Old Irish Songs with Norma and Debbie

The St. Patrick’s season is upon us and if you are around Douglastown, you might notice a little more wearing of the green in the coming week leading up to the 17th of March. Today is also International Women’s Day. And so with these two celebrations in mind, I wanted to share with you songs from a recording made by two of my favourite Irish women from Gaspé. Norma McDonald (née Gaul) was brought up in Douglastown in a family who sang old Irish and popular songs around the house. Debbie Sams is an accordionist and pianist from York and is also the daughter of MaryEllen Drody-Savidant who was also a fine singer of the old songs and a member of Douglastown’s musical Drody family. Both Norma and Debbie frequently entertain at the Ross Sanatorium and different community events throughout the year. Where there is music in Gaspé, you’ll often find either or both of these women.

Debbie Sams (keyboard), Norma McDonald (fiddle), Laura Risk (fiddle) at Holy Name Hall, Douglastown Irish Week 2014.

Debbie, Norma McDonald, and Laura Risk. Holy Name Hall, Douglastown Irish Week 2014.

This recording was somewhat of a surprise for me. When we were in the final stage of collecting recordings for the Douglastown CD in early 2014, we realized that we didn’t have much material from the people still making music in Gaspé today. Most of the music we had was from old cassettes and reel-to-reels made before about 1980. Laura Risk and I wondered if Debbie and Norma would record one or two of the old songs as they were often played years ago in the parlours around Gaspé, with just voice and a piano or pump organ for accompaniment. They borrowed a digital recorder from the Douglas Community Centre and came back with not two, but six songs for us that they recorded in Debbie’s basement! Debbie’s steady piano chording is a perfect match for Norma’s clear voice. I’ve treasured these recordings on many occasions since then. Thanks to Norma and Debbie for making these and letting me share them with you.


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