The Old-Time Herald Volume 8, Number 6

Features

Downeast Ceilidh Celebrates Thirty Years on the Air

by Andy Hawley

Marcia Young Palmater’s “Downeast Ceilidh” radio program, featuring traditional music of Canada’s Atlantic Provinces (with an emphasis on Cape Breton fiddle music) and news of interest to the Canadian-American community of greater Boston, was first broadcast from the campus of MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on February 3, 1972. This past February Marcia celebrated her 30th anniversary with a live show featuring the renowned Acadian fiddler Joe Cormier, his nephew J.P. Cormier, and Joe’s longtime friend and accompanist Edmond Boudreau.

In October the show was moved from MIT’s student-run station to WUMB, a professionally managed network of stations in eastern New England that broadcasts folk and roots-based music programs, both locally produced and syndicated, 24 hours every day. “Downeast Ceilidh” is on the air from 11-12 A.M. every Saturday. (Information about where to tune your dial, as well as about audio access to WUMB via the web, is available at www.wumb.org.) The Boston area has long been a popular destination for Eastern Canadians seeking employment, just as cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Washington have traditionally offered an escape from rural poverty to country folk from the Southern Appalachians. And just as homesick Appalachian exiles from West Virginia, Kentucky, or Tennessee would gather together to enjoy their fiddle tunes, ballads, and gospel songs, in order to momentarily transport themselves back to “the old home place,” Canadian emigrés living in Boston area towns like Waltham, Watertown, and Brookline, Massachusetts, where they often found employment in the construction industry as carpenters, electricians, roofers, etc., would congregate after work in places like Brookline’s Orange Hall or, more recently, Watertown’s Canadian-American Club, to socialize and dance to traditional strathspeys, reels, and jigs played by musicians who were typically their friends and neighbors from back home. It is to this community, with which Marcia has been intimately acquainted for 40 years, that she directs “Downeast Ceilidh”(both the music she plays and her weekly announcements of concerts, dances, and other events.

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