Music in the Home and Community | Bowing Down Home

Most Island districts and towns were home to a steady stream of informal and impromptu musical episodes and gatherings.

Many communities boasted large fiddling families, who often spent their leisure hours playing music among themselves, as noted in recollections by Louise Gallant Arsenault, Jackie Biggar, and Zélie-Anne Arsenault Poirier. Such households often served as community gathering places, where locals could wander in to take in the music, bask in the festive atmosphere, step-dance, or even participate in a square set.

Some households that were known to be especially hospitable to musicians became popular spots for spontaneous visits from local fiddlers, accompanists, and neighbors eager to hear them play. And when a young man who played fiddle and a young woman who played keyboard or guitar felt a mutual attraction, such informal gatherings afforded them the double pleasure of being together and music making.

Fiddlers from a given region would sometimes congregate to swap tunes and stories. Joe Albert tells us that his grandfather’s house was a frequent venue for such gatherings, while Joe MacDonald notes that when he was growing up, such gatherings often took place in a neighboring Mi’kmaq community.

Holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas also provided opportunities to hear fiddling, often in special concerts and theatricals.

Some households valued the opportunity to hear music so highly that a fiddler's visit – even in the middle of a busy work-day – could occasion the suspension of all work. Some other places one might find fiddling during the workday were the barber shop, the train to town, and the flour mill.

In western Prince County near Tignish, fiddlers were often brought in to play at local political meetings.

If all else failed, locals with a yen for fiddle-music or dancing would simply go looking for a fiddler. Generally, they would descend upon his home during leisure hours, hoping either to start a small dance on the spot, or to lure him away to entertain the company elsewhere. If a fiddler had a reputation for not playing on demand, someone he was known to be especially fond of might be recruited to make the request. Regardless of what method of persuasion was employed, the individual who brought the fiddler along – or finally got him playing – was often the man or woman of the hour.

See Also: Singing Fiddle Tunes Community Dances