A Few Facts…
- The third Saturday in May has been proclaimed by Canada’s Parliament as National Fiddling Day. This is an occasion to recognize the historical and contemporary importance of the fiddle and to make Canadian fiddle music known to a broader audience.
- Canada’s National Fiddling Day coincides with the annual World Fiddle Day, which is a global celebration of the appreciation, beauty and history of fiddle music, and in honour of Antonio Stradivari, the renowned crafter of stringed instruments.
- Fiddles were the instruments of choice for the first Canadian settlers in the 17th century and the Jesuits in Quebec City were the first ones to mention fiddlers in Canada’s written history.
- Don Messer’s Jubilee was a must-watch for Canadians throughout the 1960s and this Maritime fiddler’s show became the second most watched television program in Canada, second only to Hockey Night in Canada. Messer’s popularity is remembered today in the New Brunswick Village of Harvey Station by a four-metre tall red fiddle.
Canadian fiddlers who are in high demand and respected around the world. The prestigious North Atlantic Fiddle Convention is a conference that brings together academics and musicians to share fiddle and related dance research, as well as performances and workshops. It has been held only twice outside Europe; St. John’s, NL (2011) and Sydney, Cape Breton (2015).
Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Association is a national organization that is devoted to the preservation and advancement of the art of Canadian fiddling by raising awareness of and appreciation for all styles of Canadian fiddling. It hosts an annual national competition that provides well-deserved recognition to Canada’s top fiddlers and an annual fiddle camp featuring some of Canada’s top fiddlers.
…a little history
Since the days of the voyageurs, fiddling has been part of Canada’s cultural fabric. People from many different cultures have come to Canada, shared their ways of playing the fiddle and offered their own interpretations of traditional fiddle music.
The fiddle was introduced to Canada by the Jesuits in the 17th century. From those first days in New France, entertaining the members of L’Ordre de Bon Temps, this humble yet complex instrument has been the catalyst for cultural development throughout our country.
The early French settlers and the famed ‘coureurs de bois’ took the fiddle with them to the North and the West. They introduced the instrument to our Native peoples.
The Acadians, who originally settled in the Maritimes, had their own unique style based on the European influences from the south of France. They shared their style with the Native peoples of the east, the Mi’kmaq and the Maliseet.
Later, the Celtic settlers of the 18th and 19th centuries crossed the frontier and brought their unique style of fiddling that can be found in the Ottawa Valley and through central Canada.
In the first years of the 20th century, immigrants from Ukraine and other Eastern European countries brought yet another style of fiddle music that is enjoyed throughout the Prairies.
Just as each of our founding cultures is unique and singular, so too are our fiddling styles reflective of the people from whom we come and who we have become. Despite our regional differences, when it comes to fiddling, there is no such thing as a language or cultural barrier.
In 2015, Canada’s Parliament proclaimed the third Saturday in May each year as the country’s National Fiddling Day to ensure that the historical and contemporary importance of the fiddle, as well as its unique contribution to Canadian culture, are not only recognized, but made known to a broader audience.
For a comprehensive article on the history of fiddle music in Canada, see the article written by Anne Lederman et al, at http://www.annelederman.com/EMC_article.pdf