Styles | Bowing Down Home

Assigning fiddlers to stylistic groups can be a difficult task. Not every fiddler is pure to type, there are often borderline cases, and some fiddlers have styles that are so individualistic that it is hard to place them regionally. That said, here is a set of categories and parameters that cover the fiddlers in this project reasonably well. Each stylistic region is described in detail on its own page.

East vs. West

The most fundamental regional distinction that Islanders recognize separates fiddlers of eastern PEI or Kings County with its strong Scottish heritage, from those of western PEI or Prince County with its strong Acadian heritage. These differences are most extreme at the Island’s outer edges and shade together towards the middle, yielding a series of stylistic areas. From east to west, these areas are Northeast Kings, Central Kings, Eastern Queens, Western Queens, Evangeline Coast / East Prince, and West Prince. In addition, there are a number of additional stylistic "pockets" -- such as South Kings and Southeastern Queens that to some degree are off the east-west grid.

Although this east-west divide has been in place throughout living memory, it has actually been sharpened over the last couple of generations as fiddlers from Northeast Kings County increasingly borrow repertoire and stylistic elements from Cape Breton fiddling, and young fiddlers from western Prince County seek common ground and stylistic input from counterparts in such neighbouring francophone regions such as southeastern New Brunswick and the Magdalene Islands.

It should be noted that until recent years regional style often trumped ethnicity when it came to the styles of individual players. Prince County fiddlers Sidney Baglole, Elmer Robinson and Andrew Jones, for example, had playing styles that were not unlike those of their Acadian-French neighbors. Similarly, there have been quite a number of Chaissons, Longaphies, and Cheveries from Kings County who play what is generally considered to be a "Scotch" style (by 2006, many Islanders were using the term “Celtic” to refer to both Kings County and Cape Breton styles).

Styles Not Based on Island Geography

Some Island Fiddlers have adopted styles that are largely unconnected with those of their home regions. Here is a partial breakdown.

Maritime Fiddling

One relatively widespread style on PEI is “Messer” or Maritime Style, based on the playing of radio and television fiddler Don Messer.

"Slow" Fiddlers

Most Island fiddlers have developed playing mechanics that help them excel at playing reels and jigs. Harry Lecky of Milburn, Prince County refers to them as "fast fiddlers," and makes the point that "slow fiddlers" - whose playing mechanics are focused primarily on creating expressive renditions of song melodies, waltzes, and set-tunes - should also be recognized as an important part of the Island tradition. 

The New Wave: Professional Players

Many new players coming up as a result of the Island’s fiddling revival have developed playing styles that are quite different from those of older Islanders from their home regions; their styles are generally listed as "New Wave."  

"Amateur" Fiddlers

As an offshoot of PEI's fiddling revival, hundreds of adult Islanders took up the fiddle and joined the PEI Fiddlers' Society or a host of other fiddle clubs and amateur bands. The playing sound of these amateur fiddlers tends not to have a distinct regional accent. 

Styles of the Fiddlers on This Site

All the fiddlers on this site whose playing represents a given regional style are listed on the page for that style, with links to their respective bio pages. Alternatively, you can explore the full gamut of Island styles through the Annotated List of Fiddlers by Style. Note that some selections played by Island musicians on other instruments such as mandolin and piano are also available.