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Music Cape Breton's Diversity in Unity

Mi'kmaq Fiddle selections (Wilfred Prosper)

In this selection, Wilfred Prosper plays a Scottish strathspey & reel medley at an outdoor Cape Breton concert. The names of the tunes are as follows: Mr. Thomson (Strathspey, J. Scott Skinner, d.1927); The Banks of Ythan (Reel, J. Scott Skinner, d.1927); General Stewart (Reel); and Mrs. Small (Reel, Robert Petrie, d.1830). We provide the sheet music for the fourth selection, Mrs. Small below.

Fiddle selections, 1973. Wilfred Prosper. T-697. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.

Wilfred Prosper

Wilfred Prosper was born in 1927 at Potlotek, a small Mi’kmaw community located ten kilometers east of St. Peter’s, Cape Breton. Wilfred lived in Potlotek until 1947, at which time he and his parents were re-located to Eskasoni as a part of the Centralization initiative of Indian Affairs. Once established in Eskasoni, Wilfred eventually met his wife Bessie Stevens and raised his family here.

Wilfred’s early life in Potlotek was surrounded by music and at a young age Wilfred learned to play the guitar. However, at the age of sixteen Wilfred began to play the fiddle, primarily through the influence of Mi’kmaw fiddler Simon Cremo. Simon, a master fiddler in his own right, spent many days playing the fiddle for two dollars per hour. He also frequently entertained at the Prosper home in Potlotek, and his fiddling contributed to Wilfred’s own desire to play the fiddle.

By the age of 40 Wilfred was an accomplished fiddler, known throughout the Mi’kmaq and non-Mi’kmaq community for his fiddling expertise. He won many awards for fiddling throughout his lifetime, including the title of former Maritime Fiddling Champion of the 1960s, and he was a long standing member of the Cape Breton Fiddlers Association. He also frequently played fiddle with the famous Mi’kmaw fiddler Lee Cremo, and Lee would often credit Wilfred as a teacher and inspiration. Wilfred was also a well respected Mi’kmaw elder and translator and spent his lifetime preserving and teaching Mi’kmaw Hymns and Mi’kmaw Traditions. In 1998 Wilfred was recognized for his lifetime achievements and received the Grand Chief Donald Marshall Sr. Elders Award.

Wilfred died March 26, 2005 at the age of 77.