Ceilidh season aint over yet

Todd MacLean tmaclean@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on September 11, 2009

When Mike Duffy returns annually to his summer home near Stanley Bridge, there's one ceilidh that he thoroughly enjoys and never misses each year: the Stanley Bridge ceilidh featuring Michael Pendergast and Tom McSwiggan.
This is according to ceilidh helper, Fran McSwiggan, at least.
And after personally taking in said Stanley Bridge ceilidh, I can definitely say that, while Mike Duffy and I might not totally see eye to eye politically, when it comes to taste in ceilidhs, our eyes apparently meet in an intense, grip-locked stare-down.
(That would indeed be cool to have a starting contest someday with Mike Duffy. I'll have to see if I can arrange this.)
Ever since the Women's Institute Hall was decrepit and dusty back in 2000, Mike Pendergast and his uncle Tom McSwiggan have been filling it with music (while steadily helping to spur on improvements and updates to the building along with it).
And last Thursday, I took the sunny evening drive out to experience this continuing Stanley Bridge summertime musical standby.
"I's the by that builds the boat!" was the first thing I heard as I walked in the back door of the hall and grabbed a seat, then to the sounds of two accordions, and fiddler Nathan Condon, pumping out the tune of The Irish Washer Woman.
And as the ceilidh settled in, what I found myself immediately struck by was the fantastic welcoming banter by Pendergast and McSwiggan: Mike with his always-playful crowd-engaging chatting, throwing in little jabs at his uncle now and then; and Tom of course jabbing back, and laying out the Irish wit on us in full force throughout the show.
All of this just helps to increase that embracing sense of down-home-ness that's so necessary for a country ceilidh, of course.
Music-wise, as well, they never failed to deliver the crowd pleasers all throughout the evening. From classic tunes like Fiddlers' Green, Roamin' in the Gloamin (which had virtually every voice in the nearly-full hall singin' along), The Fields of Athenry, Cockles and Mussels, to The Ballad of St. Anne's Reel (Condon step danced while playing St. Anne's as a reprise at the show's end, to entice a standing ovation).
There were also a number of folk tunes played that I've never heard before in my life (rare for a ceilidh), and that I loved! Quirky ditties like Poor Old Woman, I Was Born 100,000 Years Ago, The Fisherman's Shoes, and Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder? (A heart-wrenching ballad . . . no . . . a crazy foot-stomper that we all roared at, of course.)
And top that off with some great special guests like dancer Sarah Williams (Mike's niece), and Juanita Faas, one jaw-droppingly amazing piano player (whose sweeping arpeggios were twinkling in Liberace-esque flamboyance in her version of Lord of the Dance).
Be on the lookout for this name next year, as Medicine Hat native Faas will actually be touring here next spring in promotion of her new CD, Healing Waters.
To the delight of local tourist operators, and certainly Island ceilidh lovers, this show is one of the longest running summer ceilidhs on P.E.I., as it starts mid-June, and goes every Thursday until Oct. 1.
So if you had a busy summer and feel like you missed out on some good shows, and want to kick back and take in a relaxing night of down home greats, you still have a few more chances in the weeks ahead.
As many of you might know by now from the travelogue in The Guardian, I won't be Out and Abouting for the next two weeks as my wife, Savannah, and I are currently travelling across Canada on our honeymoon, baby!
(I've actually written this on my laptop in the passenger seat while we're cruising along the Trans-Canada.)
See tomorrow's paper for a new update on our ridiculous Smart Car post-nuptial escapade, and watch for a few installments a week from the road over the next couple of weeks.
It's now my turn to drive . . .