The mission of the Celtic
Cafe is to help promote "Celtic culture," and traditional Celtic music
is something we really love here. These incredible sounds should have a far wider
audience than the tiny niche the music currently occupies, and thanks to "Webcasting,"
more of us can "tune in" to programs such as "Downeast Ceilidh"
at WMBR (88.1FM), the MIT college station in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Ceilidh producer/host Marcia Young Palmater has been playing traditional
and contemporary folk music of Canada's Atlantic Provinces for THIRTY years; lots
of fiddle music, and songs in Scottish, Gaelic, and Acadian French. Now, sadly,
the last show is scheduled for broadcast next Thursday, Sept. 26th. You
can hear it from wherever you are through your computer -- check
the time zone difference -- from 8 to 9 p.m. Eastern. Marcia wrote in an e-mail
message to the Cape Breton Music mailing list the following:
weekly radio program, Downeast Ceilidh, which has aired on Thursday evenings since
February 3, 1972 on WMBR-FM in Cambridge, Mass. has been cancelled, effective
September 30, by management to give MIT students more air time in a very crowded
There is an appeal process, and I will appeal, but I have no
illusions; the situation will not change.
I deeply regret no longer being
able to serve the interests of the Canadian-American community in the Greater
Boston area, and the audience farther afield which had found Downeast Ceilidh
on the Web. Even more, perhaps, I regret no longer being able to support the many
superb musicians of Atlantic Canada; that has been a source of great pleasure
and pride. And in the many years the show has been broadcast, many people were
first introduced to this wonderful music and the rich culture of the area by listening
Support good music programs wherever you find them; their shelf
life is not guaranteed."
Thanks to Andy
Hawley and the Old Time Herald
for the following about Marcia and the Downeast Ceilidh program.
Downeast Ceilidh Threatened with Cancellation
Young Palmater's Downeast Ceilidh radio program, featuring traditional music of
Canada's Atlantic Provinces (with an emphasis on Cape Breton fiddle music) and
news of interest to the Canadian-American community of greater Boston, was first
broadcast from the campus of MIT in Cambridge, Mass., on February 3, 1972. This
past February Marcia celebrated her 30th anniversary with a live show on MIT's
station WMBR (88.1 FM) featuring the renowned Acadian fiddler Joe Cormier.
after over 30 years, Downeast Ceilidh is threatened with cancellation. WMBR's
student management has not included the show in its fall schedule. Unless her
listeners are able to persuade them to change their minds, the last show will
take place this Thursday, September 26 at 8:00 PM.
Listeners and supporters
of the show, and of the music which it has featured every week for 30+ years,
are urged to contact the station management, as well as MIT Vice President Dr.
Kathryn A. Willmore, urging them to reconsider.
Dr. Kathryn A. Willmore
President and Secretary of the Corporation
MIT Office of the Corporation
77 Mass. Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02139
E-mail Dr. Willmore: email@example.com
WMBR Program Director: Program-Director@wmbr.org
Ceilidh's Music and Its Community
All of the material played on
Downeast Ceilidh is provided out of the music collection of Marcia Palmater and
her husband Dave, who co-produces the show and handles the engineering, while
Marcia chooses the music and does the announcing. Each show includes at least
one set of music from each of the four Atlantic provinces (Nova Scotia, Prince
Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland) and at least one Acadian French
and one Scots Gaelic song. But the main focus is on music--especially fiddle music--from
Cape Breton, which she terms "the mother lode in a rich vein" of musical
tradition. In her show, as in a live performance, a typical fiddle set is an uninterrupted
sequence of dance tunes, often beginning with a slower march or strathspey and
becoming increasingly lively as it progresses through one or more reels, jigs,
and/or hornpipes. Tunes are frequently named in honor of a friend, family member,
or another musician--for example, "The Rev. John Angus Rankin Strathspey"--while
songs often express nostagia for home and family down east.
Since 1972 this
show has been serving a need, and a community, served by no other broadcast program
in New England. The community is primarily Scottish- and French-Canadians who
emigrated, or whose parents and grandparents earlier emigrated, to the Boston
area from the Atlantic provinces. The need she meets, however, goes far beyond
nostalgic affection for the fiddle tunes which settlers brought to Canada 200
years ago when they fled Scotland's notorious Clearances. For, interspered with
the music, Marcia regularly announces local events in the Canadian-American community,
such as a benefit performance for a hospital, or a corned beef and cabbage dinner
followed by dancing to the playing of musicians who themselves are likely to be
friends and neighbors of many of those listening. She tells her listeners who
in the community is sick and needs a get-well card, whose relatives are visiting
from back home, as well as who wrote the next fiddle tune she will play, and which
friend or relation the composer named it for.
Marcia Palmater knows these
people personally; she has known them, their parents, and their children, for
40 years, just as she knows and is known by their relatives in the villages of
Cape Breton she first visited in 1963. They rely on her and are grateful to her.
Fiddler Joe Cormier, a National Heritage Fellow who lives in Waltham, Mass., has
recorded numerous albums, and has performed live on Downeast Ceilidh, says that
Marcia has "done an awful lot for our music."
(In addition to
the local community that is the base of her audience, Marcia has faithful listeners
scattered across the U.S. and Canada, who have access to the show thanks to the
Why Radio Shows Like Downeast Ceilidh Are a Precious
College radio stations, since they often rely on volunteer staff,
can provide an opportunity for non-students as well as students to produce programs
that would be rejected by commercial stations or even, in many cases, by public
radio affiliates. Since they are not paid, those who choose to devote several
hours each week to preparing and presenting their programs do so out of a strong
feeling for the music or other material, and a desire to share their passion with
others. Marcia Palmater is such a person; her passion for, and loyalty to, the
musical culture of Atlantic Canada and particularly Cape Breton, is undiminished,
forty years after she first discovered it and thirty years after her first Downeast
In using the public airwaves to broadcast its programming,
WMBR, like other college radio stations, assumes a community obligation that goes
beyond the students and the campus. Part of the way they have met that obligation
is by airing programs whose audience is larger and broader than the student body,
while still not attractive to commercial stations, with their profit-oriented
focus on "markets." No WMBR program meets a greater community need (great
because it is a real need of a significant community, and also because no other
program exists to meet it) than Downeast Ceilidh. To take it off the air after
30 years would be a real disservice to its many devoted listeners.
more information about Marcia Palmater and her show, Downeast Ceilidh, look for
the February, 2003 issue of the Old-Time
Herald magazine. Parts of the above were taken from this upcoming article.
Hawley is a freelance writer who lives in Waltham, Mass. From 1994-2001
he hosted a bluegrass show on radio station WRPI in Troy, New York.
e-mail address, if you'd like to contact her: DECeilidh@aol.com
**Please help keep
Downeast Ceildidh on the air.**
Contact the WMBR Program Director at:
and let him know that you think this kind of music needs more public exposure,
Header: Louise Owen
Original Web Design: Alexander