Cape Breton Piano: Lila Hashem

It could be considered that Lila Hashem is one of the originators of what we know today as the Cape Breton piano style.

Lila Hashem was born in Inverness Town. Her mother was a self taught piano player and lover of fiddle music. Lesson were arranged for the young Lila with Jessie Maggie MacLellan who taught her Scottish music.

When Jessie Maggie left the area, she started simply working on her own out of a Skinner book that Jessie Maggie had left her. In the book "A Cape Breton Céilidh" compiled and edited by Allister MacGillivray Lila said, "I had to make up my own left hand because the Skinner book had no bass, just melody lines, and that's how I started the Scottish music".

Lila learned by watching others. Playing for fiddlers, it was her style to play the melody also, if she knew it.

She and Angus Chisolm both started out at about the same time. They met one night at a home in Margaree where there was an organ - she played the organ and Angus played fiddle. She was invited to a piano competition in Sydney and much to her surprise took first prize for a strathspey and two reels.

In 1936 she moved to Sydney and got her own 15 minute radio show (boy, what I wouldn't give to find old acetates of those). It was a daily 15 minute show of Scottish piano solos sponsored by Brooks grocery. Over the years she had other shows as well.

She met Bill Lamey, and they and Joe MacLean played regularly together for dances at Carpenter's Hall and Nelgah Beach. In 1956 she started recording with Joe. A Rounder CD of Joe MacLean is currently available which contains mostly cuts with Lila Hashem.

Lila also played with Donald MacLellan (brother of Marie) and with Winston Scotty Fitzgerald. Lila's style was unique because she mostly invented her own style. She remembers Beattie Wallace being the only other pianist playing dances at that time, tho Marie MacLellan came along soon after.

To Home of Piano in Traditional Cape Breton Music
To Cape Breton Piano: Some Players Past and Present
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