Ottawa Cape Breton Session


Sun. Dec 3 -  Pub Session - 2pm to 5pm. Open jam session at the Barley Mow, 1541 Merivale RdEveryone is welcome to join us for some down home Scottish, Irish and Cape Breton music. Fiddlers, guitarists, piano players, whatever - or just stop by to listen and chat with the friendly folk at the pub. A great way to make new friends who enjoy traditional music.  Aylene Gracie leading today.  Let us know if you have a song you'd like to sing, or a special set you'd like to play.  We'll also be taking up a collection if you wish to donate cash instead of online to the GoFundMe for Skip Holmes.

Sun. Dec 17 - Pub Session - 2pm to 5pm. A Cape Breton Christmas Bring your friends and family down for a Christmas luncheon  and jam session at the Barley Mow, 1541 Merivale Rd. Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells...prepare to play and sing some Christmas carols today! Details and sign-up coming soon!

Sun. Jan 7 - Pub Session - 2pm to 5pm. First Session of the New Year!! Open jam session at the Barley Mow, 1541 Merivale Rd.

Other Events

Sessions, sessions, sessions - there are lots of Celtic sessions going on in the National Capital Area that include a nice mix of Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton and French Canadian tunes. Check out our Google calendar below  for dates and locations. 

Sat. Dec 2- 7:00pm  Christmas with Heather Rankin & Sam Stone Canadian sweetheart Heather Rankin followed her Juno Award Nominated solo album, A Fine Line, with a Christmas album, Imagine. Her angelic voice wraps her listeners in coziness and nostalgia with both original songs, and traditional songs she grew up singing at Christmas.  Sam Stone is a singer/songwriter born and raised in small town Canada, just outside of Ottawa. Sam has been writing and performing since the age of twelve. Her powerhouse, soulful vocals and seasoned stage presence are in high demand performing with bands in venues and festivals locally but also across Canada and internationally .  TICKETS

Wed. Dec 6 - 7:30pm  The Barra MacNeils - An East Coast Christmas at Centrepointe Theatre A musical potpourri of traditional MacNeil family favourites gleaned from Christmas ceilidhs, midnight masses and the general festive frolic that accompanies each holiday season. With their captivating vocals, distinctive harmonies and extraordinary musicianship, The Barra MacNeils inject new life and energy into the sights and sounds of Christmas, prompting the Halifax Daily News to describe them as “a treasure of the East Coast, rich with tradition and unmatched in ensemble performance”; and the Globe & Mail to name the recording on which this tour is based “one of the best five Christmas albums of all time!”  TICKETS

Sat. Dec 9 - 7:00pm Anna Ludlows Christmas Kitchen Party with Special Guest Gail Gavin First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, 30 Cleary Ave, Ottawa, ON K2A 4A1, Canada. Anna brings her East Coast roots to the stage to ring in the season. Anna is from Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and has played her fiddle to captivated audiences throughout North America and Europe for over twenty years. Having collaborated with some of eastern Canada’s most renowned artists, in 2005 she became the principal fiddler for the Juno nominated critically acclaimed production DRUM! and has just finished a 15 month run with the hit and award-winning show ‘COME FROM AWAY’ the Toronto production. Outside of theatre work Anna is influenced by her working-class Celtic ancestry, and fuses the traditional Cape Breton music of the Scottish Gàidhealtachd with a modern percussive vibe. While weaving other cultural influences into her music, this multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and song-writer uses her dynamic performances to give listeners a modern taste of history and culture. Gail Gavin has been performing for decades opening for many Nashville stars like George Jones, Tom T. Hall, Merle Haggard and Charlie Pride, and has performed at almost every fair in the Ottawa Valley.  In 1993, she hosted "Gail Gavan and Friends"  on CHRO Pembroke and co-produced and wrote the theme song for another TV show, "Fred's Place", based on her uncle Fred's famous hotel in Chapeau, Quebec. TICKETS


Join our Facebook community to find links to online videos, music resources and other Cape Breton goodness. We also share news via Twitter. To see videos from past sessions check out our YouTube channel. 

Sign up to receive occasional notices about Ottawa Cape Breton Session events, as well as other events involving Cape Breton music and culture in the National Capital. A newsletter goes out approximately once a month, more often if there are last minute events, or a significant change to a planned event.  Past newsletters are here if you want to get an idea of what to expect or catch up on what you missed.

We NEVER share our list with other groups, we may occasionally pass along relevant information from another local group but rest assured that we won't give your email address to anyone else!

Fiddlers/Bands for Hire

Ottawa Cape Breton Session is an informal jam session, not a band, so we don't provide music for concerts or special events. If you are looking for some fiddle or kitchen party type music we offer a few suggestions on the Hire a Band page. 

