Sandy MacIntyre was born in Inverness Town, Inverness County, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and was raised in a typically musical Cape Breton family. His mother Cassie, well known for her violin playing, began playing at dances at age thirteen. His father Ronald, also a fiddler, was well known for his Gaelic singing, Gaelic being the first language of the MacIntyre home. Sandy lists his grandfather John Angus MacIsaac, his parents, his brothers John R. and Francis, his uncles John Archie, Alex Angus, Dan Hughie, Donald Angus, Dougall Finley, Campbell MacIsaac and Peter MacDonnell, (all were fiddlers, and two were pipers as well) and his aunts. He comments: “They could have easily performed a full variety concert consisting of fiddle, piano, stepdancing, bagpipes, Gaelic singing and story telling. I know there are hundreds of Cape Breton fiddlers with similar backgrounds.”
Sandy absorbed his family’s cultural inheritance in good measure. He started playing the pump organ at age 8 or 9 chording for family members and visiting fiddlers. About age 16 he took up the fiddle, learning by ear. He also learned the guitar and in high school he was a drummer in the Inverness Pipe Band. In Toronto, at age 19, lonely for the music of down home he found a fiddle, pursued his fiddle playing and took up note reading, at first choosing pieces he already knew by ear. He linked up with other exiled Cape Bretoners to bring musicians to Toronto for Cape Breton style dances and to keep the music alive. Following his appearances on the CBC TV show “Ceilidh“, Sandy has become one of the best known of Cape Breton’s many fine fiddlers. He is also a prolific composer with over a hundred tunes to his credit, many in active circulation among Island players. A versatile musician, he is equal to the task of accompanist on piano, guitar or bass. His use of unique settings and his creative medley arrangements of tunes, allows him to extend his repertoire into a contemporary vein without compromising the traditional spirit of the music.
During the year, Sandy runs fiddle classes in Toronto and teaches Cape Breton stepdancing. He returns to Cape Breton during the summer to teach fiddle at St. Ann’s Gaelic College and to play at concerts and ceilidhs. From Cape Breton he goes to Scotland to play at such events as the annual International Celtic Concert in Inverness. In 1991, stepdancing instructor Harvey Beaton joined Sandy for 10 days of workshops and concerts in the Inverness, Scotland area. A growing interest internationally in the music of the Cape Breton Gael is such that the flow of tradition is now very much in two directions. The demand for concert tours and workshops on all aspects of Cape Breton musical tradition is increasing steadily, both in North America and in the Ancient homelands of the Celts. At home, participation by the young in the fiddle and stepdance traditions and the interest in Celtic music and the Gaelic heritage is gaining strength at an unprecedented rate.
Sandy has great faith in his culture and in all the Island people who keep that culture alive and vital and he always backs up his faith by giving generously of his time to organizing the fund-raising concerts, ceilidhs and dances that benefit his culture.
Sandy MacIntyre keeps his love of his Cape Breton heritage and his passion for the Music of the Fiddle on the front burner at all times.