Next week a delegation of young Nanaimo area fiddlers will travel out of province together for the first time to perform at Whitehorse’s annual winter festival.
From Feb. 20 to 24, 12 members of Nanaimo’s Fiddelium ensemble from age 9 to 17 will attend the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous. Now in its 55th year, the 17-day celebration draws attendees from around the world to take part in events and competitions.
During their stay the Fiddelium members will participate in fiddle workshops and performances, including as an opening act for renowned Canadian fiddler Shane Cook.
For the past two years, Fiddelium co-director Trish Horrocks has hosted workshops at the Sourdough Rendezvous, teaching West Coast and Vancouver Island tunes. She said there’s a strong tradition of fiddle music in Whitehorse and she hopes her protégés learn something new from the Yukon instructors.
“That cross pollination, learning a new style of fiddle music that I can’t offer them and they would never learn anywhere else, that’s a pretty special thing,” she said.
It won’t all be lessons and recitals. Horrocks said she’d like to see her students form long-lasting friendships with their Yukon counterparts, just like she did with the fiddlers she met while on exchange in Quebec when she was their age. The groups have already met and performed together in the Youth Fiddle Summit last weekend at Malaspina Theatre.
Horrocks is also excited for her students to experience “a real Canadian winter,” including a trip to a hot springs that holds an annual hair freezing contest.
“You sit in the hot springs and get your hair wet and then you let it freeze and shape it into sculptures and you take a picture and you could be the frozen hair queen or king,” she said. “So the kids are excited for the music, but a nine-year-old is way more excited about freezing their hair.”
Horrocks said her favourite part of the festival is the big community barn dance that Fiddelium will be performing at on the Saturday night.
“Half-way through the dance everybody stops dancing and we all put on our parkas and our gloves and cover up our faces and then we go outside and we watch the fireworks which is on the river with these big snowy bluffs in behind and it’s freezing out and then we all come back in and dance some more,” she said.
Horrocks added that she’d like to see Fiddelium members come away from the Sourdough Rendezvous with greater confidence in themselves.
“Kids are told that they shouldn’t brag and they shouldn’t show off, but these kids work really, really hard and I’d like for them to feel that sense of pride and accomplishment,” she said. “They worked hard to play well enough to be able to go on a trip like this.”