A winter snapshot of pure P.E.I. at the B.I.S.

Todd MacLean
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There is a British photographer of indigenous people named Jimmy Nelson who has undertaken an epic quest — to travel the world and capture the beauty of over 30 remote tribes, assembling a book called Before They Pass Away.

Armed with a traditional 50-year-old plate camera, Nelson goes for that one shot that can visually depict how each tribe exists in its unique culture — so that no matter what unfortunate cultural erasing time may do, we will have this photographic documentation of who they were and what they were about, long, long from now.

It is a remarkable work of massive anthropological value, and you can find out more about the book and the project at www.beforethey.com.

This is where you are thinking, “Okay, am I reading the right column here? How in heck is this in any relation to the P.E.I. music scene, and what could MacLean possibly do to tie this in?”

And, indeed, when you read this next sentence, you are going to think, “Wow! Alright ... um, oddest segue ever ...”

But when I was sitting amid a jam-packed and joyful house of traditional music lovers at the Benevolent Irish Society for the sold-out Fiddlers’ Sons concert last Friday evening (I know, just read on), this thought clearly came into my mind. If a big city anthropologist were to come to P.E.I., looking to capture a quintessential snapshot of Island winter culture, that person would need to be here to experience this.

Interestingly enough, this thought had popped into my head even before my wife just sent me the link to check out the work of Jimmy Nelson earlier this week.

But now that I’m thinking along these lines of cultural studies even more (and I did a minor in anthropology at UPEI, so I guess this kind of adds up), I’m realizing that a snapshot like this would indeed be pure P.E.I., wouldn’t it?

Over a hundred folks in a community hall on a January Friday night, sipping on tea, tapping their toes and enjoying themselves  as a group called Fiddlers’ Sons lights up the evening and restores the warmth to their wintered hearts, as songs of the old country are sung and as the fiddler step dances to a reel.

Jimmy Nelson, where are you with your camera? That’s all I have to say.

It was Eddy Quinn on vocals/guitar/fiddle/bodhran, Garth Matthews on bass/guitar, Courtney Hogan-Chandler on fiddle and John Webster on guitar. And you know what? With regards to what I heard on a health segment on the radio this past week that happiness has a direct effect on your overall level of health — for that roomful of happy folks, I suppose it was all “just what the doctor ordered.”

Highlights included a good handful of wonderfully delivered and well-received original tunes by Quinn (such as The Girl From Gaspereaux, Hayfields and a brand new one to finish off the night called St. Patrick’s Day), bright fiddle tunes by Hogan-Chandler (in particular, that melodious march called The Sweetness of Mary and a gorgeous original air called Forever and Always, written for her new husband, Scott) and stand-out classic favourites such as The Ferryman, I Remember Dublin City in the Rare Old Times (an especially lovely performance of this heart-string-puller), Fields of Athenry (which got all singing along), Finnegan’s Wake (which got some even stomping along) and Whiskey in the Jar (which got all clapping along).

This night was the kickoff to the winter concert series called Ceol Agus Caidre presented by the B.IS. You can catch the next show on Jan. 31, featuring Cape Breton fiddler Rannie MacLellan with Kevin Chaisson.

And, of course, with all the Music P.E.I. 2014 events taking place over the next week, it will be a hotbed of pure P.E.I. culture to take in for yourself — and maybe even capture with your own camera. So get on out, enjoy it and soak up that health and happiness.

Next week: I’ll tell you all about Music P.E.I. Unplugged at Marc’s Studio this Monday.


Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at tmaclean@theguardian.pe.ca or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.

Todd's picks

House of Rock - P.E.I. Brewing Company, today at 8 p.m.: Music P.E.I. Week 2014 will be kicked off with this Signature Event featuring Colour Code, Wildcat, Nathan Wiley and Tim Chaisson.

Annual Robbie Burns Scottish Concert – Carrefour de l'Isle St. Jean, today at 7 p.m.: This 125th annual concert celebrates the 150th anniversary of the P.E.I. Caledonian Club and the 255th anniversary of the birth of Burns.

Theresa Malenfant and Katey Day – The Old Triangle, today at

9 p.m.

Music in The Mall – Confederation Court Mall, tomorrow, 2-4 p.m.: This free all-ages matinee performance presented by Music P.E.I. will feature Jordan Cameron, Teresa Doyle and Ten Strings And A Goat Skin.

Evening of blues and traditional music – The Old Triangle, tomorrow, starting at 5 p.m.: Amanda Jackson and John Cain will be followed by Richard Wood and Gordon Belsher.

Cavendish Beach Music Fesitval Country Jubilee – Harbourfront Theatre, Summerside, tomorrow at 8 p.m.: Music P.E.I. presents Meaghan Blanchard, Janet McGarry, Katie McGarry and Old Stone Station in performance, as well as eight Music P.E.I. 2014 awards.

Steve Poltz – The Pourhouse, Sunday at 7 p.m.

Music P.E.I. Unplugged – Marc's Lounge in Charlottetown, Monday at 7 p.m.: It will feature Meaghan Blanchard, Tim Chaisson, Dennis Ellsworth and John MacPhee.

Organizations: B.I.S., Benevolent Irish Society, The Ferryman P.E.I. Brewing Company P.E.I. Caledonian Club Harbourfront Theatre Katie McGarry and Old Stone Station

Geographic location: Iceland, Remember Dublin, Cape Breton Charlottetown

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