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Lee Cremo
Lee Cremo
October 10, 1999
Age 60
 
    
    
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OBITUARY 
        
 
 
      Eskasoni's Cremo a fiddling legend
             'Once you hear a Lee Cremo tune you know who it is.' 

             By Stephen Cooke / Entertainment Reporter 
             Halifax Herald 

             Cape Breton has lost a champion. 
                                                  
             Fellow musicians, friends and neighbours of Eskasoni fiddler 
             Lee Cremo were shocked and saddened to learn of his death on 
             Sunday at the age of 60. 

             A musician since the age of seven, when he learned to play at 
             the knee of his father Simon Cremo, Lee was a musical 
             ambassador for Cape Breton and the Mi'kmaq of Eskasoni, 
             playing everywhere from the Hollywood Bowl to Nashville, 
             where he was often ranked among the top 10 fiddlers in the 
             world at annual competitions. 

             "His music, that's how people will remember him," said 
             Eskasoni's fiddling barber George Paul, who toured with Cremo 
             in the late '50s and played with him often at dances and 
             social gatherings. "The whole community will miss him." 

             Cremo's style was unique, combining a powerful bowing arm 
             with an encyclopedic memory of Mi'kmaq, Irish and Scottish 
             music. 

             "He had a wealth of knowledge of music," recalls fiddler 
             Jerry Holland. 

             "And he was full of wonderful stories about his father and 
             how he was carrying on that tradition." 

             Besides his father, Cremo also learned from Wilfred Prosper 
             and Neil Francis MacLellan, and soaked up the music of Cape 
             Breton fiddling legends like Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald and 
             Dan Hughie MacEachern at local dances. 

             "If I had the money, I'd go in," Cremo once told 
             composer/historian Allister MacGillivrey. "If not, I'd sit 
             outside by the window and listen and learn." 

             He learned, and he passed his knowledge along. Today's Cape 
             Breton musical stars like Creignish fiddlers Ashley and Lisa 
             MacIsaac and Troy's Natalie MacMaster all picked up tips from 
             him. But nobody played quite like him. 

             "Once you hear a Lee Cremo tune, you know who it is," said 
             Eskasoni musician, and former Cremo bandmate, Richard 
             Poulette of the band Morning Star. 

             "His tunes included 32nd notes and 64th notes . . . they're 
             very hard to do. His style couldn't really be copied; if 
             someone else could play like him it would be a miracle." 

             Credited for his natural humour and charm, Cremo was often a 
             fixture at public events like Treaty Day celebrations or 
             Maritime Oldtime Fiddling Contests, where he was rarely at a 
             loss for words. 

             "When it comes to talking, I never stop," he once said. "If I 
             run out of words in English, I continue in Mi'kmaq. If they 
             can't understand, that's their problem." 

             Ironically, Cremo's death comes during the Celtic Colours 
             festival, when the whole island is celebrating Cape Breton's 
             unique musical heritage. Many who have been touched by his 
             playing will attend the funeral at 11 a.m. on Thursday at 
             Holy Family Parish in Eskasoni. 

             "The whole world is going to be there," said Poulette. "I 
             called people all over when I heard, and they were 
             devastated." 
                                         
        ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
                       Copyright © 1999 The Halifax Herald Limited 
        ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    
  
 
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BIOGRAPHY
 
 
A native Mic-Mac fiddler from Cape Breton Island, Lee Cremo was born into a fiddling family. According to the liner notes of The Champion Returns, Lee's great grandfather, Michael, was given a home-made fiddle by one of the original settlers from Scotland and learned the music of that era. The original fiddle was handed down from father to son until it reached Lee from his father Simon, also a fiddler of great reputation. This accounts for the distinct style of Scottish reels and Irish jigs heard in Lee's repertoire today.  

Among Lee's many awards, he has been six-time Maritime Fiddle Champion, Canadian champion at the Alberta Tar Sands Competition and "Best Bow Arm in the World" at the World Fiddle Championship in Nashville, Tennessee. Lee is also a noted composer of fiddle music. The Champion Returns contains four Cremo originals: "Constitution Breakdown," "Tara Lynne's March To God," "Mystery Stepdancer" and "Timothy Ryan's Reel." On "Tara Lynne's March" he is accompanied on Celtic harp by Lucy MacNeil. The only drawback to this fine album is that it's too short, making it an expensive purchase. ~`Northern Journey: A Guide to Canadian Folk Music

 
 
  
 
 

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