I know many of the Gaspesians from Montreal know Neil MacKay, the great Chateauguay Valley fiddler, from his days playing with Bob Fuller and Jeannie Arsenault for the Gaspé parties around Verdun and NDG.
The folks at the Saint-Urbain cultural committee recently paid homage to Neil and all the music he has provided his community over the years.
Here is their text
I generally keep politics out of this blog but I was really touched by their hommage which I think serves as an example to all Quebecers in the present day as divisions over language and culture are being sown and intensified in provincial politics. Amidst all the negative press Quebec has been getting, Saint-Urbain shows us our ability as Quebecers to unite through music, how musicians of all stripes can serve their communities across linguistic and cultural lines to contribute to a common cultural resource for all residents of the province. Although Neil is an anglophone (though perfectly bilingual), Saint-Urbain has proudly claimed his family as une famille souche de Saint-Urbain (a dyed-in-the wool Saint-Urbain family) and recognized him as a bearer, teacher, and builder of the community's musical traditions. This sort of disposition is one of the things I love about the Chateauguay Valley and the province's musicians more generally.
I was especially inspired by all the work Neil has done with the local school kids, providing music for their plays and events.Ultimately, doing the good work that Neil does comes down to being a generous and empathetic person who is a gentleman before all else, someone who never lets differences or ego get in the way of helping everyone have a good time through his musical talents. I'll close with this extract which I found particularly evocative and apt:
Il a fait danser des milliers de pieds, a suscité l’émerveillement par son jeu toujours juste et rempli d’émotions, a raconté tant d’histoires du bout de son archet.
(He has made thousands of feet dance, sparked wonder through his playing, always true and filled with emotion, and told so many stories from the end of his bow)