Tag Archives: fiddle

Love Quebec, Music and Winter

Note: Leading up to Valentine’s Day, in a romantic mood, A Traveler’s library has a distinct French accent this week. Kerry Dexter starts us off in French-speaking Quebec with a bilingual musical choice that shows how travelers might love Quebec and music and winter. Later this week, I’ll be reviewing two novels about romances set in the City of Love, Paris.

Destination: Quebec, Canada

Music: Ce Monde Ici-Bas (This World Here Below) by De Temps Antan

Quebec Skyline
Quebec Skyline. Photo by Robbie’s Photo Art from Flickr

In the province of Quebec, in Canada, people really know winter. Love Quebec. Love Winter.As nearly half the year, from October through into March, is a season of cold and snow, it makes sense that Quebecois folk have come to love it, with major winter festivals lighting up the cities of Quebec and Montreal, people heading to the mountains to ski, and going cross country by ski and sled, celebrating life and love and music in the depths of winter.

Quebec Winter Carnival
Quebec Winter Carnival 2013. Photo by James McCaffrey

Indoors in winter there are celebrations of the unique landscape and heritage of Quebec’s people too. Most often these involve music. The three men who make up the group De Temps Antan know this well.

Through love of music shared in the family through study, through travel, and through winding musical paths, Éric Beaudry, André Brunet, and Pierre-Luc Dupuis each found his way to worldwide stages playing the music of Quebec as members of the iconic (and large) Quebec band La Bottine Souriante, and eventually, Beaudry, Brunet, and Dupuis chose to bring their love of Quebecois music back to the more intimate settings of those tunes shared around the kitchen table, as they formed the trio De Temps Antan. Their most recent release is called Ce Monde Ici-Bas (This World Here Below).

Quebec music group De Temps Antan. Photo by Wil Macauley.
Quebec music group De Temps Antan. Photo by Wil Macauley.

The family feeling and connection the men bring to this project doesn’t mean it’s all quiet music, though. Fast paced tunes and songs recalling and inviting dance that mark love for music in Quebec are in full character as the three friends play their way through sets of traditional music, music they’ve written themselves, and music which connects these sources.

Each man brings his own flavor to the music. Éric Beaudry grew up in Saint-Côme. and has taken an early love of singing and playing guitar to playing mandolin and bouzouki as well. He has studied both jazz and pop music as well as learning his own traditions, and now teaches traditional music too.

André Brunet’s instrument is the violin . Along with his brother Rejean — now part of the top Quebecois group Le Vent du Nord — he recorded several albums, and has also won the top award at the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Competition, the first Quebecois artist to do so. You might have heard his fiddling as part of the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia,

Pierre-Luc Dupuis comes from Louiseville, Quebec, where he grew up around music and was drawn to the accordion, with which he made a solid reputation across Quebec before touring the world as part of La Bottine Souriante, and now, with the trio that is De Temps Antan.

So what do these three friends sound like when they make music together? Love of place, family, friendship, a dash of humor and a touch of romance along with a nod to history and the joy of sharing music all come through in their music choices. They offer fast and slow pieces, trading melody and harmony line, warmth, humor, and quite a bit of that trademark Quebec musical accompaniment, stamping and tapping of the feet!

The music of Quebec is French music — all the lyrics here are in French — and is rooted in the songs and tunes emigrants from the Celtic regions of France carried with them over the ocean. It is also a music shaped and formed by new world encounters with the music carried by people from Scotland and Ireland and other countries, shaped and formed too by the landscape and the seasons on the land in Quebec.

On Ce Monde Ici-Bas, you’ll find a traditional emigration song (reworked with a nod to another part of French culture, the Cajun community), a lively drinking song, a romantic waltz, and sets of reels and jigs that you can just imagine being shared in lively fashion around the kitchen table. The closing track draws all these threads together, and evokes the romance and joy, the dance and reflection, of the music of Quebec. It is called Matin d’Hiver, Winter Morning.

Looking for a unique soundtrack to your own winter morning, or Valentine’s Day celebrations? De Temps Antan could just have that for you with Ce Monde Ici-Bas.

Note: All photographs used here are form Flickr, used with creative commons license.  Click on the photo to learn more about the photographer.

