Here's Buddy MacMaster, the grand old master of the Cape Breton fiddle, displaying his incredible skill on some classic Gaelic fiddle tunes. Cape Breton fiddle music is really lucky to have Buddy MacMaster, a living link with the old Gaelic world that once thrived on Cape Breton Island. Buddy is the uncle of celebrity fiddler Natalie MacMaster.
Natalie and other “modern fiddlers” use a recognizably different style from the old Gaelic fiddlers who started the tradition. The reason for this is probably that the context is different. The old fiddlers played for barn dances and weddings and kitchen visits. Their primary job was to provide a rhythm for the dancers, so none of the older fiddlers would ever play too fast for the dancers to keep up with, nor would they throw in tricky virtuoso stunts.
The newer fiddlers like Ashley MacIsaac are usually playing for an audience, so they tend to think more like performers or even rock stars. They tend to emphasize the performance and to ham it up, particularly by trying to appear “intense” and by doing tricks on the fiddle like Jimi Hendrix on his electric guitar. Natalie MacMaster doesn't do that sort of thing, but she does play in a more performance-oriented style than her uncle Buddy, who pretty much always just sits in a chair with his suit and tie on, playing the best fiddle you ever heard in your life. The changes that have happened, have happened for a reason- but sometimes the old ways are still the best ways.