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Fiddling boosts brains, says new group

Marlene MacDonald, wife of composer Raymond MacDonald, plays the fiddle during a Celtic Fiddlers’ practice.
Marlene MacDonald, wife of composer Raymond MacDonald, plays the fiddle during a Celtic Fiddlers’ practice. - Fram Dinshaw

A new fiddling group says that fiddling boosts brain power in young and old alike and is also a great way to make new friends.

That’s according to Joanne MacDonald, founder and pianist for the newly formed Celtic Fiddlers practice group, who urged more children to take up fiddling.

“It’s really good for their brain. It helps with math, it helps with schoolwork and just about anything you can do,” said MacDonald.

As for their moms and dads who typically must buy fiddles for their offspring, the good news is that the price tag is pretty flexible.

“You can spend $10,000 if you like, or you can get one for between $100 to 200, if that’s what your budget is,” said MacDonald.

While people can learn fiddling from tutors, the Celtic Fiddlers’ 20 or so members are mostly self-taught and play by ear, but some of them can also read music well.

Its membership includes people from the Pictou County Fiddlers, the Caledonian Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, the Toney River Players and others from the community.

Indeed, the Celtic Fiddlers even boasts two budding composers, Raymond MacDonald and Charlie DeCoste who have written their own songs.

For DeCoste, learning the fiddle meant following his fellow composer MacDonald as well as reading music, but the real key to playing well was to just listen.

“I’m a Maritimer. It’s in my blood,” said DeCoste. “I love the music like everyone around here does.”

While fiddle music gives their brains a workout, being in the group is also a fantastic way to socialize for young and old alike.

Their youngest member is a boy of about eight or 10, while some of the others are senior citizens old enough to be his grandparents.

MacDonald finds all Celtic Fiddlers to be a friendly bunch.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met a musician I didn’t like and you get to participate in lots of things in the community,” said MacDonald.

Since they began last month, the Celtic Fiddlers meet every Friday afternoon for practice from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Maritime Oddfellows Lodge in Pictou. The group voted on its name just last week.

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