Celtic Christmas Journeys


by Kerry Dexter

Destinations: Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, Cape Breton, and Celtic communities across the world

Music: Narada Presents: The Best of Celtic Christmas [Narada Productions]
by Natalie MacMaster, Cathie Ryan, Kathy Mattea, Altan, The Boys of the Lough, Dordan, Frankie Gavin, and a whole bunch of other musicians


Celtic Christmas star
Snowflake inside/snow flakes outside, Irish lace star in Virginia

In Ireland, Scotland and other Celtic countries and communities across the world, the four weeks of Advent, the time of Christmas, the turning of the new year on up through Epiphany/Three Kings Day early in January are known as the festive season. This gets to the heart of Celtic Christmas time, a reminder of and invitation to celebration, connection, storytelling, joy, contemplation, and faith. All these things come into play in the music on Narada Presents: The Best of Celtic Christmas.

If you might be thinking, wait, Christmas isn’t really my holiday or hey, I’ve heard way too much holiday music — read on. In this musical celebration of Celtic Christmas you will find gems to enjoy even so.

One disc of this two-disc set is music by Dordan, four women based in the west of Ireland. Flute player Mary Bergin, singer Martina Goggin, fiddler and violist Dearbhaill Standun, and harper Kathleen Lougnane draw on backgrounds that include classical music as well as deep immersion in the traditions of Ireland to create a program that invites to the joy, thoughtfulness, and sharing that make up the anticipation of Christmas.

Their clear instrumentation, lively collaboration, and graceful singing and playing enliven songs and tunes you may know by melody if not by title — the Enniscorthy Carol, for example and Don Oiche Ud i mBeithil/ Because of a Night in Bethlehem — along with original music from the band members, including Mary Bergin’s good welcome for travelers in any season and of any faith called Wayfarer’s Welcome and her evocation of winter and mystery in Draiocht na hOiche/ Magic of the Night.

Snowy path
Snowy Path in Virginia

The music of Dordan offers a fine gateway to the music shared on the other disc of The Best of Celtic Christmas. If you’d like music which suggests winter and adds just a hint of jazz to Celtic tradition, then you’ll want to make time to listen The Snowy Path from Altan.

The band members of Altan come from Ireland’s far northwest, in Donegal, where it does indeed often get very snowy in winter. A touch of jazz also flavors Christmastime in Ashland, a tune from whistle master Cormac Breatnach and guitarist Martin Dunlea. Both men hail from Ireland, but they wrote the tune inspired by a winter trip in Virginia.

William Jackson from Glasgow, one of the Celtic world’s most renown harp players, and Mairi MacInnes, a gifted singer from South Uist in Scotland’s Western Isles, join together for a thoughtful exploration of Silent Night, which MacInnes sings in Scottish Gaelic. Nouel is a traditional hymn celebrating the Christ Child, sung in Breton with echoing harmonies by Ensemble Chorale du Bout du Mond from Brittany, a group formed to carry on the strong Celtic traditions of that area of northwestern France.

Celtic Christmas in Cape Breton
View from Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, N.S.

Fiddle player Natalie MacMaster comes from Cape Breton in Atlantic Canada. Here she joins up with country and bluegrass Grammy winter Alison Krauss as the two offer a song for those weary at the holidays called Help Me Make It Through December, which was written by fellow Cape Bretoner Gordie Sampson.

Kathy Mattea often finds inspiration and renewal for her award-winning country and Americana music through time she spends in Scotland, and it is to Scotland’s Western Isles she turns for the traditional song she offers here, Christ Child Lullabye.

Cathie Ryan, first generation Irish American, honors that community with her choice, and her quiet, understated version, of a carol written by two Irish American writers, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.

There are many more gems to discover on Narada Presents the Best of Celtic Christmas, from seasonal jigs and reels to carols to hymns. Whether your travels take you to the lands and communities of Celtic Christmas or not, you may travel there in your imagination with these musicians. Through all of this music you’ll find good and lasting companions for your own travels, during a season with a story of travel at its heart.

Read more about these and other Celtic Musicians in a series at Music road.

Note: It is the policy of A Traveler’s Library to let you know about affiliate links.  There are links in this article to Amazon, where you can listen to bits of the album, and do your shopping if you wish. It does not cost you any more, and you will be benefiting Music Road and A Traveler’s Library.


