Troy  MacGillivray

Troy MacGillivray

 Halifax, Nova Scotia, CAN

“I wonder if traditional instrumentalists silently curse Antigonish native Troy MacGillivray under their breath for his talent on both keyboard & fiddle, his composing abilities & the fact that the size of his ego seems inversely proportional to the weight of his abilities.” S. Cooke, Halifax Herald

Band Press

Troy MacGillivray - Tune Poets – FolkWorld

Classic fiddling from Nova Scotia, and a young fiddler who's almost as well known for his composing and piano-playing as for frotting horse and cat remains. On his fifth solo album, Troy has recorded a set of tunes composed by each of twelve fiddler-composers (not all best known for fiddling). A great idea, this project has been perfectly executed by Mr McGillivray with assistance from Allan Dewar on piano, Jake Charron on guitar, and Andrew Downing on bass. I had the pleasure of seeing Troy and Allan on stage in Edinburgh last year, and I can tell you this studio recording comes close to their dazzling live performance.

So, if you had to pick twelve composers of fiddle music, who would they be? With one for each set of tunes, they also have to provide compositions which fit together. Some of Troy's choices are obvious, others less so. Prolific Canadian tunesmiths Brenda Stubbert and Dan R MacDonald are missing, but the seminal creations of James Scott Skinner are included, as is a set by Vancouver fiddler and super-prolific composer Calvin Vollrath. The iconic Shelburne Reel gets a track to itself, as does Phil Cunningham's waltz Colours of Cape Breton for which Troy himself sits down at the old horizontal accordion. There's a pair of Troy's own sneaky reels, a big strathspey and reel medley by Donald Angus Beaton with a nod to Dan R, and a big finish provided by Natalie MacMaster whose composing talent is often neglected.

A surprising highlight for me was the beautiful combination of strathspey and slip jig by Andrea Beaton: McArthur Library and The Water Boiling Machine. Both melodies are enchanting, and Troy again switches to piano to give them a sparkling but delicate treatment. Gordon's Hornpipes are a total contrast, punchy tunes by Gordon MacQuarrie, and John Campbell's jigs keep the feet tapping - "close to the floor", as the dancers say. More jigs from Wilfred Gillis, a name I'll have to google, lyrical and lilting this time, with a lovely key change. Troy slips in a Jerry Holland collaboration in the set of storming strathspeys and reels by Dougie MacDonald, before Natalie's clogs and reels bring this excellent album to a close. None of these sets are Cape Breton monsters - the longest here is under seven minutes - but every one is carefully chosen and convincingly delivered. Tune Poets will probably introduce you to some new tunes, and certainly to some novel combinations, but even without that it promises a very varied and totally engaging programme of first- rate fiddle music.

Quotes & Recomendations – Various

“(Troy’s) incisive bowing, flowing melody lines and vibrant, rhythmic feel were apparent in everything he played.”
- Kenny Mathieson, The Scotsman, Scotland (Blas Festival September 2006)

“Troy MacGillivray has been a performer at our festival, and we also presented a concert mid-year to celebrate his latest cd. Troy is a very talented musician both on fiddle and piano - I am convinced he is one of the best traditional Celtic pianists of the day. His show included a great variety of material and the feedback from the audience was extremely positive. His stage presence was very good and engaged the audience throughout the show. I would highly recommend him as a showcase artist.
- Phyllis Stenson, Harrison Festival, Harrison Hot Springs, BC, 2005

"Following, quite literally, in the footsteps of Natalie MacMaster and Ashley MacIsaac, is a bumper crop of superb next generation 20-something fiddlers, step-dancers, and piano players in the dynamic style of the highlands of Scotland present in Nova Scotia. Troy MacGillivray is among the best at all three of these arts."
- Gary Martin, Music By The Bay House Concerts, Assonet, MA, 2005

“This CD is solid throughout, raw dance music built on traditional foundations and brought to life by a master: fiddle, piano and guitar played the old-fashioned way, no apologies, no pretensions.”
- Alex Monaghan, Folkworld, Issue 29, September 2004

"At the end of April we brought young fiddler/pianist Troy MacGillivray to the St. James Hall for a concert, and he did not disappoint. His prodigious fiddle talents and compositional skills really shone, and his latest CD,"Boomerang," also showcases his piano playing to great effect."
- Steve Edge, Artistic Director, Rogue Folk Club, Vancouver, BC, July 2004

