Trent Bruner


Hi everyone! As I wait in Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, France to take my flight back to Norway and rejoin my wife and family, I have a moment to update the happenings in Pembroke, Ontario with their 44th annual Fiddle and Step Dance Contest for Facebook and

As always when I arrive in Pembroke, there is much anticipation for this event as this is the last major contest each year in the Canadian fiddle calendar. Many top fiddlers and step dancers arrive to compete for prize money and trophies, but at the same time, what also stands out more often than not is fellowship and comradery amongst all the participants. They are there for the same purpose; uphold, promote and develop Canadian folk culture through music and dance, and actively encourage each other throughout this weekend and the calendar year.

Once again, Art Jaimeson (Beachberg, Ontario) and Paul Lemelin (Hammer, Ontario) were the masters of ceremony. Guylaine Gagner (Huntingdon, Quebec) and Yours truly served again as the house accompanists for the weekend, with Chad Wolfe (Ottawa, Ontario), Rodina Turner (Pembroke, Ontario) and Sarah Robinson serving as the step dance judges, along with Brian Hebert (Pembroke, Ontario), Shane Cook (London, Ontario) and Louis Schryer (Chapeau, Quebec) as the fiddle contest judges.

When I worked on my Masters Thesis in Ethnomusicology over 10 years ago describing the musical life of the late Everett Larson (1926-2019), the major theme that came out of my research was “Music as Community.” The word “community” does not just mean a local geographical village, town or city. In this case, music and dance truly know no borders in ability, scope or projects. Again, the fiddle and step dance community shared some special moments throughout the weekend in Pembroke.

Firstly, after the Saturday morning session was finished, Steve Jacobi of Equinunk, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. had a special gathering on stage. For those who don’t know, Steve started the Fiddle Tune Video Library on Facebook in 2018, and then went one step further by establishing the project “365 Days of Fiddlers” in this video library where one different fiddler or fiddle act would play one or more tunes a day. With the help of Robin Comins Unger (Massachusetts) and Kelli Trottier (Kingston, Ontario), this project began January 1st and will finish December 31st. Fiddlers from all ages and playing abilities worldwide have participated in various settings like a recording studio, a desert campground, a music room, a family living room, a campground, a dance hall, a farmyard, a church, and as of Labour Day Monday, September 2nd, a fiddle contest in a hockey arena!

Secondly, the Saturday night finals were broadcast again on CJHR-FM 98.7 Renfrew, better known as Valley Heritage Radio to residents of the Ottawa Valley, bringing in a listening audience not just over the air in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec, but also many listeners on their internet feed at throughout Canada and beyond. Fiddle fans galore tuned in for over five hours of music, dance and interviews with various people alike. Thanks to program host Jason Marshall for the interviews and bringing the contest finals to many.

Thirdly, while I waited at the Pembroke Mall for a print job to finish at the Staples store, I composed two new fiddle tunes, with one receiving special mention. I composed a slow waltz for Dianna Hickey titled “Dianna,” and I’m thankful to Brian, Shane and Louis for their wonderful performance of the tune, as well as for Dianna’s efforts in leading the contest committee after the passing of her husband Jim Hickey in 2014. When we give of each other to each other for each other for a common goal, wonderful things happen. I was delighted that this could be a musical contribution heard and seen on Facebook and my own YouTube channel. To see the performance, the YouTube link to copy and paste in your browser is as follows:

A special word of note: During the Saturday Night finals, the Pembroke Contest Committee announced that new volunteer members would be recruited as board members from the beginning of the contest would be retiring their positions as of next year. To celebrate the services of Dianna Hickey, Brian Adam and others, the 45th annual contest will be treated as a party for the people who began and maintained the work to make the Pembroke Fiddle and Step Dance Contest the success that it is.

All the contest results can be found on the Pembroke Fiddle and Step Dance page on Facebook. The address is as follows:

Shane Cook played the concert spots in locations throughout the Fiddle Park on Sunday with various backup musicians lending their talents. Shane has won the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Contest three times as well as being the first Canadian fiddler to win the U.S. National Old Time Fiddling Championship in Weiser, Idaho in 1999. I took my turn in playing with Shane as well, delighting in his talent and repertoire with the public who attended each of these events.

The 45th annual Pembroke Fiddle and Step Dance Contest will be held on Labour Day weekend again, September 4th-5th, 2020. I repeat this again as I do every year; 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