33RD ANNUAL CANADIAN GRAND MASTERS FIDDLING COMPETITION
TRURO, NOVA SCOTIA
The 33rd Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Competition took place in Truro, Nova Scotia on August 25th-26th, 2023. The results, memories and observations for this weekend are in this article for my Facebook pages and at www.trentbruner.com. This was the second occasion the Canadian national fiddling championship has been held in Atlantic Canada, with the first taking place in Moncton, New Brunswick in 2015.
2023 will be remembered as the year of delayed arrivals for some of those who came to Truro by plane to Halifax from Wednesday to Friday and for some leaving Sunday, but despite that, many details fell into place for the competition behind the scenes, thanks to members of the Truro committee and the Canadian Grand Masters Board of Directors. Rehearsals with contestants and special guests took place Thursday and Friday before the sold out Friday Night Dance at the Best Western Glengarry in Truro. People of all ages were on the dance floor throughout the evening. As a musician, it was a delight to see a full floor with Calvin Vollrath, Mark Sullivan, Ethan Harty, The Corry Brothers and other local fiddlers take their turns playing for the dance with the Friday night dance band. Jeremy Rusu, Yours truly and Paul Lemelin were part of this band at varying times through the night. Daniel Koulack and Mark Sullivan rounded out the dance band that night. Square dance calls were also part of the evening for all present.
In addition, 10 Canadian fiddle legends were inducted into the Canadian Fiddle Hall of Honour posthumously this Friday evening. Paper flower ornaments of one of their original fiddle tunes with a wooden tree base were made honouring each fiddle legend were on selected tables during the dance. The first ten posthumous legends who were inducted were:
Winston “Scotty” Fitzgerald
Background information on these inductees will be posted at canadiangrandmasters.ca in the coming days.
Saturday was when the competition took place at the Cobequid Educational Centre Theatre in Truro. 34 contestants took to the stage in the preliminary round performing a high level of fiddling that afternoon. Jeremy Rusu (Brockville, Ontario), Melika Lemelin (Val-Therese, Ontario) and Yours truly were the three house accompanists for this competition. Calvin Vollrath (St. Paul, Alberta), Julie Fitzgerald (Toronto, Ontario) and Troy MacGillivray (Lanark, Nova Scotia) were the contest judges while Ivan Hicks (Upper Cloverdale, New Brunswick) was the contest Master of Ceremonies. A contestant jamboree took place with all 34 contestants, the four Junior Showcase fiddlers, all three house accompanists and the extra guitarists who accompanied the various fiddlers throughout the preliminary round. After the ten finalists were decided, the evening finals took place after a well deserved supper break.
In the evening, the three contest judges played “O Canada”, followed by their musical tribute to Nova Scotia. Five inductees were then installed into the Canadian Fiddling Hall of Honour, all with a Nova Scotia focus in 2023: Buddy MacMaster (Fiddling Legend), Lloyd Boyle (Special Citation as promoter and sponsor), Bill Guest (Builder-founder of the Maritime Fiddlers Association and educator), The Maritime Fiddle Festival (Builder-Canada’s longest running fiddle contest) and Natalie MacMaster (Performer). After the ten finalists competed, the Junior Showcase performances took place. Tarya Morrison (Whitehorse, Yukon), Morgan Konchur (Ardrossan, Alberta), Kameron Tellier (Sudbury, Ontario) and James Nelson (Lower Cloverdale, New Brunswick) delivered delightful renditions of their tunes for an appreciative audience. Past Canadian Political Senator Elizabeth Hubley was in attendance and shared a few words of her fiddle vision to the audience, as she had created the bill that established National Fiddling Day in Canada. The Nova Scotia Ambassadors, a youth music group who volunteered during the day, also shared fiddle and step dance to a warm audience response.
In the history of the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Competition (1990-present), the following statistics of note are as follows:
Of the 361 fiddlers in total who have been involved in the competition and Junior Showcase, 301 fiddlers have competed in the Canadian Grand Masters.
Of these 301 contestants, 114 have made the CGM Finals.
Of the 114 finalists, 32 have made the top three.
Of the 32 finalists making the top three, 19 have become Canadian Grand Masters Champion.
The 2023 results are as follows:
1. Kyle Charron - Halifax, NS
2. Ethan Harty – Lougheed, AB
3. Alex Kusturok - Sherwood Park, AB
4. Kyle Burghout – Winnipeg, MB
5. Max Francis – Victoria, BC
6. Aine Schryer O’Gorman, Desbarats, ON
7. Paul Lemelin – Val-Therese, ON
8. Michael Burnyeat – Vancouver, BC
9. Anna Smilek – Waterloo, ON
10. Samuel Corry – Red Deer, AB
Ward Allen Memorial Trophy for Best Old Time Waltz - Charlotte Van Barr, Ottawa, Ontario, playing “Mom, This One’s for You” from the Preliminary Round
Calvin Vollrath’s People’s Choice Award, as voted by the audience for performances in the preliminary round: Samuel Corry – Red Deer, Alberta
Yamaha Silent Violin Prize - Jack Walcher-Wegmann, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
The evening concluded with a post competition jam session back at the Beat Western Glengarry, with fiddlers, accompanists and fiddle fans alike in attendance with music and fellowship.
The 2024 Canadian Grand Masters Fiddle Competition will be held in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory under the leadership of Keitha Clark, Boyd Benjamin and their Yukon host committee. This group entertained for part of the Friday Night Dance and the Saturday Night Finals, as well as gave an official welcome for the 2024 event. Details will be coming at www.yukon2024.com.
As for me, my next report will come from the 45th Pembroke Fiddle and Step Dance Contest, which will be back in operation come Labour Day weekend after the corona pandemic forced a pause in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Until next time, see you somewhere down the musical trail!
Muscially yours, Trent