"If you have the chance, get your hands on Troy MacGillivray’s newest recording, ‘Boomerang’... Troy is a wicked fiddler and an amazing pianist, his jazz training adding creative new sounds to the music. He makes use of some skilled arrangements to showcase both his fiddle and piano talents to the best advantage ... There isn’t a bad cut on the CD ... The one that really gets me going is the twists and turns of the seventh cut that starts with ‘George I. Taylor Strathspey’ ... All in all ‘Boomerang’ is a great CD, well thought out, well performed and produced and certainly something for Troy to be proud of. This CD is easily one of the best to come out of the East Coast this year."
- Dan MacDonald, Cape Breton Post, December 18th, 2003

"MacGillivray has been a well kept secret in the Antigonish area for a number of years and his name only really began trickling out onto the tongues of Celtic music lovers with the release of his first recording. His second recording clearly illustrates why fiddle music fans I've spoken to in Boston, Inverness County, New Waterford and Antigonish have been unanimous in their praise of the young musician."
- Cliff McGann, Celtic Heritage Magazine, Nov/Dec 2003

Right time, place, people for MacGillivray live CD – Halifax Herald, January 18, 2007 - By Stephen Cooke

THE GREAT THING about Celtic music, especially here in Nova Scotia, is the ease with which it can transfer from the kitchen to the concert hall. Sure, you can dress it up with light show and splashy production if you want — Natalie MacMaster knocks ’em dead around the world doing just that — but often the sprit and the drive are plenty when it comes to entertaining crowds from a dozen or a few hundred.

Antigonish pianist and fiddler Troy MacGillivray is just the kind of artist who can do it; I’ve seen him play everywhere from someone’s house to the Red Shoe Pub and a curling rink, and many different venues in between. But on Friday at 8 p.m. he’s opting for one of the best venues for acoustic music you could hope for, The Music Room on Lady Hammond Road for a proper concert presentation of his gifts on both fiddle and keyboard as well as making a live recording for future release.

"People have been asking me for the past three or four years to make a live CD, and I’ve always said no," says MacGillivray from his home in Lanark. "It’s not that I wasn’t interested, I just wasn’t thinking about it.

"But over Christmas I was trying to figure out what direction I should go in next, and I’d been thinking about a Music Room concert for a while. Then I remembered they had a recording suite there, and the whole idea really just came together over a few days off over the holidays."

Coming from a dynasty of musicians going back to grandfather Hugh A. MacDonald and including his sisters Kendra and Sabra, MacGillivray turned to a pianist with a similar lineage, Antigonish-area player Allan Dewar (son of noted pianist Marion Dewar), and also recruited the ne plus ultra of Celtic guitarists, Dave MacIsaac.

"I played with Dave when I was 16, when Kendra made her first CD, Clear the Track," recalls MacGillivray. "We played together a lot more after that, especially after he got off the road with Natalie.

"The great thing about Dave is he’s so easy to play with. When I was a really young kid, I knew his music really well because he played on so many people’s records. A lot of the time I’d end up listening to him more than the others."

As an added bonus, the evening will also include a set by special guest, guitarist/singer-songwriter Brad Davidge, known for his work with MacMaster as well as his own compositions on the CD Unfolded.

As for his CD, MacGillivray doesn’t have a release date in mind yet for Friday night’s recording, but he’d like to have it in hand before the summer music festival circuit gets under way. In the meantime, he’s got a full slate with a trip to Scotland for the Celtic Connections festival and conference next week, plus trips to Wisconsin, Chicago, Folk Alliance in Memphis as well as some appearances at the ECMAs in Halifax in February, so listeners should catch him at home while they can.

Stellar work in 2005 - A great year for East Coast music from indie firebrands to Celtic mainstays – Halifax Herald - January 7, 2006 - By Stephen Cooke

2005 may have been a humdrum year in many aspects, but East Coast music was not one of them.

From the indie firebrands to Celtic mainstays, some stellar work was released on all fronts, and should make for some interesting selections when the East Coast Music Award nominations come down on Wednesday.

Trying to narrow down a list of 10 favourites from the past year was a difficult process, and I’m sure there are some names I’ve left off, but here in alphabetical order are a decalogue of discs from 2005 I’ll be spinning for years to come.

