SSHRC Grant Supports North Atlantic Fiddle Convention Being Held in Cape Breton

A Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connection Grant valued at $54,578 is helping to bring North Atlantic fiddle, dance and related traditions to Cape Breton while introducing the Celtic traditions of Cape Breton Island to the world. The grant was awarded to Dr. Chris McDonald, an ethnomusicologist, Dr. Heather Sparling, Canada Research Chair in Musical Traditions and Dr. Richard MacKinnon, a folklorist, all working at Cape Breton University (CBU).

The grant will support the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention (NAFCo) being held, in conjunction with Celtic Colours International Music Festival, from October 13-17, 2015. NAFCo will bring together scholars, practitioners and other stakeholders from around the world to share research and performance skills related to fiddling, dance and other musical traditions What is exciting about the convention is that it brings together scholars and performers, and it emphasizes workshops and concerts as well as academic presentations – something that is uncommon for a conference agenda. Typically held in Europe, this is only the second time that NAFCo will be held in Canada, it having been held in St. John’s, Newfoundland in 2008.

“We are thrilled to bring NAFCo to Cape Breton,” says Dr. McDonald. “The opportunity provided by the grant to link the local with the international in the fields of music, dance and fiddling will make this a very beneficial event. We expect this to boost CBU’s and Celtic Colours’s international profiles as world-class institutions of culture and research.”

In partnership with the Beaton Institute, conference organizers are particularly excited about plans to launch the Celtic Music Digital Archive Project. Through this project, the Beaton’s archival resources relating to the Celtic music traditions in Cape Breton Island will be identified and described, and readily available through The Celtic music holdings, which include manuscript groups and collections, rare books and limited publications, tune books, photographs, audio discs, audio tape, film and video recordings, are in demand by local, national and international audiences. This widely accessible archive will benefit academic and community researchers, as well as educators and musicians, among others. Funding will also enable a number of workshops combining research and practice to be held during the conference, all of which will be open to the public and free.

This year, to help extend the reach of the research presented, short videos will capture performance-related research. For example, one will feature The Chop, a recently developed rhythmic fiddle technique that has been quickly adopted in a variety of Celtic fiddle traditions. As well, proceedings from the 2015 Conference and those from past years will be digitized and available on a new, permanent NAFCo website.

For more information about NAFCo visit