Queens County Fiddlers | Bowing Down Home
The Queens County Fiddlers & Eastern Kings Fiddlers are two branches of the Prince Edward Island Fiddlers’ Society. The Queens County branch draws membership from center of the Island from roughly Montague to Hunter River, and has its meetings in Charlottetown. The Eastern Kings branch draws fiddlers almost entirely from northeastern Kings County, and has its meetings in Souris.
The Eastern Kings Fiddlers was established under the leadership of the Chaisson family of Bear River, with Joe Pete Chaisson providing much of the inspiration and energy for the group's activities from its founding until his death in 1982. Thereafter, this role was taken up by his sons Kevin, Kenny, and "Young Peter."
From the beginning, the Eastern Kings Fiddlers stressed a close musical association with Cape Breton fiddling tradition. Their repertoire consisted almost exclusively of Scottish and Cape Breton tunes, and the festival they organized – known as the Rollo Bay Scottish Fiddle Festival – was almost entirely focused on Cape Breton fiddling style and repertoire. With proceeds from the Festival, the Eastern Kings branch established the Rollo Bay Fiddle Instruction Program: free weekly fiddle classes for students of all ages taught by Kathryn Dau Schmidt.
In 1991-2, the Eastern Kings Fiddlers was a loose association of perhaps a dozen established fiddlers and accompanists. Among them were the three Chaisson brothers, Gus Longaphie and his son Buddy, Allan MacDonald, Francis MacDonald, the brothers Dan and Hughie McPhee, and Charlie Sheehan.
The Queens County Fiddlers has always been the largest and most structured branch of the PEI Fiddlers’ Society. Rehearsals are formal and well organized, most of the repertoire consists of published versions of Scottish, Irish, and Cape Breton tunes, and there was much emphasis on playing standard tune versions. Instead of establishing a separate fiddle school, the QCF has tried to integrate instruction into its weekly rehearsals.
Throughout its early years, the QCF was led by Fr. Faber MacDonald. After MacDonald was assigned to a bishopric in Newfoundland, the job of running the branch ultimately fell to another Island clergyman, Fr. Charles Cheverie. Although its original membership consisted primarily of established fiddlers, not many of them remained active in the organization on a long term basis. By the early 1990s, most regulars at Queens County could best be described as musical hobbyists in the process of developing their fiddling skills. Many of these hobbyists were older Islanders who had been attracted to fiddling during their youth, but had been unwilling or unable to take it up at the time.
By 2006, the Eastern Kings Fiddlers branch had stopped meeting regularly, but some members would join together periodically to play at festivals and charitable events. The Queens County Fiddlers was still active, but was reduced somewhat in numbers. Fr. Charles Cheverie was in the process of scaling down his involvement, and leadership was in the process of passing to such new generation players as Ward MacDonald and Sheila MacKenzie. In 2004, the branch recorded its own CD entitled Forty Fiddles, Flat Out, which sold several thousand copies on the Island.