Troy MacGillvray - Eleven (Trolley)

Nova Scotia’s traditional community upped the ante with several choice CDs this year, from Mary Jane Lamond’s luxurious Storas to the expanded Barra MacNeils’ wonderfully homey All at Once, but I picked Eleven by Antigonish’s Troy MacGillivray as my favourite for his innovative arrangements (including cello) and varied collaborations with locals like guitarist Dave MacIsaac and sisters Kendra and Sabra, and overseas guests like Nuala Kennedy and Anna Massie.

Celtic Music Review - Live At The Music Room – Review by John Ferguson for Celtic Life Magazine (Summer 2008)

I've known Troy MacGillivray for quite a few years now and we've done a number of gigs together. This talented musician from Lanark, Antigonish County has steadily progressed in knowledge and skill as a performer of traditional Celtic music. That knowledge and skill is demonstrated admirably on his live CD recorded at Halifax's great venue, The Music Room.

Troy does solo work on fiddle and piano and is joined by Allan Dewar on piano, Dave MacIsaac and Brad Davidge on guitar and Sabra MacGillivray on bodhran and stepdance.

The tune sets are made up of the usual jigs, reels, some polkas, an air and four long strathspey and reel groups, two of which are over ten minutes with the other two around eight minutes. All the pasters are up to the task of a live recording and the audience is prmed for an evening of good music. This resulting CD gives the listerer an excellent concert that can be enjoyed time and again.

Troy MacGillivray has already won awards for his musicianship although still a young man. He is very busy in many areas of the world treating his audiences to great music performed by an innovative and always improving musician. Live At The Music Room is a good example of his talent.

MacGillivray’s mother and grandfather would be pleased – Halifax Daily News - November 24, 2005 - By Sandy MacDonald

The treasured Gaelic fiddle music runs through Troy MacGillivray as sure as the Atlantic tide rolls past his hometown Lanark into Antigonish Harbour. The 25-year-old musician recently released a sparkling new album of traditional Celtic music, in tribute to the spirit of his fiddler grandfather Hughie (No. 11) MacDonald and his beloved mother Janice, who died this last summer.

“I wanted to keep his memory and my mom’s memory alive,” said MacGillivray, “and say thanks for their contribution to what I’m doing musically.”

MacGillivray has long played at the side of his ECMA-winning sister Kendra. But with this ambitious self-produced album, Troy steps out as one of the pre-eminent young Celtic musicians of his generation.

The generous disc (15 groups of tunes more than 65 minutes) is a polished collection of old and new material, all impeccably played. MacGillivray trades off on fiddle, viola, piano and bass, and features several musical guests including New York cellist Natalie Haas and Irish flautist Nuala Kennedy.

Among the highlights are a couple of duets with Haas (who plays with Mark O’Connor and Alasdair Fraser), including a clever group called The Eternal Rig, where Haas shows her impressive jigging bowhand on a set of reels and jigs.

MacGillivray says the challenge in recording traditional material is finding tunes which are familiar to the listener but rarely recorded.

“For this project, I picked a lot of tunes my grandfather played in the house or at parties but never released on record. I try to use acoustic instruments and do something differently, while staying true to what fiddle music is.”

Hughie No. 11 (nick-named for the ancestral land deed in Lanark) died in 1976, four years before Troy was born. But his mother’s careful notations in the family music books tipped the young fiddler his grandfather’s favourite pieces.

MacGillivray launched his new CD in Halifax with a performance tomorrow at the Halifax Curling Club, beginning at 7pm. He’ll play a showcase set at 8pm, then be joined by singer Patricia Murray, pianist/fiddler Kimberley Fraser and
dancer/percussionist Sabra MacGillivray for a Celtic Christmas Concert.

Mac of all trades - Multi-instrumentalist MacGillivray releases Eleven, a diverse set of tunes with a host of special guests – Halifax Herald - November 26, 2005 - By Stephen Cooke

I WONDER IF Nova Scotian traditional instrumentalists silently curse Antigonish native Troy MacGillivray under their breath for his talent at both keyboard and fiddle, his composing abilities, and the fact that the size of his ego seems inversely proportional to the weight of his abilities.

That last one probably just makes them feel worse for even thinking bad thoughts.

But with his third CD Eleven (Trolleymac Music), he proves once again he is a Mac of all trades, and also a master of them all (but oddly enough, not a MacMaster), with a spirited and diverse set of tunes and a host of special guests who will set Celtic fans’ spines to tingling.

