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HEATHER HILL. AKA - "Heather on the Hill." Canadian, Reel. Canada; Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). ABB (Shears): AABB (Cranford, Perlman). A popular tune composed (as "Heather Hill") in the 1940's by the prolific Cape Breton composer and fiddler Dan R. MacDonald (1911-1976); it is one of his best. Most Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island fiddlers use the title "Heather on the Hill" to refer to the tune. Dan R's nephew, guitarist John Allan Cameron, related that his uncle wrote the tune in 1943 while working as a lumberjack in Scotland, working to clear land and construct bridges. A tune could come upon the prolific MacDonald at any time. One day he was sawing a tree down and started 'jigging' this tune in his head, and by the time the tree was felled he completed the melody. He took out a pencil out and, not having paper to hand, wrote a sketch of it on the stem of the tree so he wouldn't forget it. The next day he returned with his saw and axe, and this time his fiddle, and played through the as-yet untitled piece. Looking around he noticed a large field of heather nearby and dubbed the tune "Heather Hill." Cape Breton fiddler Winston Fitzgerald recorded the reel on a 78 RPM disc.
Source for notated version: Peter Chaisson, Jr. (B. 1929, Bear River, North-East Kings County, Prince Edward Island) [Perlman]; Winston Fitzgerald (1914-1987, Cape Breton) [Cranford]; musician Charlie Brown (Truro, Nova Scotia) [Shears].
Printed sources: Cranford (Winston Fitzgerald), 1997; No. 168, p. 66. Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 49. Shears (Gathering of the Clans Collection, vol. 1), 1986; p. 53 (pipe setting).
Recorded sources: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation LM470, Peter & Kenny Chaisson - "Atlantic Fiddling" (1979). CAT-WMR004, Wendy MacIssac - "The 'Reel' Thing" (1994). GRT Records SP 203, "Ward Allen Presents Maple Leaf Hoedown, vol. 1" (reissue). GRT Records 9230-1031, "The Best of Ward Allen" (1973). Rounder 82161-7032-2, Bill Lamey - "From Cape Breton to Boston and Back: Classic House Sessions of Traditional Cape Breton Music 1956-1977" (2000). Jerry Holland - "Crystal Clear" (2000).
See also listing at:
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recordings Index