Paul Cranford Biography

Looking out from the St. Paul Island light


Lighthousekeeper, fiddler, composer Paul Cranford is well known amongst traditional musicians everywhere. For the last twenty five years he has published many books of fiddle music including the five volume Cape Breton Musical Heritage Series. In additon to being a fiddler and publisher, his compositions are being played around the world in sessions from Ireland to Tasmania. Some of the musicians who have recorded his tunes include The Barra MacNeils, Jerry Holland, Sharon Shannon, Kendra MacGillivray, Ray Legère, Joe Doucette, Slainté Mhath, Laoise Kelly, Maire O'Keeffe and David Greenberg.

A resident of Cape Breton's North Shore, he works 28 days on 28 off on the last manned lighthouse in the Maritimes, Machais Seal Island. Originally from Toronto, Paul arrived in Nova Scotia in 1975. Within a week he got a job as a lighthousekeeper on remote St. Paul Island. Over the years working a month-on month-off lighthouse rotation has given him the opportunity to become a solid Cape Breton fiddler. During his time off, he learns tunes and techniques from other musicians. When he returns to the light, the isolation gives him the time and space to digest what he heard ashore at house parties and dances. Over the years his enthusiasm for the music has resulted in the building up of a large and diverse repertoire.

His publishing career began in 1979 with the reissue of one of the most influential Scottish tune books, The Skye Collection, (first published 1887.) He followed up in 1982 with the reissue of The Simon Fraser Collection (first published 1816) and later with The Alexander Walker Collection, a 19th century book of original Scottish fiddle tunes. These three books provided a solid foundation for his work in the composing and publishing of traditional music.

Later, in collaborating with well known recording artists Jerry Holland and Brenda Stubbert, Paul started The Cape Breton Musical Heritage Series ... music books which highlight the talents of Cape Breton fiddlers who are not only adept at arranging traditional and contemporary tunes, but are continually adding original compositions to their repertoires.

When away from his current lighthouse posting, Paul is ever ready to sit and play with any traditional musician. He has played in kitchens and pubs from Cape Breton to California, Boston, Toronto, Ireland and Scotland.

In 1996 Paul completed his book The Lighthouse Collection and its companion recording - The Lighthouse CD

Photographs from The Lighhtouse Collection

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last update 28/11/99