Trent Bruner

Hello everyone!

As I write this article for Facebook and, the summer fiddle season has been completed for another year. I am together again with my wife and family, working with church and choir music for another season in Norway and keeping up with our daughters’ musical activities and other parts of normal family life. But there was one last stop in the City of Pembroke, Ontario, 150 kms northwest of Ottawa for their 43rd annual fiddle and step dance contest as a house accompanist for this contest.

After two days of competition in various classes that have had participants from age three to ninety three on occasion, the 2018 contest has come and gone. The results can be found at Art Jamieson (Beachberg, Ontario) and Paul Lemelin (Hammer, Ontario) were the masters of ceremony while I was paired again with Guylaine Gagner (Huntingdon, Quebec) as one of the house accompanists for the contest. Sarah Robinson (Calidon, Ontario) Chad Wolfe (Sudbury, Ontario) and Rhodina Turner (Pembroke, Ontario) judged the step dance contest while Louis Schryer (Chapeau, Quebec), Brian Hebert (Pembroke, Ontario) and Shane Cook (Dorchester, Ontario) were the fiddle contest judges. Valley Heritage Radio CJHR-FM 98.7 from Renfrew, Ontario provided a live broadcast of the Saturday night finals both over the air and online at that was hosted by Jason Marshall and was enjoyed by many listeners.

Lisa Hawkins, a volunteer with the Pembroke Fiddle and Step Dance Association, accurately described fiddle music as community in a recent Facebook post. I never fail to be amazed at the joy that fiddle music brings to so many people, no matter how far away they are or how close you get with them while sharing a simple visit, playing a jam session, being a good sport by supporting and cheering on fellow competitors, and understanding that music is the tie that binds everyone. Three events of note during the Saturday night finals took place that represented that spirit.

Firstly, long time fiddle supporters Gerald and Diane Duheme of Huntington, Quebec have been attending the Pembroke fiddle and step dance contest since its inception in 1975, hosting fiddlers, accompanists and dancers at their trailer during the contest weekend and before as the motor campers and camping tents came in to set up for a week of fiddle, dance and fellowship. Although they have passed over the jam tent and equipment to Paul and Melika Lemelin, “The Duheme Tent” continues on just as you go into Riverside Park, where the jam sessions take place and the contest headquarters are located. This couple received a plaque of recognition during the Saturday night finals for their dedication and promotion of old time fiddle music. This occasion was musically marked with Gerald invited to dance a step while Alberta fiddler Calvin Vollrath and Yours truly played for his performance.

The second occasion happened about 30 minutes later, when an impromptu recognition of a group of fiddlers from Manitoba and Saskatchewan by M.C. Art Jamieson took place. This group, led by Kenosee Lake Kitchen Party organizer Michele Amy of Carlyle, Saskatchewan was brought up on stage by Art. I’m on stage going toward the piano when Art asked the question, “Can anyone here dance the Red River Jig?” A fiddler was needed who knew the tune. I ended up accompanying Jane Cory of Winnipeg, Manitoba who came up on stage and played the Red River Jig for the first time in her life! The Facebook video shows the fun everyone had on stage performing the Red River Jig uncut and unrehearsed!

Thirdly, I was on Facebook on Father’s Day in both Canada and the United States this past June. An American fiddler from Equinunk, Pennsylvania named Steve Jacobi shared a post about his childhood and how five men acted as father figures during his childhood. I read the post and was inspired to write a polka in five parts that represented his “five dads” titled “My Five Dads.” Not only did Steve learn the tune, he played it for his winner’s performance after winning the 45-64 fiddle class, and I was there to accompany him for the contest rounds and the winner’s performance when the tune was debuted. The fiddle community does indeed gather over the internet in positive ways we don’t always expect. The tune sounds like this:

One other musical gem took place at the Duheme Tent on Sunday afternoon as Calvin Vollrath gave his annual concert there with Yours truly on piano, Paul Lemelin on mandolin and Jacquelin Guerette on acoustic guitar. After the concert was finished, a picture was then taken with Calvin and those in attendance who had a tune composed by Calvin for them. With over 20 people (including me) in the picture, it was a small portion of those he has composed tunes for over many years. With an original repertoire of over 700 compositions, Calvin’s music has touched many people through the years and has become standards at many fiddle contests throughout Canada and parts of the United States. I count myself fortunate to be able to have shared in much of his musical history. The photo has received many comments on Facebook since its posting from others who had a tune composed for them by Calvin who were not there. As written earlier with Lisa Hawkins’ quote on fiddle music as community, here is a clear example of what the power of music can do in a positive way.

The 44th annual Pembroke Fiddle and Step Dance Contest will be held on Labour Day weekend again, August 30-31, 2019. If you ever get a chance to witness fiddle music and dance live, this contest is more than worth the time to stop and enjoy. Make plans now with your family to be in attendance next year and discover the fiddle community. I can guarantee that you’ll receive a warm welcome from all involved. Until next time, see you somewhere down the musical trail!

Musically yours, Trent