Formed in 1971 by Rob Taylor, the Brigadoons have promoted Glengarry’s Celtic music for more than thirty years. Over those many years the band has had many members who epitomized the vast talent present in our county. The original band consisted of Bob Burnie, Gaye Leroux, Jamie Wood, Brian MacDonell and of course, the founder, Rob himself. Many of these musicians went on to other careers in music and are still playing in the area.
Their peppy brand of Celtic music was instantly embraced by the public, young and old. Whether they played to the crowd at the Atlantic Hotel or for a dance at the Bonnie Glen, they played to full houses and kept the floor full all night. Members changed through the years, but the band’s following continued to grow. Over the years, different entertainers added their talents to the band. Artists such as Rick Linke, Gerry Lefave, David Wright, Paddy Kelly, Shelley Downing, Jack Smith, Luane Doyle and Bonita Leblanc played with the band.
Their music began to be recognized outside of Glengarry when, under the auspices of The Glengarry Club of Ottawa, the Brigadoons with other Glengarry talent performed in the many Glengarry variety shows first presented at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa and later at the Centrepointe Theatre in Nepean. Further appreciation for their special brand of music came when they performed at the Glengarry Club of Ottawa’s New Year’s dances, Molly Maguire’s Pub in Ottawa, for the troops at the Canadian Forces Base in Alert and at a parade through Quebec City sponsored by the Lions Club of Alexandria. The music always had that special undeniable Glengarry flavour.
When Queen Elizabeth II visited Cornwall in 1984, the Brigadoons performed Ken MacRae’s Ontario for her. With their success on the rise, the demand for their music increased and the music of Glengarry was introduced to the world. The group accompanied the MacCulloch Dancers to Tennessee, Utah, Disney World and Marseille, France. They did week-long performances (three shows a day) at EPCOT Center for ten consecutive years and still perform annually on Caribbean cruises. They have had the pleasure of working alongside such international Scottish stars as The Alexander Brothers at numerous highland games and at Celtic events with Natalie MacMaster, The Barra MacNeils, the Rankin Family, The Tanahill Weavers, The Battlefield Band, etc. One of the highlights for the group is their performance each year at the Friday night Tattoo at the Glengarry Highland Games, a spectacle unequal to any in North America.
While all this performing took them far and wide, they also took time to make CDs and to play for their local fans. When the parish of St. Raphael’s suffered the devastating loss of its church to fire, Rob and his wife, Irene, wrote The Burning of St. Raphael’s which the group sang at one of the first fund raising concerts in the Ruins and later included on their first CD. In 1997 past and present Brigadoons members re-united to participate in the fund raising CD, Friends Helping Friends, produced by Neil MacDonell, another native Glengarrian. This generous action earned the group permanent recognition on a bronze plaque at the site of the Ruins. Many times a year, the Brigadoons are honoured to be called on to perform at seniors’ homes in Glengarry. Rob describes this as “an uplifting experience to be approached by residents who, during our early years, were staunch supporters.”
Fortunately for their many fans, the Brigadoons are still performing and while new songs are being added to the repertoire, they still perform, at the request of the fans, those favourites from Glengarry such as The Road to Dalhousie, Glengarry My Home or the Martintown Song.