Cape Breton Piano: Betty Mallett

Betty Mallet (there are alternate spellings of the last name) was the daughter of Margaret Cameron (nee MacNeil) from Scotch Hill Margaree. Margaret's first husband, Archibald Cameron from West Lake Anslie died at a relatively young age. Margaret went off to Digby where she married a Captain Mallet, and so Betty was born in Digby NS in the teens.

She spent most of her time between there, Cape Breton and Boston. She played with Angus Chisolm, Alec Gillis and Alcid Aucoin who were part of the original Inverness Serenaders.

Betty was the featured pianist on all the Serenaders 78's, but in fact one of them had someone else - a piper - taking over piano for her despite her credit. I am told that she did have some trouble with performance anxiety in those days before Inderol, tho she did occasionally make medicinal use of whisky to control it.

She also performed with the IS and others on Boston radio station WHDH.

Betty had classical training - "8 years with the crabby old nuns" according to someone who knew her - and was exposed to jazz influences as well. These may or may not explain the hints of syncopation and the addition of VI chords on the recording of The Marchioness of Tu Lybardine.

The only easy way to hear any of her work at the moment is a fragment on the Tracey Dares video "A Chording to the Tunes". However, there are rumors of a CD rerelease of the Serenaders 78's late in 1999. If that happens, it will be noted at this web site.

Betty died in her fifties in 1964.

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Disclaimer: I am not an expert in the history, theory, or playing of Cape Breton Style piano accompiament. I am an eager student. If you find errors, lies, damn lies, ommissions etc etc etc within these pages, please do call it to my attention!

Le gach beannachd,
Roger Lane Reid