Jackie Biggar | Bowing Down Home

Jackie Biggar, 2006

Biography

Jackie Biggar is one of the last fiddlers to have developed during PEI’s traditional period (two others are David Gaudet and Louise Arsenault). His father Johnny Biggar was an active fiddler who guarded his instrument closely, and Jackie had to be extremely persistent before he was allowed access to it. With some help from his mother, he quickly developed the ability to transfer music from his imagination to the instrument.

By the time Biggar was an adolescent much of the local fiddle-dance scene was gone from Tyne Valley. However, Jackie and his father often played at riotous music parties hosted by his uncle during the summers. As he recalls, there was always plenty of beer, a couple of quarts of ‘shine and buckets of lobster on the table, and dancers would swing at dizzying speeds to the music. He also competed – and frequently won prizes – at local fiddle contests, notably the PEI Fiddling Championships at Tyne Valley.

By the 1970s, Jackie was acutely aware of being virtually the only younger person then fiddling in public, and he watched with dismay as the local music and dance scene continued to decline.

Biggar is an extremely powerful player who is just as comfortable playing in the key of Bb as he is the more common fiddle keys of D or A (see for example his Mug `n’ Brush Medley). He was a great admirer of fiddler Elmer Robinson and learned a lot of Robinson’s tunes. He also is a big fan of Cape Breton playing, and picked up tunes from that repertoire – both directly from recordings, and indirectly from other local players such as Ervan Sonier and Jim MacDougall. He has adopted the practice of using Cape Breton style cuts, or bowed triplets from Cape Breton fiddlers, but often places them at points of a tune where someone familiar with Cape Breton fiddling would not expect to hear them. Biggar is very proud of his personal tune versions, or twists; and observes that one major source of validation for a fiddler is when other players adopt his twists.

Hear More Stories:

Power outages offer an opportunity for musical evenings at home

An almost ​endless contest playoff between two legendary Prince County fiddlers

Tune Selections

Biggar, Jackie - Carl's Homecoming Accompanied by: Darlene Harding, pno; Peter Robinson, bass
West Prince
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Biggar, Jackie - Carlton County Breakdown Accompanied by: Darlene Harding, pno; Peter Robinson, bass
West Prince
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Biggar, Jackie - Growling Old Man Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
West Prince
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Biggar, Jackie - Jackie Biggar's First Tune Accompanied by: unacc
West Prince
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Biggar, Jackie - Mug 'n' Brush Reel / Bonny Lass of Fisherrow, Bb Setting Accompanied by: Darlene Harding, pno; Peter Robinson, bass
West Prince
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Biggar, Jackie - Paddy on the Turnpike, A-setting Accompanied by: Darlene Harding, pno; Peter Robinson, bass
West Prince
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Biggar, Jackie - Picnic Reel / My Brother's Letter Accompanied by: Darlene Harding, pno; Peter Robinson, bass
West Prince
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Biggar, Jackie - Pigeon on the Gatepost Accompanied by: Darlene Harding, pno; Peter Robinson, bass
West Prince
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Biggar, Jackie - Princess Reel Accompanied by: Darlene Harding, pno; Peter Robinson, bass
West Prince
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Biggar, Jackie - The Miracmichi Fire / Paddy on the Turnpike, A/Setting Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
West Prince
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Tune Selections

MacDougall, Jim - Spin 'n' Glow / Regina Stubbert / JMacDougall Jig 1 Accompanied by: Darlene Harding, pno; Peter Robinson, bass
West Prince
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Oral Histories

Biggar, Jackie - Adventures with lightning In early days of electricity, power outages would be an occasion for families to play; story of when lighting hit a nearby pole and the energy jumped across to the steel strings family members were holding info and transcript
Biggar, Jackie - Dreaming assists tune-learning Dreamed he learned tune; woke up and played it "slick as can be" info and transcript
Biggar, Jackie - Legendary contest playoff Elmer Robinson and Wm. Harvey compete in Charlottetown info and transcript
Biggar, Jackie - Music parties in Tyne Valley Parties of Enthusiasts at Uncles' Shed in summertime info and transcript
Biggar, Jackie - Others adopt your twist You know you're making a good job on your twist when others copy it info and transcript

Video Clips