Big sound, small audience

Wesley Hardisty, originally of Fort Simpson, plays for a small crowd after teaching a workshop on fiddling techniques at the community hall on July 25.
– Angele Cano/NNSL photo

Those who did attend an intimate fiddle performance at the recreation centre on Wednesday night might have been grateful for their small audience, but they would have still said the rest of the town missed out.

Up-and-coming musician, performer and young fiddle instructor Wesley Hardisty passed through Hay River on July 25. Compared to his audience at Folk on the Rocks music festival in Yellowknife last weekend, this one was considerably smaller – just three people.

Sunny Ashcroft, a board member for the Northern Arts and Culture Centre Hay River chapter was one of the few in attendance.

“It was a fantastic performance and he was a super-personable guy,” she said. “Attendance (at events) is always lower in the summer, you just have to appreciate that. But it was a close, intimate performance and how often do you get that?”

Having received some funding from the NWT Arts Council, Hardisty is travelling to small communities around the NWT to teach and motivate younger generations to explore their own potential through music. Throughout the tour, Hardisty and his manager and guardian Elle Langford Parks will be visiting Fort Liard, Fort Simpson, Rae-Edzo, Jean Marie River, Fort Providence and Hay River.

During his Hay River performance, Hardisty’s fiddle tones, a variance between rich and haunting smoothly transitioning to upbeat and percussive, echoed throughout the town’s community hall.

He has lived on Salt Spring Island in B.C. for the past three years, where he attended the Gulf Island School of Performing Arts. Originally from Fort Simpson, he only began fiddling five years ago through the NWT Kole Crook Fiddle Association.

“As soon as I heard the fiddle I was captivated by it,” said Hardisty. “It’s like I was hit by lightning.”

He recalled heading home after school and at times spending three to six hours practicing and teaching himself to fiddle. From there, he took on the guitar, bass, drums, mandola, piano and voice.

Hardisty is only 18 years old and has already performed for venues as large at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, the Truth and Reconciliation National Event in Inuvik, this year’s Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse and last year’s royal visit. He’s also been named one of the top 10 Aboriginal talents this year on Aboriginal People’s Television Network. He’s played 200 performance in the past two years. The young artist is largely self-taught, but pays credit to those who were there to introduce him to his consuming livelihood.

“I always wanted some way to give back and I can do that through music,” said Hardisty. “That’s why I want to go to small communities, because I came from one. I started at the bare minimum and used my own resources as much as I could.”

Ashcroft said that scheduled arts and culture events are fairly regular in town and while maybe not as regular as larger centres, adults and youth can and should still take advantage, as Hardisty did.

“The message that you have the ability to go as far as you want can really stick with kids,” said Ashcroft. “He is from a small community and he was able to make it this far and come back to perform. That message does have an effect.”

– by Angele Cano