Trent Bruner

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Hi everyone. I trust all is well where you are. For my latest edition of The News from Bruner’s Brood, we’ll take a trip down memory lane to the Monday night fiddle nights at the Northern Lights Casino in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

I remember when the fiddle nights started in 1996. I was accompanying The Cleavers, April Verch, Calvin Vollrath, John Arcand, and the late Gene Michael on a regular basis as a part of the Monday night rotation throughout the year, assisted on guitar by great musicians such as Freddie Pelletier, Lucas Welsh, David Barber and Garry Larson.  I also remember accompanying special guests who performed during a break in the entertainment rotation, such as past Canadian Grand Masters Champions Shane Cook, Mark Sullivan, James Steele and Patti Kusturok, as well as Nova Scotia fiddler Gordon Stobbe, Ontario step dancers Stephanie Cadman and Chanda Gibson-Leahy, Alberta accordionist Jordan Rody and other local fiddlers for guest appearances such as Lucas Welsh, George Pistun and Donny Parenteau, as well as my stepkids Silje and Hogne Midtbø Vevle between 1996 and 2016 playing melodies on standard fiddle and hardanger fiddle.  We shared many magic moments on stage playing old favourites, trying out new fiddle tunes (or piano solos for me), experiencing different cultures, as well as a regular turn to play The Red River Jig for anyone who wished to dance, a gospel song or a hymn to give a moment of reflection, or to play the Orange Blossom Special to close the evening.

I also remember when the Starlight Lounge was full almost every night I was on stage, with busloads of passengers from various locations throughout Western Canada in attendance, and when I was making a sales pitch for cassettes, CDS, and music books, I was always able to say, “If you buy one of the albums from the stage tonight, it’s guaranteed they’re the safest bet in the house!”, and know that it always meant a sale and a laugh from a few people. There were also many regulars who would come to the casino every Monday night as a part of Monday seniors’ day weekly, while others would come for their favourite fiddle act whenever they were booked. This also led to other Saskatchewan casinos doing fiddle entertainment for short periods of time in North Battleford, Yorkton and Saskatoon.

Monday, April 17th will be the last Monday night fiddle night at the Northern Lights Casino in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan after a 21 year run. In an e-mail I received Tuesday, January 24th from entertainment manger Paul Lomheim, budget cuts are the reason for this decision. Sadly, this leaves Saskatchewan casinos without fiddle entertainment during weeknights. Thanks need to go out to all the faithful attenders who made an effort to support these evenings as well as well as the musicians who made these evenings special every night, the many casino employees who did their best to serve our audiences and to casino entertainment managers Eric Anderson and Paul Lomheim who helped make these evenings possible from 1996 to 2017.

Some people will suggest that this entertainment form has run its course. If we have waning interest in fiddle music right now, this may be true. However, it also needs to be said that many of the performers who have played the Northern Lights Casino also do some teaching of fiddle music and some of its related disciplines at some level, whether in their local communities or at various workshops and fiddle camps throughout Canada and abroad. There is a high interest at the grassroots level for participation in fiddle music, but the Canadian fiddle community needs more people to step forward and take an initiative in organizing old time dances (and classes to teach people how to dance), education in both schools and communities to rebuild an audience that will attend and support those who perform, teach, record and promote this music, and increased media support for this music to be made present and relevant again locally, provincially and nationally. I encourage all who read this article to get involved, volunteer, sponsor and promote our traditional folk art form and the dance disciplines that go hand in hand with this music. We all wish to continue to play to someone making the square dance call, “Allemande left your corners, all.” Please step forward so the entire fiddle community can share our talents to enrich our culture, our province and our country so that we have something to share with the world.

Until next time, see you down the musical trail!

Musically yours, Trent