Musical Trip to Scotland


Destination: Scotland


Ceolbeg Collected by Ceolbeg [Greentrax],
Race the Loser by Lau [Reveal Records],
The Flooers o’ the Forest by various artists [Greentrax],
Flourish by Katie McNally [own label]

Article by Kerry Dexter

Scotland’s varied landscapes, long history, and present day life inspire music that turns out to be as varied as those landscapes and as vibrant as that day-to-day life. Here are recent albums for you to consider as you imagine, plan, or remember your trip to Scotland.
trip to Scotland album

Ceolbeg Collected

The first two tracks of Ceolbeg Collected make a fine opener for any trip to Scotland. The music begins with a march which moves into a highstepping strathspey called the Laddie with the Plaidie. [Note from VMB: The term Strathspey was new to me, and in case you also need a primer on strathspey, take a look at this demonstration by two experts. Kerry explained to me that the strathspey falls rhythmically between the march that precedes it on the album, and the reel that follows. ] The Cup of Tea Reel brings the set to a close, making all told a fine introduction of the fast-paced side of the music of Scotland. Farewell Tae the Haven,  a song of lament for the decline of fishing and the leaving of a fishing town, follows.

Ceolbeg began as a band in the port of Dundee in the late 1970s and through more than three decades (they played their last gig ten years ago) saw many of Scotland’s finest musicians join its lineup, which featured traditional instruments, traditional songs, and innovative takes on tradition as well as original music. The sixteen cuts on Ceolbeg Collected showcase songs and tunes of history, love, politics, landscape, and change, many of the band’s best gathered from across the years.
Trip to Scotland Album

Race the Loser

The opening tracks of Race the Loser may have you thinking in a different direction. Kris Drever, Martin Green, and Aidan O’Rourke, the men who make up this trio, have solo careers involving traditional music, but when they get together, they’re known for creating work that takes folk and traditional music up to its boundaries and beyond, and indeed they do so here. Scotland’s traditions remain at the heart of their music though, as they weave O’Rourke’s fiddle, Green’s accordion, and Drever’s guitar and voice through complex and intriguing realms of melody, at times bringing in electronics and at others relying on adventurous melody and counterpoint of their traditional instruments alone.


Trip to Scotland album

The Flooers of the Forest 

The Flooers of the Forest is an iconic song of Scotland, whether performed as a song with words or played as lament on instruments alone. The words were written about those lost at the Battle of Flodden, which took place five hundred years ago near the Scottish Borders area in northern Northumberland in England. The political and historical ramifications may be debated, but there’s no doubt many died in this battle between English and Scottish forces, and that Scotland came out the heavy loser. Not only was King James IV killed, but there was hardly a family in Scotland that went unscathed by the battle.

Legends have grown about the events at Flodden– who took part, what went before, and what came after– but until now the songs and stories had not been gathered together. The Flooers of the Forest is a two disc set, the first comprising fifteen tracks, opening with Dick Gaughan’s rough hewn voice singing the story of the title track and closing with Gary West’s haunting version of it on the pipes. In between there are songs of the battle and its people from Karine Polwart, Rob Bell, Davy Steele, Archie Fisher, and other luminaries of Scotland’s music. The second disc is readings of poetry and prose . All will take you through a trip to Scotland in a particular place and time in Scotland’s history.


Tri[p to Scotland music - Flourish

Katie McNally’s instrument is the fiddle. The Boston based musician has long been immersed in the music of Scotland. She’s studied in Glasgow and in the U. S., and come away with an individual touch and style that mark her as a gifted interpreter of the traditions of the music of Scotland as well as a talent who is taking that music and its intersections with the music of North America into new dimensions. You’ll hear all of this on her album Flourish.

Traditional and original tunes as well as tunes by Scottish composers meet and match, with McNally’s fiddle gracefully leading a dance of traditional instruments including guitar, cello, and harmony fiddle. Standout tracks include Waulking of the Fauld paired with Lillian’s, The Jarvis Waltz, and Da Unst Bridal March, though every track is a keeper, and well worth your returning to time and again.

Take a trip to Scotland through the music of these artists. You’ll discover things you never knew.

Note: A Traveler’s library reveals affiliate links.  The album cover images and album titles here are links to Amazon, where you can listen to partial music tracks and shop for albums and books. If you click on the link and make a purchase at Amazon, it will benefit Music Road, for which we thank you.