by Charlie Hansen
In the past couple of weeks I have had the opportunity to compare two branches from the same musical tree. When our Irish and Scottish ancestors came from their homelands to find their fortune in the new world some settled in Atlantic Canada while many more took a left turn and settled in the southern Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and the Carolinas. With the difference in location came a difference in the evolution of their music. The Atlantic Canadians stayed closer to their Celtic roots while the southern Americans allowed their music to evolve into what we now call "bluegrass" and it's various off shoots. Now that the history lesson is over let's get to the good stuff.
PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival
The 15th annual P.E.I. Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival was held at Rollo Bay on July 7, 8, 9 and it was a resounding success. This year's festival featured four bands from south of the 49th parallel, including Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike, Dean Osborne and Eastbound, The Schankman Twins, and The Dowden Sisters. Variety was the key and there was lots of it. These four groups, along with a line up of top notch local and regional bands, provided the audience with everything from the most traditional old time mountain music to the most cutting edge contemporary bluegrass sounds and everything in between. If you couldn't find something you liked at this years festival you weren't listening. The organizers of the festival deserve a resounding vote of thanks for their efforts and I'm sure they will continue to bring us great music in the future. As a matter of fact they have already begun planning the year 2001 festival and have booked Chris Jones and The Night Drivers out of Nashville, Tenn as one of the groups for next year's line up.
Ireland Meets Scotland
On July 12th I had the opportunity to take in the "Ireland meets Scotland" show at the Benevolent Irish Society Hall on North River Road. This show provides a look at the other branch taken by our celtic ancestors. The performance features, identical twins, Colin and Tristan Jeffrey along with their dad, Kevin and dancers/singers Marlys Hamilton and Brittany Banks. This show tells the story of how the Irish and Scottish settlers got to P.E.I. and what caused their migration. There are many parallels drawn between the plight of both celtic cousins from the Scottish clearances to the Irish potato famine and the effect they had on driving these people from their homes in search of a new life. The show is richly laced with poetry, music and dance with a bit of humor thrown in at the proper times. The Jeffrey twins are flawless musicians and the classical training that they have received over the years is very apparent in this production. Their father, Kevin, provides just the right back up on guitar and his commentary during the evening makes a comfortable bed for the music to lie in. Marlys Hamilton is a marvelous dancer in both Irish and Scottish styles and is a budding choreographer as witnessed in the Celtic Dance Medley. Brittany Banks is a cute as can be and is a very talented 10 year old. She has a personality that is made for the stage and has added a new dimension to her talent by becoming a fine singer. The "Ireland meets Scotland" show plays Wednesdays until August 23rd at the Irish Hall 582 North River Road and Fridays until August 25th at the Orwell Corner Historic Village in Orwell. This show is definitely worth a look.