Hilda Chiasson

Track 10 : Hilda Chiasson (Piano)

Father John Angus Rankin, march
Trip To Dublin, strathspey
Harry Bradshaw's Reel
(all 3 composed by Jerry Holland)
Cape Breton Fiddler's Welcome to the Shetlands, reel (Willie Hunter)

Hilda Chiasson is from Cheticamp on Cape Breton's northwest coast. Her outstanding performances with Jerry Holland, including the landmark 1982 recording "Master Cape Breton Fiddler", brought her recognition throughout Cape Breton and the world.

Hilda and Dave MacIsaac created a unique "trio" sound that led to recordings with many of Cape Breton's fiddlers including Carl MacKenzie. In Ireland, Hilda is a respected accompanist and has played there with Noel Hill, Paddy Glackin and Tony Smith. Along with Natalie MacMaster, she recorded on a Seamus Egan album, selections from which are included in the soundtrack of the feature film "The Brothers MacMullen".

Hilda has played with Buddy at various dances and concerts over the years including a stint at Glencoe during the early 90's and also in Ireland, at the Cork festival. For Hilda, he has chosen three tunes by Jerry Holland who, along with Brenda Stubbert, is a favourite composer of Buddy's.

Cape Breton Piano Accompaniment

When Buddy MacMaster played his first dance in Troy he was not accompanied by the piano, but by another fiddler, teaming up with Vincent MacMaster to create enough volume to sustain the dancers through the night. The piano had only recently been introduced to Cape Breton music. The pump organ preceded the piano by more than thirty years and it was on this instrument that many of Cape Breton's players started out.

The pump organ could be used to imitate the sounds of the pipes and the pumping of the pedals would create a gentle syncopation and lift for the music. The droning, sustaining quality of the instrument also allowed the pump organ player to use the right hand for melody playing while keeping the fiddler accompanied with the left. The primitive techniques developed on this parlour instrument are the foundation of today's Cape Breton piano accompaniment style.

By the 1930's, upright pianos began to replace the pump organ and eventually became so popular that they arrived on the east coast by the trainload. The upright piano was perfectly suited to the front parlours of the day. The wooden flooring, lime plaster and wainscoting of Inverness county homes would enhance the already rich tones of these instruments. Pianos could be ordered through the Eaton's catalogue and popular brand names included Mason & Risch, Bell, Nordheimer and Sherlock Manning. The most prized of the uprights was the Heintzman and one is featured on several tracks of this recording.

Although there were a few guitar players, the upright piano was quickly adopted as the main accompaniment instrument for Cape Breton fiddle music. Early recording pioneers include Dan Sullivan, Betty Maillet of The Inverness Serenaders and Bess Siddall MacDonald of Antigonish, who recorded on the first 78 rpms of the Celtic label in 1936. As the tradition evolved, each new player brought something unique and individual to the style. Today there are as many styles as there are players and the piano is also recognized as a melody instrument in its own right.

This recording features players from throughout Buddy MacMaster's career, spanning almost the entire history of Cape Breton piano accompaniment. Although they all have different styles, most of these players have at least one thing in common: they've played at Glencoe with Buddy MacMaster!

Back to The Judique Flyer main page