Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Committee members, Senator Hubley, and fellow witnesses, good afternoon and bonjour. Thank you for your kind invitation.
I'm here today representing the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Association, an organization devoted to the preservation and advancement of the art of Canadian fiddling. Incorporated in 1988, the Canadian Grand Masters is led by a board of directors from across Canada interested in preserving all styles of Canadian fiddling. The annual competition, first held in 1990, is now viewed as an event of national prominence that gives well-deserved recognition to Canada's top fiddlers. Today the organization is a national arts service organization with charitable status.
The public record of the Senate proceedings is rich with information on the history of Canadian fiddle music and on why this bill is important. I will endeavour to address a few key aspects relating to the importance of the bill to Canadian people.
First, why have a national fiddling day?
In terms of preserving Canada's culture and artistic heritage, we can say that the fiddle has been a catalyst in Canada's cultural development. Since the earliest days of New France and the Ordre de Bon Temps, the fiddle has been front and centre in Canada's musical identity.
The musical underpinning of our culture as a nation has been fiddle music. Indeed, the different styles of fiddling serve to illustrate the regional diversity of this great land. From the Scots Celtic music of Cape Breton to the deeply moving Ukrainian melodies on the prairies, the fiddle has enabled different provinces and regions to proudly define their unique identities and their deep ethnic roots. With a national fiddling day, Canada as a nation would have an occasion to celebrate fiddle playing in all its regions.
The fiddle represents the preservation and continuation of community. ln sharp contrast to the homogenizing forces of popular media, as Senator Hubley mentioned, and the arguable influence of the information age on identity, the fiddle is a building block of community. Have you ever attended a P.E.l. fiddle do? What would a maritime ceilidh be without a fiddle? Have you witnessed a Manitoba barn dance?
Have you ever listened to the Métis' complex dance tunes?
These are but a few examples of the prominence of the fiddle in our Canadian communities. A national fiddling day would facilitate this celebration of community.
Fiddling, just like all music, is good for the brain. There is scientific evidence to show that music supports human cognition. As Canadians, we cherish the value of music, and the fiddle is central to this Canadian value.
Our educators have embraced it. The initiative taken by Frontier schools in Manitoba was noted by the Senate, and the efforts of teachers like Brian Hebert to bring fiddle playing into the curriculum of Ontario schools are perfect examples.
Fiddling is not only a social pursuit, however, but also often a family affair that helps build strong family ties. Calvin Vollrath, who wrote the fiddle music for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics opening ceremony says, “I am a proud third generation Canadian Fiddler and am thrilled to support this initiative.” The Leahys, the Schreyers, the Beatons, the Fitzgeralds, the Arsenaults, and the MacMasters are but a few of Canada's fiddling families.
From Rigolet, Labrador, to Saltspring Island, B.C., we, the citizens of Canada, can experience the joy and togetherness expressed by fiddle music. There are no language barriers in the language of the fiddle. Canada should recognize this togetherness, make it official, and capitalize on the opportunity to celebrate the fiddle culture of Canada each year.
Yes, there is a strong sense of history associated with fiddle music. Imagine the power of learning about Canada's history and culture through fiddle music. Such a learning opportunity is Canada's national fiddling day.
Regarding its economic importance, in 2008, Memorial University of St. John's, Newfoundland, was the first place outside Europe to host the North Atlantic fiddlers convention. Founded by the Elphinstone Institute at the University of Aberdeen, the North Atlantic fiddlers convention holds a biennial convention that brings together academics and musicians to examine the impact of fiddle music on culture and society. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency recognized the economic value of this event, anticipating at that time over 4,700 attendees.
In 2015, the North Atlantic fiddlers convention will again be held in Canada, in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, coinciding with the 2015 Celtic Colours International Festival.
Each year, there are many fiddle camps and festivals across Canada that attract significant numbers of tourists. Many visitors from the United States and other countries come here to participate. One of the biggest Canadian fiddle events is the Annual Pembroke Old Time Fiddle and Step Dancing Championships, which bring thousands of tourists to the Ottawa Valley.
Also, every year, Camp Violon Trad Québec offers a unique adventure in Quebec's world of folk music.
The Canadian Grand Masters national competition was held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 2013. All events associated with that weekend were filled to capacity. In 2015 the competition will be held in Moncton, New Brunswick, in August. Already, the main events are 80% sold out, over 100 hotel rooms have been booked, and numerous bus tours from various parts of Canada have been fully subscribed.
A national fiddling day would provide a focal point for many tourist activities of a cultural nature. As our economists tell us, for each tourism dollar raised, there is a multiplier effect. A national fiddling day will give Canadians a chance to celebrate our musical culture while pursuing our entrepreneurial spirit.
With respect to Canada in the fiddle world, Canada has produced many internationally acclaimed artists who continue to promote our Canadian fiddle culture throughout the world.
Natalie MacMaster, the Leahys, Ashley MacIsaac, André Brunet and others continue to play a role as ambassadors of fiddle music in Canada by following in the footsteps of the greatest fiddlers, such as Jean Carignan, Don Messer and Graham Townsend.
Likewise, when Troy MacGillivray of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, performs or teaches a master class in Denmark, it is a Canadian fiddle that the world sees and hears.
Our neighbours to the south have recently taken quite an interest in Canadian fiddle music.
Quebec's fiddle music is the point of reference in New England.
Canadian Grand Masters Shane Cook and April Verch are sought-after instructors for fiddle camps throughout the American midwest. Erynn Marshall of Gibsons, British Columbia, was the first woman and first non-U.S. citizen to win the fiddle category at the Appalachian String Band Festival in West Virginia. This festival is recognized as the premier venue for Appalachian music. Recently, I was contacted by fiddlers in Pittsburgh looking for sheet music to some Canadian fiddle tunes for their session.
In recent years Canada has also been recognized internationally for the art of violin making. Raymond Schryer, brother of four-time Canadian Grand Master Louis Schryer of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, was awarded a gold medal in lutherie—that's violin making—in October 2003 at the Triennale Internazionale, in Cremona, Italy, the home of Antonio Stradivari. Also, Raymond Schryer currently serves on the board of directors of the Violin Society of America.
In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, these are but a few vignettes regarding the need to recognize Canadian fiddling. While there is a World Fiddle Day that recognizes the instrument, none of the participating countries have celebrated fiddling with a national day of recognition. Based on what you have heard, I urge you to embrace fiddle playing within our Canadian cultural mosaic and to have a national fiddling day.
Mesdames and messieurs, merci. Thank you.