On a beautiful, calm Saturday afternoon, dozens of boats cozied up around Juniper Island for a show like no other, but reminiscent of another time.
For generations, the Leahy family had been coming to the island for dances and music nights. However, this concert this year was the first one where fans danced in their boats as the fiddle music wafted across the water.
“It was almost magical,”
says Doug Leahy, 46, whose family started playing music on the island before he was born. “You get there and realize how beautiful and therapeutic it is.”
He now manages Next Generation Leahy, fiddlers and dancers who are children of the famed family band that tours extensively across North America every year, except this one. Like everyone else, the Leahys are grounded by COVID-19. They are turning their talents this summer to the nearby farm and its produce stand.
Except, on Aug. 8, they carted their gear to the island and entertained fans in 60-plus boats, canoes and Sea-Doos. They sang, fiddled and danced from 4 to 5 p.m. to the delight of cottagers, hungry for live shows that have been scuttled elsewhere.
“As a parent, it was awesome to sit back and watch, knowing my parents had done it with me. That was the icing on the cake,” Doug says.
The Association of Stony Lake Cottagers started arranging the floating concert back in early April, says social director Brett Somerville, 26. A GoFundMe campaign raised $1,500 to cover some of the costs.
Somerville grew up sailing on Stony while cottaging in Quarry Bay.
“The lake has given me so much, I wanted to give back,” he says of his motivation.
The logistics of moving equipment across the water was the biggest challenge, Doug says.
“You don’t know how it is going to turn out. How the sound will be. How the power will be,” he fretted initially.
Ultimately, John Milton of Lakefield ran his soundboard from his boat using a Wi-Fi connection from his iPad, adjusting the sound as he bobbed among the fans’ boats.
“Without him, we wouldn’t have been able to do it,” Doug says. “Then you see people relaxing in their boats with smiles on their faces and it’s like a fairy tale. In a way, it brought the lake together. To see so many people show up and appreciate it was wonderful.”
The highlight for him was hearing his daughter Cecilia debuting a song written by his brother Angus, as two of the younger children danced publicly for the first time. Performing live makes everyone a better entertainer as you learn from the audience’s reactions, he adds.
Since the show, many people have stopped by the farm stand to thank the family for stepping on stage. The only thing Doug would change is the show time since the low sun made it hard for some fans to see.
“People said, ‘Let’s do it again next year’ and I said, ‘I’m in!’”
Photo Credit Adam Bonnycastle
By Lois Tuffin