The sound of fiddles on the Hill

IMG_7521 (2)On February 4, Members of Parliament of the Canadian Heritage Committee were considering S-218: An Act respecting a National Fiddling Day. Appearing before the Committee were two fiddlers to speak of their love of fiddle music. Kelli Trottier spoke and played for MPs, as did Alexander George.

Here is Alexander’s statement to MPs.

“Mr. Chairman, I just turned 14 and have been playing fiddle for 6 years. I am honoured to be here representing young fiddlers and speaking on something that is my passion. I love playing the fiddle and sharing music with others.

Fiddling is an important part of our society. It is found throughout our country’s past. It is special because it recounts our history and our peoples. And fiddle music is still very much alive today.

I want to relate a little bit about my own experiences playing the fiddle as an example of how this music can impact people and their communities.

My Mother grew up in Nova Scotia – so I have musical roots in the Maritimes. I have been inspired by my cousin Megan Isenor and kitchen parties at my grandparents’ home, and the socials and stage performances I saw as a young boy in Nova Scotia and in Ontario.

There are many, many people who have inspired me through music. I don’t have the time to start naming them all! But, I am fortunate to have had great teachers and mentors – and I wish to thank all of them. They have taught me about the importance of fiddle music. They are wonderful musicians that represent our Canadian fiddling tradition. They have opened doors for me and given me great opportunities.

I hope I can carry on the tradition that is being passed down to me by my instructors through the years:

  • Beth Bartley, a wonderful performer from St. Catharines
  • Karen Reid, Canadian fiddle champion who now lives in Kitchener
  • Cindy Thompson, another Canadian fiddle champion who is a great mentor and friend
  • Denis Lanctot, who was inducted last year in the Canadian Fiddle Hall of Fame

I began performing fiddle music in Niagara Region, in St. Catharines. I started playing in the Niagara Old Tyme Fiddlers Association. At the start, I acquired many mentors – fiddlers in their 60’s, 70’s and some in their 80’s. (I was 8 years old and brought the average age down to 60.)

I joined a band with two of my mentors, Cassandra Swan, Mike Mattie and we played in seniors’ residences. The band was later named Alexander’s Old Time Band. Seniors really enjoyed our show and our music, which was their day’s pop music.

Now I live in the Ottawa Valley. It has a rich history of Celtic, country and Valley fiddle music. The Ottawa Valley has the Heritage Radio station and Renfrew’s Valley Stage that keeps our history alive.

In the Valley, there are weekly jams and gatherings in pubs and homes. In fact, I go to a jam session at a local pub every Wednesday night, where I drink ginger ale and play to my bed time of 9:30.

I would like to mention Charlie Kitts and Jim Hunter, who have done a good job with promoting Ottawa Valley fiddle music and helping fiddlers perform throughout Ottawa and the Valley.

So, let me tell you a little bit about where I perform. Fiddle music is welcomed in many places. It is an important part of our community. I have volunteered at many senior residences. The music provides great enjoyment. I feel by doing this gives back to the community.

Fiddle music is welcomed at heritage and community fairs. For instance, I have played at the St. Catharines Fiddle Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake strawberry social, Almonte’s Puppets Up! and Celtfest festivals, and many more…

There are many fiddle concerts across Canada. I have played at larger venues like the regular Shindigs in Niagara, featuring Canadian talent, like Patti Lamoureux and the Fitzgerald Family. I remember the 500+ people that came out to the Marshville Fair just to listen to the fiddle music and the many that attended the historic Renfrew Fair to listen to acts on its Valley Stage.

I also volunteer at not the flashiest, but certainly the most important community events like fundraisers for the Niagara soup kitchen and also for “In Out of the Cold” support program for disadvantaged people. This past weekend I played at the Country Music Heart Jamboree in Carleton Place – which was a fundraiser for the Ottawa Heart Institute.

The fiddle community across Canada is close. Fiddlers show a lot of respect for each other and their unique styles of fiddling. We enjoy many styles in Canada: from Celtic, French Canadian, Old Tyme, Ottawa Valley, and Prairie or some call it Metis.

Fiddlers are part of a sharing community that has a proud tradition of coming together to play and entertain. I really can’t explain it, but fiddling is a great feeling – playing with fellow musicians and seeing the smiles on peoples’ faces. I am very happy to be part of Canada’s fiddle community.

Mr. Chairman, let me tell you that there is support and excitement for National Fiddling Day. People all over Canada will appreciate and celebrate the day. Since fiddling is a social thing, people will come together to play music, dance and enjoy themselves on Canada’s Fiddling Day.

I hope my personal story helps to demonstrate how fiddle music has impacted me, the people around me, and my community.

I would like to conclude my presentation by playing the Lieutenant Governor’s Waltz – a waltz composed by Calvin Vollrath, a favourite fiddler of mine who comes from Saskatchewan.”

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(ed. – This was a proud moment for us watching our son perform.) 



5 thoughts on “The sound of fiddles on the Hill

  1. Pingback: Towards a National Fiddling Day | By George Journal

  2. Beth Bartley

    You have my vote Alexander George, for making a national fiddling day. Wouldn’t that lift the spirits of all Canadians to hear the sweet sounds of toe tapping music from dawn till dawn. So great to see you in fine form young lad.
    P.S. Say hello to your wonderful parents.

  3. Pingback: Of National Fiddling Day | By George Journal

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