Who’s Playing in Westmount tonight?
For a long time now, at least 20+ years, the community of Westmount, Cape Breton (home to famous Cape Breton fiddler, Howie MacDonald) has been home to frequently scheduled square-dances. Holy Rosary hall just off of the Westmount Road would be alive with stepping feet and lively fiddle tunes. The fiddle/piano due would always be fantastic! The regulars would come out and dance all night, and you’d often see a new face or two, out on a discovery mission, and never let down with their newly chosen adventure.
A local resident, Elmer Fraser, a man who just simply loves Cape Breton music, has dedicated himself and volunteered countless hours of his time to organize these dances over the past number of decades. The dance is known all over the island. Over the years it has moved from one location to another, but the consistency of the organizing body has been kept, and the crowds still support the life of “Elmer’s dances”. Elmer has had the finest of Cape Breton musicians perform for these dances, including Andrea Beaton, Ian MacDougall, Mac Morin, Robbie and Isaac Fraser, Kinnon and Betty Lou Beaton, Ashley MacIsaac, to name but a few.
The original location, Holy Rosary, later changed to the Westmount Legion. That legion’s walls also heard many a night of endless tunes and wonderful fiddle music. Over the years, the Westmount Legion shifted to the Curling Club in downtown Sydney. This hall, too, was filled on many occasion……..rain, shine, or many inches of snow (as I recall one wintery night!).
Small community dances on Cape Breton Island help to keep the square-dancing tradition alive here. In all honestly, they support the life of the overall musical traditions associated with our distinct Gaelic Culture of Cape Breton. The support system stems from these little dance halls when other organizations and businesses across the island see the popularity of and the attraction created by these community dances. We are breeding a good thing in all of this, here’s to hoping the small town dance-hall traditions in Cape Breton continue to exist and thrive………as I am sure they will!