“One more time!” a man shouted out as he sprang up from his seat, feet still tapping. With a fiddle in his hand and a smile on his face, he joined back in with the musical troupe set up in Parliament’s East Block for another annual National Fiddling Day in Ottawa.
Canada is still a young country with a young culture, but fiddling has been a part of it since day one, passed down from one generation to the next. Whether it’s the Irish tradition in the Maritimes, the Métis or Ukrainian traditions in the Prairies, or the English tradition in British Columbia, fiddle music is indeed the soundtrack to the Canadian story.
National Fiddling Day was established as a national observance in 2015, when fellow fiddler and host of the yearly event, Senator Elizabeth Hubley, shepherded Bill S-218, An Act respecting National Fiddling Day through Parliament.
“It has been just over two years since my bill to establish National Fiddling Day received Royal Assent. We’ve had three of these receptions so far and they grow in size every year,” said Senator Hubley.
“So go ahead and tap your toes and if you feel a little brave, join in the dancing!”
As bows flowed back and forth like waves along the shores of Cape Breton, a woman pulled out a pair of spoons to clack along with the fiddlers. It’s this energy and enthusiasm that is the true musical spirit of Canada.
“In New Brunswick, we love fiddling too, of course!” said Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen, also in attendance and a supporter of Senator Hubley’s fiddle-day bill.
“The day actually introduced fiddling on the Hill. When trying to get the bill passed, Senator Hubley and I actually brought fiddlers to a Senate committee meeting, so there’s a first for everything!”
And with the afternoon of fun, fiddling and dancing came a surprise for Senator Hubley — a fiddle tune written in her honour.
Until next year, fiddlers!
I was lucky to be part of [creating National Fiddling Day]. I was invited to the Senate with two other Canadian fiddlers to support the idea of a National Fiddling Day that was being brought forward by Senator Hubley. We talked about different fiddling styles, demonstrated the styles and talked about the importance of fiddle music in Canadian culture. That was a real treat. Dancing erupted at the end of the session.
And then the bill was passed unanimously and so I wrote a tune to commemorate our first National Fiddling Day. The official name is “Canada’s National Fiddling Day Two-Step”, which is too many words, so sometimes I call it “Fiddle Bill.” And now it’s being played across the country and in the States too. It was actually played in the Peace Tower this morning on the carillon. It’s a huge honour to be a part of it all.
Playing the keys with a bunch of fiddlers is fantastic. All of us are playing by ear, only occasionally using sheet music. This is an exceptional bunch of people here.