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Harvey Tolman 

One of the earliest and most important influences on Gordon’s playing was the Cape Breton-style fiddling of Harvey Tolman. He was among the first fiddlers Gordon met when he was discovering fiddle tunes and contra dances, and it being the days of their youth, and frequent parties, they were often in situations where a few tunes were required. Additionally, shortly after the Monday night dances had started (in Harrisville, before they moved to Nelson) the woman who had been the default fiddler was in a car accident (from which she eventually recovered), so Harvey stepped in to fill the void.

Gordon was just learning to play for dances, and in some ways his ignorance of musical styles and protocols for piano players served to his advantage - he followed his instincts and developed his own style. At the time Gordon couldn’t have told you the difference between an Irish jig and an Appalachian reel, let alone explained the nuances of the unique Cape Breton style. But people with a more sophisticated awareness occasionally suggested to Gordon that he was playing with a Cape Breton style on the piano. There was something about how Harvey was playing that somehow infused Gordon’s playing with the proper character.

The other thing about Harvey’s playing (which is typical of the Cape Breton style) is that he would play each tune only three or four times before changing to another one. This forced Gordon to be alert to those changes - he developed an ear for hearing from just the first two or three notes and associated phrasings, if a new tune was starting. and how to get right into it so that audibly the transition seemed seamless.