After Beth attended Sherryl Fitzpatrick's fiddle camp in Manotick
and met a group of people who were really into Cape Breton music,
they finally got the Cape Breton Session going, June 2005. "We
started out at the Highlander Pub in the Byward Market, but there
really wasn't enough space there, and it's carpeted, so it's not
good for dancing or foot stomping,"
They wanted a place that was central and had
adequate parking. "The group has a lot of drive and energy. We
decided to change venues. The musicians were determined that
whatever hurdles, they would not let the session disappear," Aylene
She contacted the Royal Oak on Bank, and they welcomed the group.
It's a traditional music session as opposed to a band performing on
stage. "We have a great place to play with a wood floor, and the
Royal Oak gets a larger Sunday crowd; there are lots of folks who
don't play but just come to listen," Beth says. The Royal Oak
provides free snacks for musicians during a break at around 3:30
It's a rip-roaring Kitchen Ceili, in the Maritime tradition. "We've
had as many as sixteen fiddlers, three bodhran players, a couple of
guitars and a mandolin," Beth MacGillivray says. "Most often it's a
core group of around 7 to 10 fiddlers." The crowd gets bigger every
week, and a good time is had by all.
When they aren't at the Royal Oak, they have house sessions on the
2nd and 4th Sundays of every month. In the months when there are
five Sundays, they play at a nursing home or senior's residence.
"Aylene is a vastly superior musician than I am, but I have more
organizational experience, so she leads the sessions and is the
"musical director," while I take care of communications - email and
the website," Beth says.
Step Dancer Beth MacGillivray
Ellen Katic ensures that they always
have piano accompaniment; Graham Crate helps with the email list,
Andrew MacLean adds the photos to the website, Greg Clarke handles
posters and publicity. Ernie Fraser is a great Cape Breton fiddler
who has been leading the sessions the last few weeks while Aylene is
busy with her new baby. It's an entirely volunteer group.
Ernie Fraser, Duncan
"We have folks from the Ottawa Cape Breton Society, and several
other Cape Bretoners away from home who come every week," Beth
adds. The group also welcomes beginning fiddlers. Not many people
can play Cape Breton music for three hours from memory, so many
players bring music stands and use sheet music.
Hugh A. MacMillan
Their website is
Lois Siegel is a freelance photographer for The Ottawa Citizen. When
she isn't teaching Video Production at the University of Ottawa, she
plays fiddle with The Lyon Street Celtic Band.