Fiddlin' around

Karla Hayward
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North Atlantic Fiddle Convention comes to St. John's

The fiddle has long been a staple in Newfoundland music. Most of us grew up with its sometimes plaintive, sometimes rollicking, strains in our ears. So, it's entirely fitting, and not too surprising, that the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention (NAFCo) should be hosted here in St. John's.

The convention, the world's largest gathering of fiddlers, fans and fiddle music scholars, began in 2000 in Aberdeen, Scotland. Since then, it's enjoyed two highly successful runs, including the most recent, which saw participants from more than 10 countries and an audience of more than 13,000.

The North Atlantic Fiddle Convention closes its evening concert series at the Arts and Culture Centre Thursday with a diverse evening of music called "Crossing Back." The lineup features French fiddler Christian LeMaitre, B.C.-based old-time music scholar

The fiddle has long been a staple in Newfoundland music. Most of us grew up with its sometimes plaintive, sometimes rollicking, strains in our ears. So, it's entirely fitting, and not too surprising, that the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention (NAFCo) should be hosted here in St. John's.

The convention, the world's largest gathering of fiddlers, fans and fiddle music scholars, began in 2000 in Aberdeen, Scotland. Since then, it's enjoyed two highly successful runs, including the most recent, which saw participants from more than 10 countries and an audience of more than 13,000.

Suited to its journey "across the pond" this year's convention is built on a theme of "Crossing Over."

The local spokesman for NAFCo is musician extraordinaire Fergus O'Byrne. He says, "This is a major, major happening for St. John's ... It's just a wonderful event for Newfoundland in that we're going to experience a whole bunch of fiddle players from the North Atlantic rim coming in to display how they treat the fiddle, and how they use the fiddle in their performance, and how they understand the fiddle to be used from their perspective."

O'Byrne goes on to say that NAFCo is also a great opportunity for local musicians to, "showcase their abilities in terms of their interpretation of the music, and our own unique style of playing here in the province."

The Conference will consist of three parts. First, there's the actual academic conference. O'Byrne says, "There's about 50 folklorists and professors coming in. People who study the fiddle and the effects of it socially, who'll be presenting papers and the like."

Next up is a series of 72 workshops over five days. These will include all things fiddle and fiddle related and take the shape of tutorials, discussion panels and full-on interactive sessions. And then, of course, there's the concert series, guaranteed to delight one and all.

"There are four evening concerts at the Arts and Culture Centre (ACC) and one show at the Sheila Nageira Theatre in Carbonear where our people are going to be playing alongside the people from away," says O'Bryne. "I think it's going to be a real eye opener for them to see what we do here."

The night concerts begin at 7:30 and include: "Crossing Over - An Evening of North American Fiddle Music" on Monday; "Celtic Crossings" on Tuesday; "Crossing Cultures" on Wednesday; an "Evening in Carbonear" also on Wednesday; and "Crossing Back" on Thursday.

O'Byrne, who will play on Wednesday night as part of A Crowd of Bold Sharemen (along with Daniel Payne, Jim Payne and Jerry Strong) says it's important to note that the concerts aren't just fiddle music all night long. There's flute, fiddle, concertina, vocals, guitars ...

"It's really good folk music from nine or 10 different countries."

The styles of music are equally varied, O'Byrne says, drawing their inspiration from Spain and France, even America's Bluegrass movement, not just the oft-thought-of Ireland and England.

The daytime concerts are also quite diverse. The first, "Fresh Fiddles," is happening at the ACC Sunday, Aug. 3, and intends to showcase some young and promising artists. Louise Moyes will present her dance-music work, "Florence," Aug. 4. On Aug. 5, fiddle fanatics can head to the Cochrane Street United Church to take in "Soup and Scandinavia" - a concert of music from Denmark, Sweden and Norway, followed by a light lunch. And, for the final daytime concert, check out the Lasting Legacy Concert on Aug. 8 for a full slate of performers from all over the island.

The North Atlantic Fiddle Convention happens Aug. 3-8 in St. John's.

For more information and full scheduling details, visit www.mun.ca/nafco2008
or see today's print edition of The Telegram.

Organizations: NAFCo, The North Atlantic Fiddle Convention, Culture Centre Sheila Nageira Theatre Evening of North American Fiddle Music Cochrane Street United Church

Geographic location: St. John's, Newfoundland, Aberdeen Scotland Carbonear Spain France America Ireland England Scandinavia Denmark Sweden Norway

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Recent comments

  • Erin
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    And there's rarely fiddling without dancing! Included throughout the week at NAFCO are dance workshops and Late Night dances at Gushue Hall at MUN! You can learn a step dance, jig or try your hand (or feet) at Running the Goat . Not just for musicians, come dancing!

  • Mia
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    I just checked out the website for the Arts and Culture Centre to find out the price of tickets. It's a shame that the price of the shows ($30 per adult per show) is way out of reach for me and my family. A real shame.

  • Heather
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    There are still lots of ways to see the artists if you're on a tighter budget. The workshops are only $5 each or $18 for a full day. The dances are only S12. The Fresh Fiddles concert is only $12, and so is Florence.

    That said, there are at least six artists playing at each evening concert, and many places you'd have to pay $30 just to see *one* of those fiddle stars in concert!

  • Erin
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    And there's rarely fiddling without dancing! Included throughout the week at NAFCO are dance workshops and Late Night dances at Gushue Hall at MUN! You can learn a step dance, jig or try your hand (or feet) at Running the Goat . Not just for musicians, come dancing!

  • Mia
    July 01, 2010 - 20:11

    I just checked out the website for the Arts and Culture Centre to find out the price of tickets. It's a shame that the price of the shows ($30 per adult per show) is way out of reach for me and my family. A real shame.

  • Heather
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    There are still lots of ways to see the artists if you're on a tighter budget. The workshops are only $5 each or $18 for a full day. The dances are only S12. The Fresh Fiddles concert is only $12, and so is Florence.

    That said, there are at least six artists playing at each evening concert, and many places you'd have to pay $30 just to see *one* of those fiddle stars in concert!