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IAIN FRASER - Canadian Fiddle Tunes: 60 Traditional Pieces

IAIN FRASER - Canadian Fiddle Tunes: 60 Traditional Pieces
Schott ISBN: 9781847613592

The Canadian fiddle repertoire is a rich and diverse tapestry drawing on many different sources. The three most important are Ireland, Scotland and France, but added to this are England, native and Métis (mixed) peoples, America and Ukraine.

In this collection of 60 tunes, Scottish fiddler, Iain Fraser, manages to give a broad representation of the different musical and geographical sub-styles within Canada, with sections on Newfoundland, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, Old Time, French-Canadian, Métis, Ukrainian and Western.

Some of the tunes will be familiar to British and Irish fiddlers, such as the Flowers Of Edinburgh and St Anne’s Reel. Round Old Ruby’s Garden is a simplified version of Miss McLeod’s, and Money Musk is a tune with versions found in most parts of the British Isles and North America. Many of the other tunes are distinctively Canadian, such as Red River Jig and La Grande Gigue Simple.

A distinctive feature of Canadian tunes from many parts of the repertoire is “crookedness”- the presence of uneven and unpredictable bar lengths. This is well represented in many of the tunes in this collection, particularly in the French Canadian and Métis sections.

All the tunes are present, nicely played, as solo fiddle recordings on the accompanying CD. The presentation, bowings and ornamentation are simple and uncluttered, though some readers might miss the presence of chord symbols. My main criticism is Fraser’s decision to base his collection mostly on vintage recordings rather than on current usage. Whilst this is certainly a valid choice, I believe that tunes such as Westphalia Waltz, Reel De Pont Au-Pic and Reel Béatrice, all widely played today both inside and outside Canada, are poorly represented by the versions in this book.

Nevertheless this is, overall, an excellent collection and more than does justice to the richness of the Canadian fiddle tradition.

Chris Haigh

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This album was reviewed in Issue 114 of The Living Tradition magazine.