'It is our essence': Fiddle troupe bring folk sounds to area schools

By Tyler Marr
January 16, 2018 - 5:00pm

Students clapped their hands, tapped their toes and jived along to the harmonic hum of fiddle music at Westview Public School.

It was part of the Shivering Strings school tour that stopped in Tuesday. The effort was co-founded by Cathy Sproule, out of a love and passion for traditional fiddle music.

“To me, it is the essence of what our prairie culture is about,” she said. “I think it is inclusive of the Métis style of fiddling and that connection between European and First Nation music.” 

This is the eighth year for the troupe, made up of Sproule, Troy MacGillivray, J.J. Guy and Gordon Stobbe — a recent Order of Canada recipient, who have toured the West to spread music and education.

Sproule is an avid lover of fiddling and was first intrigued by the tunes through the Emma Lake Fiddle Camp years ago. After it shut down in 2008, Sproule and some colleagues were spurred to reintroduce a music camp in Northern Saskatchewan. 

They gathered violin and fiddle lovers alike to launch FiddlyNess in 2014. The success of all this is tied to the mid-winter Shivering Strings West camps hosted by the group in Saskatoon and the school tours.

Bringing fiddle music to schools was critical for the group as a way to introduce community and collaboration steeped in tradition.

“The music is really about dancing. Here in the prairies, it is part of how the tunes are written and how it’s performed. So it is about getting the kids engaged in that,” Sproule said. “It is a really engaging interactive school show where we get the kids moving and it is about seeing live musicians and dancing.”

While performing, the fiddlers instruct the children on rhythmic clapping, using their voices and hands as instruments and of course, get the groups moving and dancing. 

Introducing a sense of community through live music is a large part of the tour. Sproule explained how 8-track and cassette tapes dealt a blow to the togetherness conceived at gatherings.

“We need to reconnect with live music, however that happens,” she said. “It is about playing tunes together. There is a common repertoire.”

Principal Jennie Green shared in this notion, saying the act is not “only entertaining, it is inspiring.”

“What it does for our kids is teach them rhythm, music and some things in the area of fine arts they don’t always get every day in the school.”


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On Twitter: @JournoMarr

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