Ottawa Cape Breton Session


January session dates are going to be shifted by a week, as the first Sunday in January is New Year's Day. For January only, pub sessions will be on the second and fourth Sunday.

Pub Sessions

Sun. Dec. 4 - Pub Session - 2pm to 5pm. Open jam session at the Barley Mow, 1541 Merivale Rd. We'll likely play a few Christmas tunes to warm up for a blast of seasonal music on Dec. 18. Everyone 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.

Sun. Dec. 18 - Pub Session - 2pm to 5pm. Open jam session at the Barley Mow, 1541 Merivale Rd. Everyone is welcome to join us for for a Celtic Christmas party with Christmas tunes and carols, strathspeys and reels and jigs. Don't forget to wear your ugly Christmas sweaters! Be prepared to sing along and share the spirit(s) of the season.

Sun. Jan. 8 - Bliadhna Mhath Ùr | Happy New Year! Open jam session at the Barley Mow, 1541 Merivale Rd. Join us for our first session of 2023!

Sun. Jan.22 - Pub Session - 2pm to 5pm. Open jam session at the Barley Mow, 1541 Merivale Rd. Come in from the cold and warm up with some down east tunes and hospitality.

Other Events

Fri. Dec. 2 7:30pm Wendy MacIsaac & Mac Morin at Althorpe Bolingbroke Community Hall, Maberly, ON. Tickets

Sat. Dec. 3 8pm Wendy MacIsaac & Mac Morin at Joshua Bates Centre, Athens, ON. Tickets

Sat. Dec. 3 5:30-10:30 St. Andrew's Day Ceilidh at St. Patrick Basilica (220 Kent St. at Nepean). Come and enjoy fiddles, bagpipes, haggis, stew and lots of dancing. Featuring Anna Ludlow with Tyson Chen, Sons of Scotland Pipe Band and Ceilidh dancing with Brian Armstrong. Supper served at 6pm. Adults $45 Children 12 & under free. Tickets available at the Basilica Gift Shop OR (w Service Charge) All proceeds go to Coats for Kids. Wear your tartan!

Tue. Dec. 6 7:30pm - The Barra MacNeils An East Coast Christmas This is musical potpourri of traditional MacNeil family favourites gleaned from Christmas ceilidhs, midnight masses and the general festive frolic that accompanies each holiday season. Meridian Theatres at Centrepointe. Tickets $69.50 Box Office.

Fri. Dec. 16 7:30pm - Anna Ludlow's Christmas Kitchen Party house concert & jam in Dunrobin, ON. Contact for reservations:

Wed. Dec. 21 8pm AND Thu. Dec. 22 8pm - Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy: A Celtic Family Christmas with the NAC Orchestra. National Arts Centre, Tickets starting at $56.00.

Although capacity limits and mask and vaccination requirements have been lifted we still encourage the wearing of masks, especially in crowded areas. You can help protect yourself and others by getting your vaccinations and boosters and by washing and sanitizing your hands frequently. Please DO NOT attend any of our events if you feel even slightly unwell. We ask that you be respectful of others who wish to wear a mask and keep their distance.


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!

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 and slow jams were cancelled during the pandemic, we will re-evaluate the public health situation in the fall and decide whether there is enough interest gathering in smaller spaces to start these practice sessions again.

House Sessions

House sessions are are great way to learn new tunes and meet new people. To get familiar with the Cape Breton repertoire we have house sessions every other Sunday from 2-5pm at various locations. 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. 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. Slow jams are hosted by players, usually alternating between Kanata and other locations. 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”).

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.

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...