) still hosts at least two to three
> hundred fiddle players of a quality sufficient to warrant being commercially
> recorded. Moreover, there are easily another two or three thousand Islanders
> who can play the instrument well enough to accompany a dance. This is fully
> two percent of the population! Despite this wealth of talent, the fiddling
> scene on PEI is virtually unknown to outsiders.
> -- Island fiddling is a lively blend of Scottish, Irish and Acadian-French
> elements. Local tradition has it that the first boat-loads of Scottish
> immigrants landing at Tracadie Bay on the northeast shore of Queens Co. in
> the late eighteenth century had fiddlers among them, and some families can
> trace their musical pedigrees back to that time.
> -- The Island fiddle repertoire these days is a hodge-podge of tunes from a
> variety of national and regional traditions. Its core is Scottish and--to a
> lesser extent -- Irish...
> -- The playing of a "good fiddler" is said to convey a rhythm so infectious
> that anyone within listening range will want to get up and dance. Island
> fiddlers tend to have a full, strong yet sweet tone.
> Well, there's more, but I think you get the idea that this music is very
> special. I had the opportunity this summer to participate in a band lab
> working on PEI tunes. We learned 3 jigs and 3 reels, and they are truly
> wonderful tunes.
> If you read music, Perlman's tune book is a must-have. If you'd like to hear
> this music, Perlman recorded a number of the PEI fiddlers for Rounder
> Records. There are two CDs in "The Prince Edward Island Style of Fiddling"
> -- Fiddlers of Eastern Prince Edward Island (Rounder CD 7015, 1997)
> -- Fiddlers of Western Prince Edward Island (Rounder CD # unknown)
> Rounder has a website: www.rounder.com I think.
> BTW, my only interest in this music is in sharing it -- I have no commercial
> interest in it. I'd love to find out that our Sinclair family was part of
> this musical tradition.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: T Sinclair <TSinclair@webtv.net>
> To: <email@example.com>
> Sent: Monday, July 26, 1999 7:18 PM
> Subject: Re: Sinclairs of Michigan
> > Hi
> > Where is Prince Edward Island located?
> > [ This is the Sinclair family discussion list, firstname.lastname@example.org
> > [ To get off or on the list, see http://www.mids.org/sinclair/list.html
> [ This is the Sinclair family discussion list, email@example.com
> [ To get off or on the list, see http://www.mids.org/sinclair/list.html
well, to the best of my knowlege there are no outstanding Sinclairs
among PEI musicians but in the coming week I will check my records
thoroughly...the current best known PEI fiddler would have to be 20-year
old Richard Wood who, along side his 5-year successful solo career,
toured the U.S. with Shania Twain and her navel last year...the Island's
best known musical product would be Canada's legendary Stompin' Tom
Connors, although songwriter Gene MacLellan made his home there for many
years - he wrote Snowbird for Anne Murray and (Put Your) Hand in The
Hand that went #1 for a band called Ocean in 1970...currently Lennie
Gallant carries the torch and many, many artists make their homes
there...but 300 recordable fiddlers - I doubt that...what a noise...you
should hear their bagpipers (no offense, Rory)...they have a College of
Bagpiping in Summerside, PEI...
Unfortunately - PEI is best known for being the home of Anne of Green
But the question is interesting - does anyone know of Sinclairs who
have excelled at the arts over the centuries...?...Were we not
discussing footballers earlier...?
If you care further about Scotch, Irish or Cape Breton style fiddle
music I recommend: Ashley MacIsaac, Natalie MacMaster, The Rankin
Family, Howie MacDonald, Gerry Holland, Buddy MacMaster, or the
harder-to-find work of Dan R. MacDonald - the acknowleged
master...apparently his recordings are more readily available in
Scotland than in his native Cape Breton...or there's Mabou Fiddler
Rodney MacDonald who was just this week elected to our Provincial
Legislature after a great dance set at the Antigonish Highland
Games...he's actually being touted as our next Minister of Tourism...
Things have come a long way since Father Kenneth MacDonald ordered all
of the fiddles of Mabou (Cape Breton) Parish burned in 1850-ish as "the
instrument of the devil"...
There is a wise man in Mull, near Mabou, by the name of Jim St. Clair
who runs the Gaelic Village at Iona, Cape Breton (not to be confused
with the Gaelic College at St. Ann)...he is one of the nation's great
historians - although he does remain an official Henry-in-Nova-Scotia
sceptic - and this despite a close line of descent...he is best
appreciated as a storyteller - one who spins his webs in both Gaelic and
English...his voice is deep, sonorous, and spell-binding...he is
definitely a St. Clair...
I first met Jim at the wedding of Raylene Rankin who turned out to be a
close relative of his (and no - not everyone in Cape Breton is
related)...you should hear this girl sing...I had arranged for her and
her 5-sibling band (The Rankin Family) to travel to Glasgow in 1991 to
record for John Smith at BBC Gaelic TV (don't ask me to say it in
Gaelic)...while there we also played a showcase at Glasgow University
Hall...the next day the quote-of-the-day on the front page of one of the
Glasgow dailies (the Herald?) was "sadly, they don't make families like
this in Scotland anymore"...the gist of the story was that for two
centuries the Scots Gaelic culture has been better preserved in isolated
New Scotland than it was in Scotland...The style of fiddle playing, the
gaelic songs, the step dancing was found to be more authentic...this has
started a flood of Cape Bretoners going to Scotland to teach...
just a curiosity if anyone cares...
The music mix in PEI has much more Acadian than anywhere else... so
there is less Scottish content...if that's your interest...there is a
festival in Cape Breton each October - Celtic Colours which features the
best Celtic Music from around the World - although you can find fiddle
music practically any night of the week somewhere in Cape Breton...and
you can't move in summer without stepping on a bagpiper...
if you wish...
with apologies for the lengthy digression - I had to get away from our
15th day of 90 F heat this summer - Nova Scotia has turned
tropical...some of you guys get long-winded yourselves - but usually on
more relevant topics...
Mark Finnan's book The Sinclair Saga was launched last Sunday at the
Ward Room of Stadacona in Halifax...There's not ton of new information
but it's the best overview book yet if you haven't read the fifty
others...There is also up-to-date (but not a lot of) information on the
archeological exploration of the alleged Henry site at New Ross, Nova
Scotia...The book is the basis for the two hour-long documentaries that
Bob Hutt will have to finish in August that air on Vision and
There was a reading from a new Henry Play by Kent Stetson at Festival
Antigonish this past Wednesday...and two weekends ago Delayne Coleman
put together a small gathering at the site of the Prince Henry Society
Monument on the road between Guysborough and Canso...N.S. Clan
celebrations were put off till next year after president Barbara
Sinclair went down with a heart attack...she was up and mostly well at
the Finnan launch...also, Scott Sinclair - known to you as the designer
of the Henry Memorial in Guysborough, N.S., recently went in for eye
surgery and hasn't been able to see properly since...he also attended
the launch - but barely...
I have been giving out the books like crazy - I was racing old wooden
schooners around Mahone Bay (yes in sight of Oak Island) last week and
all of these nautical types from around the world were more than
curious...but I missed the launch beacuse I have to spend at least each
Sunday this summer in Cape Breton...it's been relatively easy to find
excuses to stay longer...
I have a concert tomorrow evening in Port Hawkesbury, Cape Breton with
19-year old Cape Breton fiddler Jennifer Roland and Gaelic singer Rita
Rankin - about 5000 will show up for the free outdoor concert...we had
6500 for Natalie MacMaster in the rain last weekend...
I'll be looking for Sinclairs...
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