COAST TO COAST- A Musical Journey Across Canada's Fiddling Styles
As the title suggests, "Coast to Coast" is in fact a musical journey. My goal with this CD is to bring listeners some of the many different styles of fiddle playing in Canada, province by province. To achieve this, I have hand selected some the greatest fiddle players in Canada to perform duets with me. Each of these players are all masters in their own style, and have enjoyed very successful musical careers. We have done our best to stay true to each style, including the background musicianship and instruments incorporated in each tune. I’ve taken a collection of everyone’s favorite fiddle standards, and added some of my own flavor and interpretations of each song. My hope is that this unique project will please listeners abroad, and introduce others to styles and tunes they may not be as familiar with. From British Columbia to Prince Edward Island, we all have our own way of performing tunes that have been past on from generation to generation, so sit back, tap, hum, and play along, as you take a musical journey across Canada's fiddling styles.
About The Guest Fiddlers
British Columbia native, Mike Sanyshyn, has enjoyed a successful career performing with many of Canada’s top country music recording artists, both live on the stage and in the studio as a session musician. His talents have also won him many awards including being named B.C. Provincial Fiddle Champion 4 times. Mike’s personal fiddling sound consists of a variety of styles including Canadian Old Time, Bluegrass, Celtic, Swing and Metis Fiddle, and classical. According to Mike, the BC fiddle style is a culmination of various old time fiddle styles influenced by other parts of Canada, United States, Ireland and Scotland. The sounds of BC can also be heard in the playing of other accomplished local fiddlers; Frankie Rogers, Bob Montgomery, Keith Hill, Clarence Lesveque , Art Bird and Bruce Smith. The tune selected for this CD “Houston On My Mind” is a country shuffle, which was composed by “The King of Country Fiddlers”, Frankie Rogers.
The Territories (Yukon, Northwest, and Nunavut) fiddler, Wesley Hardisty, is passion driven, and his love of music is clearly evident. At an early age, he has already added some impressive awards and performances to his resume as the “Winner of the 2012 Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Award for Best Fiddle CD”, and having played in front the Royal couple Will and Kate, as well as appearing at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, He is a fiddler, guitarist, composer, and singer, whose unique blend of rock, folk, Celtic and Metis music is compelling and emotional. Wesley says the NWT style of fiddle music is very raw, and rhythm driven. Traditionally, and as recorded for this CD, the tune “Red River Jig” was performed by a fiddler, accompanied only by the stomping of his or her feet. This song alternates between two sections. The first, has a set dance step, and the second is where dancers compete against each other to see who has the best foot work.
Alberta is fortunate to be home to arguably Canada’s greatest fiddling pioneers, Calvin Vollrath. He has composed near 600 pieces, many of which have become standard tunes in fiddler repertoires all over the world. Calvin was commissioned to compose 5 tunes specifically for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Opening Ceremonies, and his remarkable career was celebrated and honored when he was inducted into The North American Fiddlers Hall of Fame in 2011. In Alberta, fiddle music is all about dancing. Fiddlers play and people dance. The style received contributions from Old Time, Metis, Bluegrass, Ukrainian and Western Swing. Some other Alberta greats are Al Cherny, Alfie Myhre, and Ollie Kristensen but Calvin’s greatest inspiration and musical hero was his dad, Art 'Lefty' Vollrath.
Saskatchewan representative, John Arcand, has spent his lifetime promoting and preserving the traditions of Métis fiddle, dance and old time fiddling. He still plays, records and teaches the traditional tunes handed down from his father and grandfather. His life’s work has been honored with a multitude of awards including; The Lifetime Achievement Awards from The National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, The Canadian Grand Masters, The Lieutenant Governor’s Saskatchewan Arts Award, Canada’s highest civilian honour - the Order of Canada – and he recently received the Molson Prize administered by the Canada Council for the Arts. The name of the tune chosen for this recording is Big Bear. John wrote it many years back and named it in honor of his mother, as she is a decedent of Big Bear.
