And the Word for Today is… Brilliant

Written by Max MacDonald.

It’s interesting how language is influenced and changes over time. I started travelling to Scotland in the mid 90’s and loved hearing the shopkeepers say “cheers” when they handed over my purchase. Ten years later I began to hear the same in Nova Scotia.

However, I found the British use of the word “brilliant” somewhat disconcerting because it was used to describe a person’s feelings about anything from a cup of tea to the weather. Since there is usually an exception to every English rule I must list my favorite here. I once heard the wonderful Irish fiddler, Liz Doherty, describe a music session the previous night as “Brilliant but mental!” That still makes me laugh.JP-ashley-stuart

When I think of brilliant I think of Nova Scotia roots musician, JP Cormier. When he was six years old he was playing Doc Watson and Chet Akins tunes note for note. By the time he was 16 he was on the road and playing with artists such as Waylon Jennings and Marty Stuart. He is equally astonishing on a guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle. Oh, did I mention he writes and sings terrific songs? He also makes grown men want to cry and quit playing.

I first heard him play in 1995 when he auditioned for a music series that Joella Foulds and I were organizing. This great big bear of a man dressed in black walked in with my old friend, piano player, Hilda Chiasson. They had just moved back to Cape Breton from Nashville. JP’s roots were in Cape Breton but he had never lived here.

You hear a variety of levels of talent at auditions but when he started to play… well, it’s difficult to describe…  I sort of felt like I was going to be blown out through the window at the back of the room. This was not because he was loud… because he was brilliant.

I rather hope that we don’t adopt the word brilliant to describe how we feel about soup and wallpaper and reserve the word to describe something or someone truly special.