Trent Bruner

Hi everyone! The 30th annual Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Competition in Abbotsford, British Columbia has come and gone. As I await my flight from the Vancouver International Airport for departure to Montreal, I’m reflecting on accompanying many fiddlers and giving thanks for doing so every time. During the Canadian Grand Masters’ existence, I have participated either as a house accompanist, a provincial accompanist or part of the guest act for 23 of the competition’s 30 years. I do not take this honour lightly as there are few who have the privilege to share of themselves in this way so others become the best they can be.

What I have also learned through the years is that friendships and fellowships can truly last a lifetime from events like this when everyone gives of each other to each other for each other for a common cause. When you have an ability to make a positive difference in anything, it is always better to share that gift than keep it to yourself. I have witnessed in this and other music genres that when top rated musicians gather in the right spirit, the results are always great. You do gain more joy from giving than from receiving. The 30th annual Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Competition was another example of sharing as some of Canada’s best fiddle talent gave their all in sharing and playing throughout the weekend over a two day period both in solo competition and community music making.

The weekend began with the sold out B.C. FIDDLE LEGENDS TRIBUTE CONCERT AND OLD TIME DANCE at the Abbotsford Arts Centre Friday evening, August 23rd. Ivonne Hernandez (Victoria, B.C.), Mike Sanyshyn (Cloverdale, B.C.) Calvin Vollrath (St. Paul, Alberta) and Daniel Lapp (Victoria, B.C., plus students) performed tunes either composed by B.C. fiddlers or honouring prominent B.C. fiddle figures. As CGMFA President Cathy Sproule of Saskatoon noted to me, “You could see the pride in B.C. fiddling evident that evening.” As B.C. Contest Chairman Mark Sullivan (guitar) and Yours truly on piano accompanied these fiddlers for the show and later for the old time dance with the contestants and judges, we and others gladly agreed with Cathy’s observation. The dance floor was full to the last dance of the evening, musicians present got a turn to play and thanks to Melika Lemelin (piano), I got a chance to dance as well.

On Saturday, August 24th, 32 contestants by invitation competed for the honour of becoming Canadian Grand Masters Champion at Abbotsford’s Matsqui Centennial Auditorium. Melika Lemelin of Sudbury, Ontario (piano), Calvin Vollrath of St. Paul, Alberta (acoustic guitar) and Yours truly (piano) provided the house accompaniment. Contest judges were Patti Kusturok (Winnipeg, Manitoba,) Daniel Gervais (Edmonton, Alberta) and Louis Schryer (Chapeau, Quebec). The four Junior Showcase participants were Jude Robertson (Victoria, B.C.), Caleb Hunt (Edmonton, Alberta), Malacai Hiebert (Winnipeg, Manitoba), and Amelia Parker (Pictou County, Nova Scotia).

The top 11 finalists were selected from the afternoon preliminaries playing a waltz, jig, reel and tune of choice within the five minute time limit. They played four different tunes again within the five minute time limit for the evening finals. This meant lots of rehearsals for Melika, Calvin and me. But also in this case, Calvin Vollrath was the guitar player that contestants were waiting for come contest day. His knowledge of chord progressions and use of guitar in various recording sessions is extensive, his beat is steady and he has been a delight to play alongside for years. A special recognition goes out to him from Melika and me for his talents, professionalism and endurance.

The Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Association presents two prominent awards outside of the competition for achievement and service. Firstly, the Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to a prominent fiddler who has made many contributions to the Canadian fiddle scene. Victoria’s Daniel Lapp is a prominent musician in both the old time and jazz genres, but his two major fiddle legacies are his efforts in teaching various fiddle students throughout B.C. and his work in archiving over 1,000 B.C. fiddle tunes from various B.C. fiddlers. This is the first time a B.C. fiddler has received this prestigious award.

The second award, The Canadian Grand Masters Award of Merit, honours the volunteer builders of old time fiddle music. Beginning in 2018, the 56 Ottawa Valley Volunteers and old time fiddle groups who started and maintained the Canadian Grand Masters in Ottawa were honoured for their efforts. In 2019, the 73 provincial volunteers from the beginning of the B.C. Old Time Fiddlers Association (BCOTFA) to the present were the honourees. All in this category will receive personalized certificates for their contributions signed by the president of the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Association.

The top eleven finalists in the 2019 competition were as follows:

 1. Ethan Harty – Strome, Alberta
 2. Kyle Burghout – Ottawa, Ontario
 3. Jane Cory –Winnipeg, Manitoba
 4. Paul Lemelin – Sudbury, Ontario
 5. Kai Gronberg – Abbotsford, B.C.
 6. Ryan Rene Joshua D'Aoust –Norway House, Manitoba
 7. Emma March – Pembroke, Ontario
 8. Michael Burnyeat – Vancouver, B.C.
 9. Tristen Durocher – Meadow Lake, Sask.
10. Maggie Whitaker – Fairbanks, Alaska, U.S.A. (Dual Canadian/U.S. Citizen)
11. Raymond Knorr – Regina, Sask.

People’s Choice: Tristen Durocher – Meadow Lake, Sask.

Best Waltz: Ryan D’Aoust for “Valse Bleu” from the preliminaries.

Special thanks go to the BCOTFA Branches for their sponsorships and support in making this event a success. The volunteer hands of members from the Surrey, Haney and Central Fraser Valley branches were needed and appreciated beyond measure. Special thanks again goes out to B.C. contest chairman Mark Sullivan for his vision and efforts in bringing this all together.

A replay of the 2019 finals can be found on Facebook under the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Association’s Facebook page. Thanks go out to Cathy Sproule for making this possible.

The 31st annual Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Competition will be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba August 28-30, 2020. Patti Kusturok will be leading the Winnipeg based committee for the next edition.

The 32nd Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Competition will be held in Truro, Nova Scotia August 27-29, 2021. Kimberley Holmes will be leading the Nova Scotia committee for that upcoming edition.

My next article will come from the Pembroke Fiddle and Step Dance Contest in Pembroke, Ontario. Until next time, see you somewhere down the fiddle trail!

Musically Yours, Trent