The fiddling tradition is alive and well in the Yukon thanks to the Fiddleheads, a group of young fiddlers ranging in age from seven to fourteen years old. The local youth fiddle club is teaming up with groups in Haines Junction and Dawson City to create a CD celebrating the rich Fiddle tradition of the Yukon. They will be celebrating the release of their debut album, A Yukon Fiddle Celebration, on April 30th at the Yukon Arts Centre. The CD features songs composed by fiddlers from all over the Yukon, performed by 39 young fiddlers from three different communities.
The Whitehorse Fiddleheads will be joined by the Treble Makers of Haines Junction, and a couple of members of the Dawson Fiddle Club. All three groups collaborated on the CD and will be performing at the April 30th show.
While Fiddleheads Yukon was established almost two decades ago, the Treble Makers are only in their second year. “Some of these kids went from never having played a violin before to being able to learn and play a song beautifully for the CD in only two years!” says Fiddleheads’ Artistic Director, Keitha Clark, “it was a real highlight for me, having those kids be a part of it.”
The show will also include an original play created by Mary Sloan and performed by many of the Fiddlehead members. The play is done in the Style of Robert Service poetry and is about the fiddlers whose songs are featured on the album.
Nova Scotia’s master fiddler Gordon Stobbe flew to the Yukon to help put together the musical arrangement for the CD, to help create a musical experience that highlights the rich history of fiddling in the Territory.
The album features songs learned from the repertoires of Old Crow fiddler Allan Benjamin, Dawson City Fiddler Willie Gordon, Tahltan Fiddler Gerald Edzerza of Watson Lake, and Whitehorse Fiddlers Joe Loutchan and Amelia Rose.
Min Niedermeyer, a 13 year old member of the Fiddleheads, reflects on what the project has meant to her, “Through this project I got to know Maureen Routledge and fiddlers of the Yukon and it was really exciting to learn their tunes. A very special thing for me that came out of this project is that I get to play on one of Harold Routledge’s fiddles, his eighth, that he built from Yukon wood. My favorite tune in the show is the one he wrote, ‘Three White Birds.’ Maybe the fiddle remembers the tune and that is why it is so much fun to play the tune on it?”
Clark hopes that this one-of-a-kind album will help to build community awareness about the fiddling history in the Yukon, as well as becoming something of an audio legacy for future generations. “It was really exciting to be able to bring the music of these fiddlers alive – to be a link in the musical chain and know that these songs are going to be passed down from these young fiddlers to the next generation.”
In some ways, those traditions are already being passed down, “I saw Fiddleheads when I was really small and wanted to be part of it. I think I was only five years old,” Niedermeyer recalls, “My older friends were part of the group then and seeing them play made me want to be part of it. Now I love seeing the really small kids join that are as small as I was then and I get to help them learn their first songs.”