Cape Breton fiddlers occasionally come and present workshops on fiddle, step dancing and piano here in the National Capital region. We'll make sure that any such events are communicated via our email list, website and social media accounts. There are a few Ottawa-area fiddle teachers who include Cape Breton tunes and stylings in their lessons.     More...

Scenes from some of our past pub sessions - always a great time!


Ottawa Cape Breton Session provides an opportunity to play tunes and sets that are part of the Cape Breton traditional repertoire. 

Pub Sessions

Sunday afternoon pub sessions are generally at a pretty fast pace. It is mostly group/session playing with occasional songs or solos.  Everyone is welcome to join, with fiddle, guitar, mandolin, accordion or even a cello! Sessions  are led by Aylene, or sometimes other folks. Let her, or the pianist Ellen know if you have something special to share with the group.   

If you don't play, but love to hear Maritime and Cape Breton music live you're more than welcome to come down to the pub sessions and have some fun. It's always a big and friendly group of folks, a great place to meet old friends and make new ones too. You'll meet lots of other Maritimers in the crowd. Jam ouverte avec concentration sur le pieces de l’ile du Cap Breton, de l’Écosse et de Glengarry. Apportez un instrument ou venez partager une chanson avec nous. Ou, venez savourez la musique et notre plaisir. On ne sait jamais qui s’y présentera, mais c’est certainement toujours un groupe avec un accueil amical avec qui passer l’après-midi.

House Sessions

House sessions are are great way to learn new tunes and meet new people and get familiar with the Cape Breton repertoire. House sessions occur on a second or fourth Sunday from 2-5pm . The pace at house sessions varies, new tunes are learned mostly from sheet music. Players take turns hosting house sessions, or sometimes they are hosted by folks who just love to hear the music. The schedule is a bit erratic, when a house session is scheduled it will be posted on the website. Session à vitesse moyennement accéléré où apprender de nouveau ‘sets’ de pieces, généralement  à partir de feuilles de musique mais aussi ‘à l’oreil’. Lieu idéal pour faire l’essaie d’une  nouvelle chanson, ou pratiquer de nouvelles pieces avant de les jouer à la session au pub. C’est aussi un bon temps pour faire du ‘social’ avec des gens forts sympatiques et pour savourer des grignotines délicieuses.

Reel Slooow Jams

These house sessions play at a more moderate tempo for learning, great if you are new to your instrument or are nervous playing with a group. You won't find a more welcoming and encouraging group anywhere else. Players take turns hosting house sessions, or sometimes they are hosted by folks who just love to hear the music.   On vise les débutant(e)s au violon (ou piano ou guitar) qui désirent apprendre le pieces de l’Isle du Cap Breton dans un millieux amical et sans pression. Plusieurs aires et valses lentes ainsi que des jigues et des reels à partir du repertoire régulier, mais à une vitesse plus lente; ceci donnera plus de temps à ceux et celles qui ne savent pas lire la musique a apprendre à l’oreil. Vérifier la page “Tunes” pour la liste le plus souvent joué au Slow Jam (“jam lent”).

Host a House Session or Slow Jam

Hosts provide space and chairs (without arms) for anywhere from 6 to 20 fiddlers, and some space for socializing during the break. Session lead,  and all other arrangements are through Cape Breton Session. Please do not contact session hosts directly. To get on the email list for slow jams, or if you want to host a slow jam send an email to  Hosts can be fiddlers/pianists or just folks who don't mind listening to the same tune played over and over again. Ideally hosts provide an in-tune piano (or keyboard), but we can usually arrange to bring a keyboard and/or some extra chairs if needed.  Sessions are BYOB, and players bring along snacks for the break,  but usually the hosts provide tea or coffee, or other non-alcoholic beverages (depending on the weather). Slow jams will always require advance sign up, the host locations have varying capacities. If you have not received a registration confirmation you are not signed up - and should not show up.  More about slow jams...

Cape Breton fiddle music is best learned by ear. Although detailed sheet music and sound files are provided here for learning the basics of a tune , be aware that the tune may sound different when played live. The sheet music provides the melody of a tune, and while some common ornamentation such as a 'cut' may be occasionally notated, in general the fiddler is encouraged to add to the sound with their own selection of ornamentation. In addition the rhythm pattern played may be slightly different than the dotted notes in the sheet music would have you believe. The best way to really learn these tunes is to come out and play along with us at either a house or pub session. You would be more than welcome! The Tunes page contains tunes and sets you are likely to hear at one of our sessions. 

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