Trent Bruner

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Pembroke 2014 - We Will Miss You, Jim Print E-mail
Hello everyone! Another edition of the Ontario Swing 2014 is now complete. As I write this update before flying back to Norway for rejoining my family, work as a choir conductor and other musical activities, much has happened since I was back home in Canada. To conclude this portion of the trip, a recording session for a new fiddle album of original fiddle tunes from Quyon, Quebec fiddler Bruce Armitage has been started with both his fiddle and my piano parts completed, but before that, the 39th annual Pembroke Fiddle And Step Dance Contest took place in Pembroke, Ontario, 150 kms northwest of Ottawa during the Labour Day Weekend.

trent__germain_leduc_pem_14-2.jpgI served as one of the two house accompanists for the contest along with my accompaniment partner Germain Leduc (left) of St. Stanislas de Kosta, Quebec, a very talented pianist, accompanist, fiddler and composer. I have had the pleasure of accompanying Germain on various occasions when he competed as a fiddler at both the Pembroke contest and the Canadian Grand Masters as a Quebec representative.

The contest also had a different feeling about it this year, as this was also the first time this prestigious event took place without its chairman, the late Jim Hickey (1940-2014) after a courageous battle with cancer.

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I remember the first time I met Jim officially in 1992 when I accompanied Calvin Vollrath as the guest artist. He was a quiet, confident man who wanted the best for fiddle music and for all who participated in it. He played some fiddle, but not often in public. He did compose one fiddle tune, “The Willow Tree Hornpipe,” that the late Graham Townsend recorded on one of his earlier albums. But what I learned of this man is that being in the background suited him just fine. What people saw were the results of his work and his hands in making Pembroke Canada’s largest fiddle and step dance contest. The contest means so much to the City of Pembroke that it generates $3 million in economic benefits, but it all starts at the top, and Jim made sure the words “respect”, “welcome” and actions that went with them made everyone welcome. The growth of the contest and the number of campers in Riverside Park, the official “jam session location” of the contest came because of his ability to organize a group of volunteers well and also because he respected people; period. Since I was hired as one of the house accompanists for the contest, I had that sense of his respect for everyone he ever met and for the professionalism that he showed towards me and others who worked at the contest.

Contest M.C. Art Jamieson has been one of Jim’s closest friends for 54 years. Art recalled during the Saturday night finals that, “He was a humble man who always stayed in the background, but had a very effective way in working with people in various situations. For Jim, it was never addressed as a “problem.” It was only a “situation” that needed to be dealt with and was dealt with quietly, effectively and with dignity. He was always a gentleman who had a knack of making sure that you were important and that nobody else mattered when you spoke with him.” (paraphrased) The tribute for Jim during the Saturday night finals came from fiddle judges Calvin Vollrath, Louis Schryer, and Brian Hebert playing Willow Tree Hornpipe, Jim Hickey Hornpipe (composed by Calvin), and Ashokan Farewell, which was shared by all the fiddlers present in the Pembroke Memorial Centre as they came up to the stage while playing. It was a powerful moment for those who were there, but as Art Jamieson shared, Jim wanted it to be a happy occasion. We did our best to honor that request.

Jim Hickey will always be held in high regard for everything he did for Canadian fiddling, Ontario step dancing and will be sadly missed by all who knew him and worked with him. I will miss his pleasant manner and the pleasure of working with a man of his word. He will be fondly remembered and missed by many. My thoughts go out to his wife Dianna and his immediate and close family. We will miss you, Jim.

For the step dancing contest, Chad Wolfe, Rhodina Turner and Tiffany Fewster were the judges for that event. Robbie Dagenais was once again the house fiddler for the dancers. Congratulations to Paul Lemelin (the championship winning fiddler), Kyle Waymouth (the championship step dancer), and to all the other contestants in all classes who made this contest the annual success that it is. The final results can be found via Valley Heritage Radio’s web link http://valleyheritageradio.ca/results-pembroke-fiddle-step/.

Musically yours, Trent