Sandy MacIntyre was born
in Inverness Town, Inverness County, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and was
raised in a typically musical Cape Breton family. His mother Cassie,
well known for her violin playing, began playing at dances at age
thirteen. His father Ronald, also a fiddler, was well known for his
Gaelic singing, Gaelic being the first language of the MacIntyre home.
Sandy lists his grandfather John Angus MacIsaac, his parents, his
brothers John R. and Francis, his uncles John Archie, Alex Angus, Dan
Hughie, Donald Angus, Dougall Finley, Campbell MacIsaac and Peter
MacDonnell, (all were fiddlers, and two were pipers as well) and his
aunts. He comments: "They could have easily performed a full variety
concert consisting of fiddle, piano, stepdancing, bagpipes, Gaelic
singing and story telling. I know there are hundreds of Cape Breton
fiddlers with similar backgrounds."
Sandy absorbed his family's cultural inheritance in good measure. He
started playing the pump organ at age 8 or 9 chording for family members
and visiting fiddlers. About age 16 he took up the fiddle, learning by
ear. He also learned the guitar and in high school he was a drummer in
the Iverness Pipe Band. In Toronto, at age 19, lonely for the music of
down home he found a fiddle, pursued his fiddle playing and took up note
reading, at first choosing pieces he already knew by ear. He linked up
with other exiled Cape Bretoners to bring musicians to Toronto for Cape
Breton style dances and to keep the music alive. Following his
appearances on the CBC TV show "Ceilidh", Sandy has become one of the
best known of Cape Breton's many fine fiddlers. He is also a prolific
composer with over a hundred tunes to his credit, many in active
circulation among Island players. A versatile musician, he is equal to
the task of accompanist on piano, guitar or bass. His use of unique
settings and his creative medley arrangements of tunes, allows him to
extend his repertoire into a contemporary vein without compromising the
traditional spirit of the music.
During the year, Sandy runs fiddle classes in Toronto and teaches Cape
Breton stepdancing. He returns to Cape Breton during the summer to teach
fiddle at St. Ann's Gaelic College and to play at concerts and ceilidhs.
From Cape Breton he goes to Scotland to play at such events as the
annual International Celtic Concert in Iverness. In 1991, stepdancing
instructor Harvey Beaton joined Sandy for 10 days of workshops and
concerts in the Iverness, Scotland area. A growing interest
internationally in the music of the Cape Breton Gael is such that the
flow of tradition is now very much in two directions. The demand for
concert tours and workshops on all aspects of Cape Breton musical
tradition is increasing steadily, both in North America and in the
Ancient homelands of the Celts. At home, participation by the young in
the fiddle and stepdance traditions and the interest in Celtic music and
the Gaelic heritage is gaining strength at an unprecedented rate.
Sandy has great faith in his culture and in all the Island people who
keep that culture alive and vital and he always backs up his faith by
giving generously of his time to organizing the fund-raising concerts,
ceilidhs and dances that benefit his culture.
Sandy MacIntyre keeps his love of his Cape Breton heritage and his
passion for the Music of the Fiddle on the front burner at all times.