Cheverie, Fr. Charles | Bowing Down Home

Fr. Charles Cheverie, 2006


Known throughout PEI as "Father Charlie," Fr. Charles Cheverie headed up the Queens County Fiddlers, a branch of the PEI Fiddlers Society for nearly 20 years. For many years Fr. Charlie taught in the biology department at University of PEI; when he retired from that position he became Chaplain at UPEI, served as a regular parish priest, and was always on the go officiating at weddings, funerals and other milestones.

Fr. Charlie’s father had always been a great fan of fiddling and befriended quite a number of Island fiddlers. One frequent visitor to the family home was Joe Pete Chaisson of Bear River in Northeastern Kings County, the father of well known Island musicians “Young Peter” Chaisson, Kevin Chaisson, and Kenny Chaisson. Fr. Charlie took some fiddle lessons during childhood from Joe Pete, but never got serious about the instrument; instead he devoted his musical energies to playing guitar. When Joe Pete passed away in the late 1970s, however, Fr. Charlie attended the funeral and encountered “Young Peter” Chaisson, who strongly encouraged him to give fiddling another try.

When Fr. Charlie began to play fiddle systematically, his primary role models were the Chaisson brothers. Consequently, the style he developed is far closer to the Northeastern Kings mode of playing, than it is to that of his native Queens County.

The Queens County Fiddlers had been formed in the mid-1970s under the leadership of Fr. Faber MacDonald. When MacDonald was made a Bishop in Newfoundland in 1980, the organization seemed to lose its focus. Fr. Cheverie was asked to take over as director around 1985, and by the early 90s the organization was flourishing. One tactic he used to increase membership was recruiting dropouts from Singing Strings, Charlottetown’s classical violin program.

Over the last several years, he has gradually backed off from his leadership role in the Queens County Fiddlers and has passed the torch to such young musicians as Ward MacDonald, Sheila MacKenzie, and Aaron Crane.

In 1991, Fr. Charlie spoke at length about the customs and social atmosphere surrounding fiddling. Some excerpts are available here: why fiddlers were stigmatized for drinking in public, how fiddlers learned and disseminated tunes heard on radio, why many locals did not appreciate the fiddling style of Canadian media icon Don Messer, and a joke about fiddling whose punch line hinges on the predominant local style of tune learning.

In 2006, Cheverie’s focus was largely on recent events and future projections. He expressed disappointment that some youngsters who have learned to play through the PEI Fiddlers’ Society quit prematurely and start performing at Island ceilidhs. He applauded the increase of young women playing. Finally, he projected that Island fiddling would ultimately flourish in the hands of a new generation of players.

Tune Selections

Cheverie, Fr Charles - High Road to Linton, The Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, gtr
Northeast Kings
Cheverie, Fr Charles - Pride of the Ball / King's Reel Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
Northeast Kings
Cheverie, Fr Charles - Road to the Isles / Homeward Bound / Maid Behind the Bar Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
Northeast Kings
Cheverie, Fr Charles - Space Available / Heather on the Hill / Paddy on the Turnpike Accompanied by: Ken Perlman, bjo
Northeast Kings

Oral Histories

Cheverie, Fr Charles - Dropouts from Singing Strings Snags dropouts from classical music program info and transcript
Cheverie, Fr Charles - Stigma for public drinking Drinking customs (behind the shed), fiddler had to drink in public; fiddlers blamed unjustly for violence info and transcript
Don Messer’s fiddling style on Don Messer's playing style & why many locals didn't like it info and transcript
Encouraged to try fiddling again How he is drawn back into fiddling; taking the reigns of the Queens County Fiddlers info and transcript
Fiddling’s future on PEI Good sign for the future: lots of young players at all levels; hopefully this will generate a young audience info and transcript
Founding of Fiddlers’ Society Founding of PEI Fiddlers' Society; opposition to contests info and transcript
Joke about priests and fiddlers Joke about tune titles and oral learning info and transcript
Learning tunes from tadio Fiddlers have keen ears and pick things up from radio; they then share that with other fiddlers info and transcript
Rise and decline of ceilidhs Too many ceilidhs; too many youngsters making CDs and performing too soon info and transcript
Why more women are playing Why more young women are now involved in fiddling: end of the stigma; parents are willing to support them if they are interested info and transcript

Video Clips