The host at the Louisbourg Playhouse tried clumsily to tie the Irish, French, Scottish and English history of Louisbourg together in an effort to justify the seemingly eccentric program before us by setting the place up as a crossroads, but the music itself told the story once he left the stage.
The story turned out to be about the tunes. Being familiar with Cape Breton style tunes (which tend to be of Scottish, Irish or Cape Breton origin), what I noticed most were the similarities and differences in repertoire and construction.
Shawn MacDonald and Dougie MacPhee played a nice selection of pretty familiar, recognizable tunes. Shawn’s showpiece “The Hangman” is always impressive (especially when introduced with a story) and Doug is immaculate on the keys.
The French tunes seemed to repeat the same line over and over, straight to the end and then stop and start again, straight to the end . . . Billed as the André Marchand Trio were André Marchand on guitar, vocals and feet, classically-trained violinist and traditional musicologist Lisa Ornstein, and funny guy singer, button accordionist Normand Miron. Their set was very interesting for its French Canadian folklore and most unusual, at least to me, for Marchand?s accompanying use of his feet.
The English, as represented by Waterson:Carthy, tended to weave melody and harmony in overlapping waves of voice and instrument. I like this effect, especially how it moves around, and found myself humming in the bathroom during the intermission.
Regardless of the historical significance of the venue, I was most looking forward to hearing the Bumblebees, Dr. Liz Doherty (fiddle), Laoise Kelly (harp & fiddle), Mary Shannon (banjo, fiddle & bouzouki) and Colette O’Leary (piano accordion). They were impressive, playing a diversity of tunes – from Cape Breton, Ireland, Denmark, Quebec, Scotland – and instruments that makes for an infinitely entertaining set. They’re there for the music and, having an André Marchand tune in their vast repertoire, sat on the floor in front of the stage for Marchand/Ornstein/Miron’s entire set. A couple of Irish steps and a tune with Mary Stanton and the night was complete.