Like his sisters Kendra (fiddle) and Sabra (bodhran, dancing and, recently, piano), Troy MacGillivray has a knack for being able to effortlessly convey a broad range of emotion through his instrumental playing, whether it’s the slow build from a bright strathspey to a joyous hornpipe on the Hey Johnny! set (with guitarist Dave MacIsaac) or the darker tone of Knittin’ & Drinkin’, which includes the tune Trolley’s Reel, written for MacGillivray by Sydney’s Colin Grant after "a sketchy St. Patrick’s Day performance in Halifax." From the sounds of it, MacGillivray’s completely recovered, and the tune reaffirms the notion that every cloud has a silver-lined song waiting inside.

MacGillivray fills the record with autobiographical detail, including the fact that the disc is titled Eleven because its the 11th album he’s performed on, and his reknowned fiddler grandfather Hughie A. MacDonald was named Hughie No. 11, after the number of his lot in Lanark, Antigonish County.

Then there are moments like the opening track, Stirling Castle, which he first played publicly 14 years ago during his debut on the fiddle, when he got so nervous he fled the stage. But on this version he commands it with a driving bow and sharp cuts, and the warm texture of Natalie Haas’s cello enriching the sound considerably. They duet again on The Eternal Rig, this time with MacGillivray playing viola, which sounds so brilliant you wonder why it isn’t used more often.

Then there are those moments of pure fun, like the trio of MacGillivray, Celtic guitarist Tim Edey and Irish flutist Nuala Kennedy (Fine Friday/Harem Scarem) tearing through a set called The Teetotaler, which I’m sure gets a lot of laughs when they announce it at the after-hours Festival Club during Celtic Colours in Cape Breton.

The record wouldn’t be complete without a family track, especially since Eleven is dedicated to the MacGillivray’s mother Janice who passed away this year. Using tunes taken from old family party tapes, Smash the Windows is a lovely one, with Troy doing triple duty on fiddle, keyboard and bass — through the magic of multitrack — with Kendra on fiddle, Sabra on bodhran and father Tony playing guitar. The difference in fiddle sounds is plain — Kendra’s notes always seem to have smiles on them — and the blend is the right mix of sweet and tart.

If I had a complaint to make about Eleven, it would be that MacGillivray’s stellar piano playing takes a back seat to the fiddle here, but as the cover graphic shows, it’s very much a fiddle record, compared to his previous CD Boomerang. There are still moments though, like the old Gaelic air Crodh Chailein (Colin’s Castle), a simple elegaic tune with fiddle and keyboard that closes the disc with a fit pairing of MacGillivray’s two musical loves.

MacGillivray in 11th Heaven – Cape Breton Post - Oct 13, 2005 - By Chris Connors

If timing is everything, then Troy MacGillivray couldn't have picked a better time to unveil his latest album.

The Antigonish fiddler and pianist launched his new CD, Eleven, during the Celtic Colours International Festival's The Young and the Restless show, Wednesday night at the Lion's Hall in St. Peter's.

It's the third album from MacGillivray, whose musical prowess can be attributed to a combination of commitment and bloodlines.

His previous two albums Boomerang (2003) and Musical Ties (2001) both received ECMA and Music Industry Association of Nova Scotia nominations.

Troy MacGillivray: Eleven Review – Penguin Eggs - Winter 2005 - By Mary Beth Carty

A cheerful work of traditional genius, every note on Eleven swings the way only a Nova Scotian fiddler can. The third release from Antigonish's Troy MacGillivray is traditional yet innovative without any drum-machine or spoken- word crap.

Jazzy guitar playing from the likes of Great Britain's Tim Edey and Anna Massie and the groovy cello of Natalie Haas compliment nicely Troy's expert piano and fiddle playing. Eleven also features Nuala Kennedy on Irish flute, Troy on viola for a tune, and a duo with sister Kendra. Recorded at studios in Cape Breton, Scotland, and New York.

Eleven is both an international and local affair. Liner notes give insight into Troy's personal relationship with each tune. Like a bouquet of wild flowers in an antique vase, Eleven is sweet, fresh and truly delightful, and certainly one of the most heartfelt, well-recorded traditional albums I've heard in a long time.

Musician please to represent Canada – The Casket (Antigonish) - June 17, 2008

An Antigonish native has recently returned from entertaining troops serving our country in Afghanistan.

Troy MacGillivray recently played shows in late May in Kandahar and Kabul, Afghanistan. The Antigonish fiddler was one of 14 musicians from across Canada to perform in the country.