Manitoba Fiddle Association Hall of Fame member Patti Kusturok's old time fiddle style is described as a little bit Métis, a little bit Québecois, and a whole lot of feel. Her impressive list of accomplishments include 3-time Champion at the famous Pembroke, ON competition, 6 time Manitoba Champion, and 3 time Grand North American Champion. Patti won the prestigious Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Championship in Ottawa, ON becoming the first woman in the history of Canada to ever win. Patti suggests the Manitoba fiddle style is very danceable, often accompanied by Metis footwork. There aren't a lot of ornamentations as a steady beat is much more important to the old time dancers, and square dancing, a prominent dance style in Manitoba. Reg Bouvette and Andy DeJarlis are a couple of Old Time fiddling pioneers that happen to hail from the province.
Ontario is the birthplace of many great fiddler’s, including two time Canadian Grand Masters Fiddle Champion, Julie Fitzgerald. Not only is she a highly decorated fiddler, she is also a sought after step dancer, having had the opportunity to perform both talents internationally with Canadian icons Natalie MacMaster, Leahy and Bowfire. Traditionally, fiddling has ties to Old-Time Country dances in Ontairio. Because Ottawa-Valley Step Dancing and old-time fiddle developed together, a lot of the tunes are played pretty quickly (clogs, jigs and reels) in order to accompany the step dancer. You can definitely hear similarities between Ontario Old-Time fiddle and Eastern Canadian fiddling styles, because a lot of the players worked at lumber camps in Quebec and the eastern provinces. They would have heard the more "Celtic" styles and from that created their own unique Ontario style resulting in some Irish/Scottish/French connections. Ontario, especially the Ottawa Valley, is home to many renowned fiddlers such as Graham Townsend, Ward Allen, Webb Acheson, and Brian Hebert, who collectively are responsible for composing a vast number of well known fiddle tunes.
Quebec native Andre Brunet’s passion for traditional Quebec fiddling has secured him some of fiddling’s most prestigious awards. Andre was the first Quebecois to win top honors at both the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Competition and the Pembroke Old Time Fiddling and Step Dancing Championship. His unwavering energy and refined style earned him a spot with La Bottine Souriante, with whom he toured more than 15 countries over the course of 10 years. Andre also participated in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. In the Quebec tradition, the instrument is subservient to the dance. The official language of Quebec is French and this, understandably, has an impact on the musical language. The rhythm of the fiddler’s feet invites dancers to share and express themselves around a square set, a quadrille, a brandy or a simple jig. The violin, therefore, can be said to be the standard bearer of the Quebec living tradition.
New Brunswick representation on the album comes from fiddling great Ivan Hicks, and East Coast Music Award winner, Samantha Robichaud. With over 68 years of playing old-time music, Ivan is an award-winning fiddler known throughout North America for his contributions to the preservation and promotion of old-time fiddling. Ivan has received many awards such as an East Coast Music Awards, Induction into the North American Fiddlers Hall of Fame, NB and NS Country Music Halls of Fame and recently the Order of New Brunswick. With seven albums under her belt, a performance at both Carnegie Hall, and the Grand Ole Opry, Samantha is achieving great things. In 2005, she was the first Canadian and female to receive the Daniel Pearl Memorial Violin. She’s had the opportunity to perform for both Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, and recently composed and recorded a song for the documentary “This is My America” featuring Dolly Parton. The main fiddling style in New Brunswick is the Downeast (Messer) old time style. The music sticks very close to the melody with little ornamentation or variation using single notes with limited use of double stops. Almost every note is on a different bow stroke with less slurring of notes. Like other provinces, New Brunswick is rich in other fiddling influences such as Celtic and Acadian styles. New Brunswick was and is home to many legendary fiddlers such as Don Messer, Ned Landry and Earl Mitton.
