moved that Bill S-218, An Act respecting National Fiddling Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Bill S-218. The bill would designate the third Saturday in May as National Fiddling Day. This would encourage the celebration and the appreciation of the beauty and the history of fiddle music and would be in honour of Antonio Stradivari, the renowned crafter of stringed instruments.
I was born in a family of five in a rural area of New Brunswick called Escuminac. As in many other areas of this nation at that time, we had no television and were without all of today's technology, so the fiddle became king, and so it was in many other parts of this great country.
Fiddlers come from every part of this nation with an incredible diversity of background. From the earliest of times, Europeans took fiddles down every river system and on expeditions across this land. The earliest French fur traders carried them. The Scottish, Orkney, and Shetland men, stationed in the icy confines of Hudson Bay, had them. Native peoples traded for them, and they were regarded as a most prized possession in thousands of homesteads.
Clearly, the fiddle was a cherished instrument for many reasons. It was compact, easy to fix, and easy to tune and always brought a smile when played. Indeed, it could be argued that the fiddle was the reason for gatherings and not the other way around.
What made the fiddle so prominent was the dance. People across this land partied and danced whenever opportunity allowed, to break the tedium of hard-working lives and to add to their sense of community spirit. Fiddlers were highly respected and regarded in their communities, especially if they were good ones.
In Canada there are many regional styles of fiddling, which survived mainly due to the isolation of many communities: the Red River style, popularized by Andy De Jarlis; the Quebecois style of Joseph Allard, Joe Bouchard, and “Pitou” Louis Boudreault; the Ottawa Valley style of Brian Hebert and Reg Hill; the Acadian style of Eloi LeBlanc; the native and the Métis style; the western swing style of the Prairies; and styles that have originated in various parts of Europe.
The most popular was the down-home style as characterized by the playing of the late Don Messer. Don Messer was born in Tweedside, New Brunswick, and began playing the violin at age five, learning fiddle tunes with Irish and Scottish influences. As a young boy, Messer would play concerts in the local area and, later, throughout southwestern New Brunswick.
During the 1920s, Messer moved to Boston, Massachusetts, for three years, where he received his only formal instruction in music.
Messer left Saint John in 1939 and moved to Charlottetown, P.E.I., and worked as music director at CFCY. Here he formed the Islanders, and this music group began to make regular television appearances on CBHT-TV in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
CBC Television began a summer series called The Don Messer Show on August 7, 1959, which continued into the fall as Don Messer's Jubilee, produced out of Halifax. Don Messer's Jubilee was a must for us every Monday night throughout the 1960s.
How we loved to hear the sound of the twin fiddles of Don Messer and Earl Mitton. The show won a wide audience and reportedly became the second most watched television show in Canada during that decade, second to Hockey Night in Canada.
Another down-home style fiddler was Ned Landry, who taught himself to play the fiddle at an early age. Ned Landry was winner in the open class of the 1956, 1957, and 1962 Canadian Open Old Time Fiddlers' Contest.
Landry appeared in the 1950s on CFBC Radio, Saint John and in the 1960s on Don Messer's Jubilee and other TV shows. Landry was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1991. Landry was also later inducted into the North American Fiddlers Hall of Fame and the Nova Scotia Country Music Hall of Fame.
Ivan Hicks, another famous New Brunswick player, has played the fiddle for over 60 years. He and his wife Vivian have shared their talents with many students, young and old alike, and have been an inspiration to countless others. Ivan is actively involved in promoting, attending, and instructing at workshops. He continues to judge fiddling contests throughout Canada.
Many awards and honours have come to them, including the induction into the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame for both Ivan and Vivian and the North American Fiddlers' Hall of Fame for Ivan.
I assure members that Miramichiers look forward to the regular visits of Ivan and Vivian Hicks to Miramichi.
Then, of course, there is Miramichi's very own Matilda Murdoch. At the age of eight, her father gave her a fiddle, and later that year, through her own determination, she played her first tune. Since then, she has become an icon in fiddle circles throughout North America.
Murdoch has been part of the cultural community of Miramichi and New Brunswick for most of her 94 years. Her style of playing has been admired and studied by not only local fiddlers but also fiddlers from throughout North America and, more recently, from Ireland.
Entertainer Don Messer was one of those many who admired her. He invited Matilda to play on the popular Don Messer Show and he also recorded several of her tunes, to show his respect and love for her music.
