Fiddling is alive and well on the Prairies

The music may be called “Old Time,” but fiddling is alive and well on the Prairies.

Over the past month, summer students from the Kenosee Lake Kitchen Party (KLKP) music camp have travelled across Saskatchewan and Manitoba, playing and teaching fiddle at schools, senior living homes, and dances.

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KLKP is a music camp for all ages and abilities focusing on traditional Canadian music genres. With its focus on nurturing communities through music, outreach was a no-brainer for the camp:

“Our goal throughout the tour was to bring music to under-served groups, like children and the elderly,” said Kitchen Party founder Michele Amy, “by playing at schools and dances, we are not only improving musical programming in communities now, but we are inspiring the next generation to take up music.”

The camp employs an outreach team of summer students through the Canada Summer Job Program who are all adept traditional musicians, including Micah Walbaum, a student from Forget who recently made her debut at Country Thunder; Tristen Durocher, an in-demand musician from Northern Saskatchewan; Marcel Hapel, a Kitchen Party Instructor and current music education student at Brandon University; and Mitchell Dureault, an energetic fiddler from Regina. Durocher and Hapel will also be competing at the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddle Competition this August.

One of the most important aspects of the camp’s outreach was its work at elementary schools in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where they introduced children to Old Time music and its history. Summer student Tristen Durocher particularly enjoyed his time at Arcola Elementary School:

 “I spent the day playing for each class, and at the end of each session I would give them the chance to try my fiddle. All the kids’ hands shot up!” said Durocher, “I think it’s so important to bring this kind of event into schools, because for many of the kids this was their first time hearing a fiddle in person.”

Durocher and fellow KLKP summer student Micah Walbaum also spent the past week touring the Southeast from Whitewood to Estevan and enjoyed stopping at senior residences to play familiar tunes from times past. One of their stops was at the Bow Valley Villa in Oxbow, where they added another player to their team:

 “One lady in our audience was 98 years old, and was a pianist who used to play for Old Time dances,” remembered Durocher, “After listening to a few of our tunes, some of her friends said “go up and play a few songs with them.” She made her way to the piano bench with her walker, sat down, and started playing Westphalia Waltz, one of my earliest favourites. Micah and I played our fiddles with her music and everybody tapped along and swayed side to side in their seats as though they were all dancing to the waltz. There were many smiles and many closed eyes, faces lost in expressions of remembering.”

Whether it is bringing back the memories of older generations, or giving kids a chance to try something new, fiddle music has something for everyone.

The Kenosee Lake Kitchen Party offers instruction in fiddle, guitar, banjo, mandolin, piano, cello, ukulele, and voice to all ages and abilities. For information, check out kenoseekitchenparty.ca.

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