Newfoundland fiddler Emilia Bartellas, has immersed herself in the true fiddling style of her home province. Her debut album won MusicNL's Celtic/Traditional Recording of the Year in 2014 and she was the recipient of The Dermot O’Reilly Legacy Award for promoting traditional music and demonstrating leadership and creativity in the tradition-bearer community of Newfoundland and Labrador. Emilia describes the style well when she says, “Fiddle music in Newfoundland and Labrador is all about rhythm. The fiddle style reflects this in both bowing and ornamentation, where the ornaments are simple and the bow drives the tunes. Traditionally, there would only be either a fiddle player or, a 4-stop button accordion player providing music for the nightly dances in communities. The particular history and cultural influences of a region within the province determines the fiddle style of that area. Due to the rich cultural heritage of this province, the Newfoundland fiddle style has a mix of influences from Cape Breton, Scotland, Ireland, England, Quebec, Canada, America and France. So, for example, tunes from the playing of Emile Benoit from the Port-au-Port Peninsula are influenced by French and Scottish styles and would be sprinkled with triplets. Rufus Guinchard, from Daniel’s Harbour on the Northern Peninsula, played many doubles and jigs and would play, what many fiddlers call, ‘cuts’, as ornamentation. There are types of tunes that are unique to Newfoundland; the single and the double. While they may be compared to polkas and slides, they are different in feel and in tempo – they are fast!”. Besides Rufus, other legendary Newfoundland fiddlers include Kelly Russell, Emile Benoit, and Patrick Morgan.
Nova Scotia’s Troy MacGillivray, displays a unique sense of pride and commitment to his Celtic heritage and his music continues to add to the history and development of the traditional music that is the epitome of the Maritimes, the place he calls home. In 2004, he was the recipient of the "Auleen Theriault Young Tradition Award" from the Goderich Celtic Roots Festival in Goderich, Ontario — an award given to an artist that shows outstanding talent and love for traditional and roots based music. An accomplished step dancer, and pianist as well, Troy has played at an array of music festivals, tours and award shows around the globe. The music in Nova Scotia is very dance oriented, focused around drive and rhythm, consistency and endurance, and is heavily influenced by it’s Scottish roots. Cape Breton playing is highly accented, characterized by driven up-bowing. The strong downbeat pulse is driven by the fiddler's heel into the floor. The pattern tends to be heel-and-toe on reels, and the heel on strathspeys. Among a long list of influential fiddlers in Nova Scotia are local favorites Winston (Scotty) Fitzgerald, Jerry Holland, John Morris Rankin, Bill Lamey, J.P. Cormier and Buddy MacMaster just to name a few. Arguably two of the most well-known modern Cape Breton fiddlers are Natalie MacMaster and Ashley MacIsaac.
Prince Edward Island is home to a multitude of East Coast musicians, including “Bowfire” alum, Richard Wood. For more than two decades, Richard has impressed audiences across Canada, the US, Europe, Japan and Australia. From TV guest appearances with Shania Twain on “David Letterman” and “Good Morning America,” to a performance at Carnegie Hall with Irish legends The Chieftains, Richard is a force in the fiddling community. These incredible experiences led MacLean’s Magazine to name him one of the Top 100 Canadians to watch in the 21st Century. It seems the Island mimics the styles of it’s counterparts across the water. The western end of the island is home to an acadian feel, with some Don Messer/ New Brunswick feel incorporated . Centrally, the sounds of Irish and Scottish music are apparent, followed by the heavy influence of the Cape Breton/ Irish tunes in the East. The Chaisson family is among the well known fiddlers from the Island.
For more information, tour dates and highlights from the above fiddler players, please check out their websites below:
Mike Sanyshyn: www.mikesanyshyn.com
Wesley Hardisty: www.facebook.com/pages/Wesley-Hardisty/297843193568554
Calvin Vollrath: www.calvinvollrath.com
John Arcand: www.johnarcand.com
Patti Kusturok: www.pattikusturok.com
Julie Fitzgerald: www.juliefitzgerald.ca
Andre Brunet: www.andrebrunet.qc.ca
Ivan Hicks: www.ivanhicks.com
Samantha Robichaud: www.samantharobichaud.ca
Emilia Bartellas: www.collisandtellas.com
Troy MacGillivray: www.troymacgillivray.com
Richard Wood: www.rwood.ca