Another great admirer of Matilda was one of our very own, the late Jim Flaherty, who visited Miramichi and was able to enjoy Matilda's music in his ancestral home of Loggieville.
Matilda has garnered regional, national, and international recognition for her abilities as a composer, as a player, and as a teacher. She was inducted into the North American Fiddlers' Hall of Fame and the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame.
Matilda Murdoch has reached, and has way surpassed, the definition of “success”. Organizations and musicians have recognized her on a worldwide scale. Matilda also was a recipient of the Order of New Brunswick, as well as the Order of Canada.
Loggieville also boasts another very accomplished fiddle player, Samantha Robichaud, who represents a new generation of fiddlers. Now in her late twenties, Samantha has released seven critically acclaimed albums and has earned many awards.
Our province also hosts a unique annual festival in the town of Plaster Rock, New Brunswick. It is the annual Fiddles on the Tobique. The event coincides, of course, with fiddlehead season.
This festival started with a lone fiddler, many years ago, and today attracts people from all over the world. Quite possibly, it is the only event of its kind anywhere. This event combines two honoured New Brunswick traditions: fiddling and canoeing. Imagine the beautiful sight and the sound of a flotilla of canoes carrying almost 200 musicians down the Tobique River while they play old-time fiddle music. Those attending are treated to concerts, jam sessions, dances, and even an instructional fiddle camp.
Our Atlantic Canada region, in general, has had great fiddlers.
Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald, 1914 to 1987, was a renowned Cape Breton fiddler. He was a pioneer in recorded performances of the music and has heavily influenced the style and the repertoire of later generations of players.
Another award-winning Cape Breton musician, Natalie MacMaster, began her fiddling career at 16. Her musical venture now spans over three decades, completing 11 albums, performing thousands of shows, and collaborating with a multitude of world-renowned artists.
MacMaster's sought-after talents are in demand by her musical peers, all from a range of genres. She has collaborated with countless artists, including a recording with Yo-Yo Ma, which won a Grammy award.
With her Cape Breton roots, her dedication to her craft, and her love for her family, Natalie is a musical force with a long and successful career in music, who will, without a doubt, continue to warm the hearts of fans for years to come.
Al Cherny, a great Canadian fiddler, was born to Ukrainian parents in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Cherny won the Canadian Old Time Fiddlers Contest in Ontario under the novelty class from 1959 to 1961 and the open class in both 1960 and 1961.
In the early 1970s, he was a leading studio musician, recording with musicians like Tommy Hunter and Sylvia Tyson. He released more than 10 studio albums and received an RPM Big Country award for top country instrumentalist in 1978.
He also performed regularly on The Tommy Hunter Show until his death in 1989. Cherny was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989.
Although these aforementioned fiddlers are giants in our country, along with many others, I would like to speak on a more personal level.
We were very fortunate growing up to have a cousin residing with us who we endearingly called Uncle Mike. He was Michael Jimmo and he played the fiddle on a daily basis until his death at 93. Very often he would be joined by our Uncle Ray Jimmo, and an evening of entertainment we would have. We grew up listening to other local fiddlers, such as Mont MacDonald and his sons, Elmer and Joe.
To this day, all of us recognize great fiddle tunes such as Maple Sugar, St. Anne's Reel, Liberty Two-Step, Ontario Swing, Orange Blossom Special, and most recently, of course, Loggieville Two-Step.
Today, my riding of Miramichi is blessed to have a large group of musicians called the Miramichi Fiddlers. This group can be heard during summer festivals like the Miramichi Irish Festival, the long-running Miramichi Folksong Festival, and Miramichi's own fiddle festival.
This group is composed of 30 distinguished men and women. Besides festivals, members of this group play regularly at fundraisers in and around Miramichi, giving of their time and talents to help others.
I have mentioned only a small number of Canada's fiddlers. We all know there are many more. They have all contributed greatly to communities across this country. With the absence of today's technology, I guess one could say that, as we were growing up in rural Canada in the 1950s and 1960s, the fiddle was our form of social networking.
It brought us good times, good music and, of course, good memories. I truly believe the fiddle has created bonds through our musical family from coast to coast to coast in this nation, and those who play it deserve the honour of a national fiddlers day.
As Father John Angus Rankin, the Cape Breton musician, said:
The music comes from the fiddler's heart, through his strings and straight into your heart.