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Young fiddler contemplates her future

Ceilidh Briscoe takes year to save up for university education
Oak Bay’s fiddling phenom Ceilidh Briscoe prepares to take on life after high school.

Like many high school students Ceilidh Briscoe, 17, is looking for summer work. But what she wants to do is specific: play the fiddle.

The Oak Bay resident and well-known fiddler is graduating this spring and taking a year to work before applying to university music schools. On St. Patrick’s Day she played from 11 a.m. until evening at pubs and retirement homes. Her earnings went to her university fund. She hopes to one day get her master’s degree in music and play in an orchestra.

“I can’t really explain why I love it as much as I do,” she says about playing the violin. “Ever since I picked it up at age five I’ve loved the instrument. It is the easiest way to convey emotion to people and most time it’s happiness.”

Briscoe has kept to a heavy schedule. Schooled at home, she competed and placed second in her age group in the annual All-Ireland fiddle championships in Dublin three years ago, has been studying in the Collegium program at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, playing in a piano quartet, teaching violin at home, and, of course, performing.

And although she hasn’t played at the Penny Farthing pub in Oak Bay since before it was renovated in 2011, pub owner Matt MacNeil says he’d like her to come back.

“She is just a breath of fresh air when she plays,” says MacNeil, who held a fundraiser in 2009 so Briscoe could go to the All-Irelands. Briscoe has been accompanying her dad, Wayne Briscoe, in MacNeil’s three pubs since she was 12. “She’s really mature, she’s gaining a stage presence and confidence,” MacNeil says.

Now that there is a dedicated music space at the back of the Penny, complete with baby grand piano, with live music three nights a week, MacNeil says he intends to soon add Briscoe and her dad to the music roster.

“Absolutely. She’s got the right attitude.”