Graham Townsend – Classics of Irish, Scottish, and French-Canadian Fiddling (1976)

FrontCover1Graham Townsend (June 16, 1942 – December 3, 1998) was a Canadian fiddler, mandolin player, pianist and composer active from the 1950s through the 1990s.

Townsend grew up in East York, Ontario. He was visually impaired from an early age. He started playing fiddle as a child and was winning competitions as early as nine years old. Among his important and early influences was Don Messer, for whom Townsend’s father Fred was his square dance caller. He was also influenced by Irish fiddlers Tom McQuestion and Billy Crawford. Beginning in his teens, Townsend began to perform on tour  and on radio and television, often with Messer. He toured extensively throughout Europe and in Australia for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the Canadian government, and gave a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II. He performed often with his wife Eleanor whom he married in 1973 and among the many performers he worked with were Wilf Carter, Tommy Hunter, the McGarrigle sisters, Ronnie Prophet and Stan Rogers. Townsend also performed in a tribute show to Don Messer and in many festivals.

Townsend’s style was steeped in Canada’s fiddling traditions and his many recording for Banff, Rodeo, Rounder Records, Silver Eagle, Springwater and other labels have received significant acclaim. He helped to establish the Ontario Old Time Fiddlers Association.

GrahamTownsend03From an early age, he was very successful in a number of fiddling competitions, including the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) Fiddle Championship (1951, 52, 53), the Shelburne Canadian Open Fiddle Championship (1963, ’68, ’69, ’70),[2] the Simcoe Fiddle Championship (1957, 58), the Southern Ontario Fiddle Championship (1958, 59), the Kitchener Fiddle Championship (1959), the Peterborough Fiddle Championship (1959), the Northern Ontario Fiddle Championship (1959, 60), and the Pembroke International Championship (1965).

Townsend was inducted into the United States Fiddlers Hall of Fame in 1982, the Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall of Fame in 1990, and the Canadian National Fiddling Hall of Fame in 1998 and was nominated for a Juno award for instrumental artist of the year in 1991. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Canadian Grandmasters Fiddling Championships in 1998.

Graham performed at the Tottenham Bluegrass Festival in June, 1995, and at the Pineridge Bluegrass Folklore Society show in Oshawa, Ontario in March, 1996.

Townsend died from cancer on December 3, 1998 in Barrie, Ontario, Canada. (by wikipedia)

In the nineteenth century, an international fraternity of fiddlers flourished whose membership generously stretched across Britain and North America. The popular stage gave these musicians employment and mobility; musical publishing houses provided their means of communication. Looking over the tune collections of the period – Ryan’s Mammoth Collection (known today as Cole’s Thousand Fiddle Tunes), the various Kerr anthologies, Oliver Ditson’s many publications – one is struck by the astonishing range of material presented, one where Irish jigs nestle with Scots strathspeys, diverse types of country dance music, minstrel clogs and sand jigs, popular selections from operatic works, an so on. Literate fiddlers of the period could commonly provide selections from this entire musical spectrum.

GrahamTownsend02After the turn of the century, these cosmopolitan linkages weakened considerably. The rise of vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley pushed the fiddler out of the music hall and ballroom into the barn, schoolhouse and backporch. However, in Eastern Canada and the major cities of the northeastern United States, the conglomerative spirit of the nineteenth century lived on. Graham Townsend is a particularly skilled and well-known product of this environment. As he grew up, phonograph recordings had functionally displaced the older tune books (Graham does not read music), and a splendid range of talented violinists could be heard in the environs of Toronto alone, then enjoying a phenomenal period of growth that had converted it into a melting pot for the entire United Kingdom. On this album, Graham pays tribute to the classic fiddle repertoire that has always been his first love in music.

Graham’s accompanist here is young Glenn Paul, a Lanark, Ontario native currently studying jazz piano in Boston. Glenn does an excellent job n providing the difficult changes this music requires. (taken from the original liner-notes)


Glenn Paul (piano)
Graham Townsend (fiddle)


01. Bob’s Double Clog / Jackie Coleman’s / Ballinaslow Fair 3.02
02. Plymouth Lasses / Maggie Brown’s Fancy / Buttermilk Mary 3.23
03. Stacks of Barley / The Galway / The Golden Eagle 3.39
04. Trouble Among the Yearlings 2.13
05. Partie de lancier / Marche Carolino 2.36
06. Indian Reel 1.54
07. Bonnie Kate / Pigeon on the Pier 2.47
08. Le two-step d’Armand 2.36
09. Reel Pointe Au Pic 2.33
10. Crowley’s Reel / Teetotallers 2.48
11. Eugene Straton / The Arthur Seat / Banks Hornpipe 2.14
12. The Rakes of Kildare / Dan the Cobbler / Geese in the Bog 3.19
13. Lucy Campbell / Walker Street 2.16
14. The Iron Man / Jamie Hardie 2.21
15. Reel de mon grandpere / La Belle Catherinette 2.51
16. The Judique Jig Medley 3.16

Music: Traditionals