Ste. Anne's Reel | Bowing Down Home
About this tune
St. Anne’s Reel is probably the most widely played tune on Prince Edward Island. Although it forms part of nearly every fiddlers’ repertoire, it is probably most prized in the western-most part of the Island, where a distinctive set of related variants has developed (see, for example, the versions of West Prince County fiddlers Joe Albert, Andrew Jones, Dennis Pitre, and Elmer Robinson).
The version of St. Anne's Reel now known throughout much of North America, Britain, and Ireland comes from a 1920s recording by Québecois fiddler Joseph Allard (1873-1947). Either that recording or live versions of the tune first reached PEI in the 1930s via broadcasts emanating from radio station CHNC of New Carlisle, Quebec on the Gaspé Peninsula. By the late 1930s, radio entertainer George Chappelle was playing the tune on CFCY radio in Charlottetown. Don Messer & the Islanders recorded the tune in the 1940s, and presumably also played it regularly during that period on CFCY radio and in live performance.
In the western part of PEI, fiddlers began tinkering with the tune in order to make it better suited to accompanying step dancers. This process is described and illustrated by Andrew Jones. Over the years, these changes in St. Anne’s Reel have gradually spread eastward. By the early 1990s, many Queens County versions showed considerable influence from the West Prince approach, but most Kings County versions were still relatively close to the “mainstream” North American version.
Notation for St. Anne’s Reel as played by Elmer Robinson is in Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island.