Trent Bruner

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The 2014 Canadian Grand Masters – 25th Anniversary Edition Print E-mail

Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec witnessed the 25th anniversary of the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Championship take place during the weekend of August 22-23, 2014. Many memories of past Canadian national fiddle championships flooded through my mind as I landed in Ottawa, as this was the 19th time in the contest’s history that I would be one of the house accompanists. But my role did not stop there. I also served as piano accompanist for the 25th anniversary gala concert that was held at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, just across the river from Ottawa, Ontario.

Because of the 25th anniversary, the CGM Board of Directors invited its 13 past champions to be involved in the 19th annual fiddle camp, the anniversary gala concert and 25th annual contest as judges and guest entertainers. Four of the past champions accepted the invitation; Andre Brunet (Lacolle, Quebec), Patti Kusturok (Winnipeg, Manitoba), Louis Schryer (Chapeau, Quebec) and Mark Sullivan (Vancouver, B.C.) prominently for its 19th annual fiddle camp in Manotick, Ontario as fiddle instructors at the RCMP Campground along the Long Island Locks. They were part of a teaching staff that included Calvin Vollrath (St. Paul, Alberta), Kelli Trottier (Kingston, Ontario), Gordon Stobbe (Seaforth, Nova Scotia) and Brian Hebert (Pembroke, Ontario) as fellow fiddle instructors for 62 fiddlers, along with Kimberley Holmes (Truro, Nova Scotia) and Melika Lemelin (Sudbury, Ontario) as piano teachers for 11 pianists.

After the final student concert took place Thursday, August 21st, it was off to the Travelodge Carling near downtown Ottawa for a late Thursday night rehearsal for the contest with Louis, Patti, Mark and Andre on their group sets of tunes. Individual rehearsals continued the next morning at the hotel with while renowned Canadian fiddler Calvin Vollrath of St. Paul, Alberta joining me on rhythm guitar. We then went for an afternoon sound check at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau before the evening concert. The performance was held in front of an enthusiastic audience that gave the performers three standing ovations by the time the evening was done.

The evening’s festivities also took place in the presence of Prince Edward Island Senator Elizabeth Hugley, the 2014 CGM Honourary Patron, and the Canadian senator who successfully steered a bill through the Canadian Senate declaring the third Saturday in May as Canadian National Fiddling Day. This bill now goes to the Canadian House of Commons in Fall 2014 for presentation and reading and could become Canadian law soon.

21 contestants accepted the invitation this year to compete for the title of Canadian Grand Masters Fiddle Champion at The Robert J. Commins Theatre of Ottawa’s Algonquin College. Melika Lemelin and I were the house pianists for the contest while Calvin Vollrath was the house guitarist. Andre Brunet, Brian Hebert and Mark Sullivan were the contest judges for this weekend. The past champions were also the guest artists for the 2014 contest, bringing audiences to their feet again for the afternoon and evening sessions as soloists and together as a group. What a thrill for me to be one of the people to share the stage with much musical talent. It is and will always be an honour for me to be included in this company of great musicians and friends both in competition and in concert.

Special congratulations are also sent to past CGM finalist Denis Lanctôt of Ottawa, Ontario as he was the recipient of the 2014 CGM Lifetime Achievement Award. He played three sets of fiddle tunes with Jim Hunter accompanying on piano and accompanied Louis Schryer on piano as they played one of Denis’s fiddle compositions “For the Love of Tara.” Denis has been a standard bearer of the French Canadian fiddle tradition as well as playing button accordion, guitar and piano. He is a self-taught musician, but also an incredibly talented musician with whom I have shared the stage on piano as well during earlier travels to Ontario and Quebec. He also teaches fiddlers and piano accompanists in Ottawa passing on the fiddling traditions of his French Canadian heritage, showing him to be a worthy recipient of the award.

The final results of the 2014 contest were as follows:

  1. Paul Lemelin - Sudbury, Ontario (1st time winner)
  2. Greg Henry – Sombra, Ontario
  3. Kyle Charron – Barrie, Ontario
  4. Eric Provencher – Oshawa, Ontario
  5. Julie Fitzgerald – Bancroft, Ontario
  6. Tom Fitzgerald – Bancroft, Ontario
  7. Ben Plotnick – Toronto, Ontario
  8. Alex Kusturok – Winnipeg, Manitoba
  9. Martha Pitre – Shediac, New Brunswick
10. Janelle Melanson – Moncton, New Brunswick
11. Jaylee Hebert – Lutes Mountain, New Brunswick

People's Choice Award as voted by the audience:  Danny Perreault – Granby, Quebec

A private party for all participants was then held at nearby ChancesR restaurant after the contest with many tunes and dances that took place well into the wee hours of the morning. It was safe to say that good times, good food, good dancing and good visits were had by all.

Other events on the CGM calendar included an evening house concert at the residence of Ross and Elizabeth LaGrandeur in Ottawa on Monday, August 25th as a CGM fundraiser featuring Calvin Vollrath and Yours truly, as well as a fundraising golf tournament Tuesday, August 26th at the Mountain Creek Golf Course near Arnprior, Ontario, west of Ottawa. I was there to play for the post-tournament jam session before going to Arnprior for an evening fundraising dance for Valley Heritage Radio, a strong promoter of the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Championship.

The 2015 Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Championship will be held for the first time in Moncton, New Brunswick next August. More information will come as details become available. Check for more details. My next report will come after the Pembroke Fiddle and Step Dance contest on the Labour Day long weekend. Until then, see you down the musical trail!

Musically yours, Trent