Fiddlers learn for Thanksgiving

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo Sadee Simba, left, and Maverick Simba, both from Kakisa, were in Hay River on Sept. 29 for a fiddle lesson from Linda Duford. The two young musicians will be back in Hay River on Oct. 8 and 9 for the Thanksgiving long weekend workshop from the Kole Crook Fiddle Association.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Sadee Simba, left, and Maverick Simba, both from Kakisa, were in Hay River on Sept. 29 for a fiddle lesson from Linda Duford. The two young musicians will be back in Hay River on Oct. 8 and 9 for the Thanksgiving long weekend workshop from the Kole Crook Fiddle Association.

The Kole Crook Fiddle Association will be again holding a workshop on the Thanksgiving long weekend.

This will be the second time the workshop – set for Oct. 8 and 9 at Chief Sunrise Education Centre on the Hay River Reserve – will be held on that particular long weekend, after a decade being held at different times of the year.

“We were finding that our traditional workshops that we used to have, they were week-long, and attendance in those was dwindling over the years,” said Linda Duford, a Hay River fiddler and one of the organizers of the upcoming workshop for the association.

Duford said the association then tried ordinary weekends for a couple of years that there were challenges with that.

“So last year we started something brand new, which was having it on a long weekend,” she said. “And we really went out on a limb on that because we knew it would be either really good or nothing. Because you know in the North a lot of people go out of town for long weekends. But surprisingly it was really, really good.”

The workshop attracted 80 to 90 people.

“So we decided we were going to try it again this year and see if we were just lucky last year or if this can become a nice tradition for Hay River,” she said.

At their peak, the week-long workshops were attracting 120 people but that had dwindled to fewer than 50 people.

“We were having to bring up seven or eight instructors just in case,” said Duford. “So it was getting to be not as fun as it was. It was fun for those that came but it was hard financially and whatnot. We’re kind of looking at ways to replace that and I think we might have hit something on our long weekend workshop now.”

However, nothing has been planned beyond this year, she said. “We want to wait and see if this is a success twice in a row.”

In past workshops, people have come from various communities.

“We had a lot of people coming in. And that’s what we’re hoping to do with our Thanksgiving ones is having it more accessible for people not just from Hay River,” said Duford, noting people have attended from communities such as Yellowknife, Behchoko, Fort Smith, Fort Resolution and Fort Simpson.

“So we’re hoping this year to see the same diversity,” she said. “It’s a little hard to say because traditionally we get the bulk of our registrations a day or two before we go in.”

Duford said it is hoped that a minimum of 50 to 60 people will attend.

One of the participants will be Kakisa’s Maverick Simba, who has been playing fiddle for two years.

“My dad wants me to play,” said the young student. “He wanted me to play because he wants me to play for him.”

Maverick said he enjoys playing fiddle and he is looking forward to learning more tunes and getting together with other fiddlers at the upcoming workshop.

This year, there will also be something new – guitar classes as a full-time option.

Duford said guitar classes were offered in the past as an option, which is one class a day along with other things like pennywhistle and step dancing.

“But this year guitar is going to be a full-fledged class where you have in instructor dedicated just to that,” she said.

Duford, who will be one of five instructors, said some of Canada’s finest fiddlers will be at the workshop, including Gordon Stobbe from Nova Scotia, J.J. Guy from Saskatchewan, Calvin Cairns from B.C. and Bonnie Gregory from Edmonton.

–Paul Bickford