The tour was organized by the Canadian Forces Personnel and Family Support Services (CFPFSS), the morale and welfare arm of the Canadian Forces (CF), The CFPFSS has a long tradition of providing show tours to CF members serving overseas and in isolated locations. Over the course of any six-month mission, a CF Show Tour is usually held at mid-point.

MacGillivray said he became involved in the show through Cape Breton rock and blue musician Matt Minglewood. "They asked him to suggest some fiddler who could do the tour and he suggest Kimberley Fraser and I," MacGillivray said. The show was a once in a lifetime experience because civilians can't travel into the country. "Kandahar airport is actually now a military base", he said. "You have to be on miliary airplances to get into there. We were really lucky to be able to do that, and really proud to be Canadian and represent Canada for a week and a half".

MacGillivray said the musicians had the opportunity to meet many of the troops and said he visited with a large number from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, PEI and New Brunswick. "The east coast was definitely well represented".

It took 2 days of travelling to arrive in Afghanistan and after reaching their destination, the musicians were given time to acclimatise. "It was 56 degrees Celsius when we got there which is unbelievable. It was such a different feeling". It was diffficult to move around during the day, MacGillivray said, and they were drinking upwards of 1-2 litres of water every hour. "Once the sun would get behind the buildings around 4 pm - it got dark early there - everyone would go about their business again".

The show they played for the troops was a three hour set with a variety of types of music, MacGillivray said, which the troops seemed to enjoy. The show was not just for Canadian soldiers. "We were brought over by the Canadian government to play for Canadians but we were there to play for all of UN or NATO forces too".

Everyone there was very good to all the musicians who came over and did as much as they could for them, said MacGillivray. "Considering they were fighting the war, just to see them so happy and positive was quite interesting. They were just great people. A lot of it is so beautiful. It's desert, but they have these green valleys that are lush and beautiful and then huge mountains and big sand dunes. Its really an amazing place and its too bad there's such anxiety and fighting going on there".

Troy MacGillivray Wins Instrumental Artist – The Casket (Antigonish), February 2008

Troy MacGillivray played over 250 performances in 2007 … and still managed to record and release a new CD! Live At The Music Room is Troy’s most invigorating and toe-tapping release yet and features the best of the traditional Celtic music world all wrapped up in a single package. And last week in Fredericton, Live At The Music Room garnered Troy his first ECMA Award for Instrumental Recording of the Year!

The ECMA’s are a four-day music industry conference and ceremony which took place in Fredericton this year. The event culminated in a gala on Sunday night at the Aitken Centre in Fredericton in which over 20 awards were distributed honouring the best in East Coast music over the past year.

Live At The Music Room is MacGillivray’s 4th solo release. Despite the fact that all of his previous recordings have received ECMA nominations, this release marks the first time MacGillivray has received the award. "People have been asking me for the past three or four years to make a live CD. Last year, the timing was finally right. The Music Room is a great facility to play in and the whole idea just came together in a matter of days. We had a fun night and the tracks sounded so good, that I just decided ‘why not’ " says MacGillivray, still reveling in the recognition from his peers.

The Music Room on Lady Hammond Road in Halifax did indeed provide for a proper concert presentation of Troy’s gifts on both fiddle and keyboard. On the CD, MacGillivray delivers a toe-tapping, invigorating musical journey that is both a concert and ceilidh wrapped up in an incredible listening experience! The unique acoustics of The Music Room are paired with the intimate rapport of Troy and the audience to provide 70 minutes of pure entertainment that flies by so quick, you feel as if you are at the concert instead of actually listening to a CD.  Accompanying Troy on the CD are ECMA Award winner Dave MacIsaac on guitar and fellow Antigonish-native Allan Dewar on piano. Special guest appearances by guitarist Brad Davidge and step-dancer Sabra MacGillivray (Troy’s sister) round out the tracks on the CD that Juno Award winning engineer Chad Irshick put the finishing touches to at his studio, Inception Sound in Toronto, to create one of the most dynamic traditional CD’s to come out of Atlantic Canada in recent years.

Troy MacGillivray is also the 2005 winner of the Danny Kyle Stage from the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow, Scotland and the 2004 Auleen Theriault Young Tradition Award winner from the Goderich Celtic Roots Festival in Goderich, Ontario - an award given to an artist that shows outstanding talent and love for traditional and roots-based music.  Troy MacGillivray's career has kicked into high gear in recent years and is moving into overdrive with this latest recognition - the ECMA Award - and the release of Live At The Music Room, which is now available online at