Joel Chiasson

Track 7 : Joel Chiasson (Piano)

The Little Pickle, jig (J. Lowe)
Compliments to the Boys of the Lough, jig (Frank Ferrel)
The Canadian Club, jig (Frank Ferrel)
Champion Jig (Dan Hughie MacEachern)

Joel Chiasson is from Cheticamp, the son of Napoleon and Marie-Helene, and is a fine stepdancer and fiddler. His introduction to the music was through the "Up Home Tonight" television programs in the 80's.

He first played with Buddy at the Normaway Inn in the Margaree Valley in the early 90's and later joined him for a Cape Breton Club dance in Oakville, Ontario. From 1995 to 1999, Joel toured and recorded with Ashley MacIsaac and Natalie MacMaster before returning home to teach. In 1997, during the Celtic Colours Festival, he recorded with Natalie and Buddy, live at the Glencoe Mills Hall, and excerpts of this dance were later included on Natalie's album "My Roots are Showing".

For Joel, Buddy picked an old Scottish jig and two Frank Ferrel jigs. Frank Ferrel was a founder of the Festival of Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Washington and was largely responsible for bringing Buddy MacMaster to the west coast for the first time. Buddy finishes with a Dan Hughie MacEachern composition.

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