The Fiddlers Four
Regina hosts A Fiddle Feast
Article: Robyn Tocker – A&C Editor
Fiddling isn’t the first thing I picture when I think of Canada, but amongst its enthusiasts, the instrument and those who play them are Canada’s pride and joy. Because of this, there are many fiddling camps across the country, even two here in Saskatchewan.
Shivering Strings Camp brings fiddlers from inside and outside the province up to Saskatoon for two weekends of fiddling fun. In between those two weekends, the mentors who teach at the camp perform at various schools.
This year, Catherine Sproule and a team of fiddler enthusiasts are putting together A Fiddle Feast to be held in Regina on Jan. 30. Those performing include the talented Troy MacGillivray, J.J. Guy, Karrnnel Sawitsky, and Gordon Stobbe.
“It’s a super star show of fiddlers and I think for the people who know who these players are, they are looking forward to the event,” says Sproule.
One of the interesting things about the show is the fiddlers performing won’t rehearse beforehand like other musicians typically do. She says it’s because fiddle music is a shared repertoire. Gordon Stobbe, a Saskatchewan fiddler living in Toronto, agrees.
“When we do a show together, there’s no talk of a rehearsal. We’ve played together so many times in so many ways we can do a quality show without scratching our heads.”
Stobbe has been playing with various instruments since he first picked up a guitar. Fiddling found him by accident. While collecting instruments, Stobbe came across an old fiddle in a music store. After paying all of $10 for the instrument, he took it home, put on a tune that had a fiddle part in it, and taught himself.
“I fooled around on the fiddle and discovered something really special about this instrument,” says Stobbe.
Not only does he fiddle, but he writes books for fiddlers. Stobbe has published 20 books, his latest having come out just last week. He admits people seem to think that, because he wrote the books, he knows everything and having him at their camps is the best thing.
“Eventually I became the guy who we falsely put lots of faith in.”
Either way, Stobbe isn’t complaining about spending his summers touring Western Canadian fiddling camps. He’s grateful people want to learn and finds himself fortunate to call them their mentor. He has taught at camps in British Columbia, Yellowknife, and Whitehorse just to name a few.
Because of these camps, Stobbe criss crosses paths with the other fiddlers performing at the feast. Both Stobbe and Sproule agree the collection of fiddlers and accompanists (Jake Charron and Daniel Koulack) are Canada’s greatest.
“These aren’t part time people who are chartered accountants…They’re full time musicians,” says Stobbe.
“In Regina I’ve got five or six women promoting the event because they love these guys,” says Sproule.
She chose Regina as the location for the first (hopefully annual) Fiddle Feast because of the way the tours are going. Some of the fiddlers are doing shows down in the southern part of the province before the camps. Sproule says they aren’t selling advanced tickets, but because of past sold out occasions, she has no doubt it will be a full house. The reputation these fiddlers hold knows no bounds.
Sproule says that, although a couple years ago there were shows similar to this one in Saskatoon, there haven’t been exact replicas of A Fiddle Feast before. Professional groups of fiddlers go around and there are rehearsed tours that people go on.
“This kind of cornucopia is not common, especially the unrehearsed element of it,” says Sproule. “There’s a kind of excitement of the off-the-cuff performance.”
Sproule says she started Shivering Strings in Saskatchewan and A Fiddle Feast because “there’s not enough fiddling in the world.” She calls the instrument totally Canadian.
“It really represents the bringing together of different styles and cultures which makes it uniquely Canadian in its own way.”
A Fiddle Feast will be held at the Regina Unitarian Centre starting at 7:30 p.m.