P.E.I. senator proposes National Day of Fiddling

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Sen. Elizabeth (Libbe) Hubley outside Province House in Charlottetown as she supports a call for a National Day of Fiddling.

Hubley calls for third Saturday in May to be dedicated to the fiddle

By Erin McCabe

If Sen. Elizabeth (Libbe) Hubley has her way, the third Saturday in May could soon be dedicated to the fiddle.

Hubley introduced a private member’s bill on April 2 in hopes government will see the importance of a National Day of Fiddling to honour the music and those who have helped shape Canada’s social and cultural history.

“We don’t take [fiddle music] for granted, but it’s been there for a long-time without a sort of recognition,” said Hubley.

“That being said ... I’m an old-time fiddler, you know, any kind of fiddle player has this innate ability to make us feel better in the tough times and that’s an important thing to have in our lives.”

Hubley first picked up the fiddle around 1976. She had been teaching step dancing and grew up around the instrument.

“In my house, friends and family played sort of hymns on the fiddle, not necessarily fiddle music. So, that’s certainly part of my growing up.”

World Fiddle Day, introduced in 2012, focuses more on celebrating the instrument itself and its creator, says Hubley.

“I wanted to move it into the realm of the people.”

A National Day of Fiddling would celebrate the people who brought their music and the instruments to Canada from other countries.

Cynthia MacLeod, a veteran fiddler who has been teaching since she was 13, says there are many reasons to support the creation of a National Day of Fiddling.

“Wherever you go, you go out to Alberta and Saskatchewan, there’s a huge Ukrainian population out there and you’re going to hear a lot of [Ukrainian fiddle music]. Like, it’s their culture and I think it’s the same thing on the East Coast with the Scottish, Irish and Acadian,” says MacLeod.

Hubley also notes the music is so rooted inside the country’s culture, some songs, such as St. Anne’s Reel, can be heard wherever you go. Fiddle music is part of every Canadian culture’s repertoire, she says.

“There are tunes that are played almost the same, right across Canada, even though [it seems] that music may ‘belong’ to that community, but in fact it’s the same in another community.”

Nathan Condon has been the president of the P.E.I. Fiddlers Society since 2012. He is another long-time fiddler. He’s been playing since he was seven and (according to his mother) wanting to play since he was three. He doesn’t remember what made him want to learn the instrument but he knows why he kept it up.

“It’s just the technicality of it, it’s a hard instrument to learn and it’s a challenge at a young age. Even today, it’s a challenge to learn new stuff.”

Condon thinks this day could help people who aren’t sure what they think of fiddle music to become intrigued by it and convert them into fans.

This is Hubley’s goal as well. She just wants people to appreciate the music for what it is.

“It’s happy music, it’s joyful music. It just seems to touch people’s hearts. It’s a memory too. A memory of other days, when they heard [fiddles] playing, and it moves them.”

The legislation for a National Day of Fiddling is going through its second reading in the Senate. Hubley says it could take about a year for it to pass all the way through the House of Commons. But she hopes to see it passed sooner.

“I would love to have it done for this summer, in time for the 25th anniversary of the Grand Masters [Fiddling Association], but that might be wishful thinking.”

Others in Parliament are also on board with the legislation and are planning to speak for it, such as Conservative Sen. Carolyn Stewart-Olsen from New Brunswick.

Fellow musician and NDP MP Charlie Angus also agreed to be the legislation’s critic in the House.

Organizations: P.E.I. Fiddlers Society, House of Commons, Grand Masters Fiddling Association

Geographic location: Canada, Alberta, Saskatchewan East Coast New Brunswick

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Recent comments

  • That Guy From PEI
    April 16, 2014 - 23:01

    @'Hi That Guy' And you blame me for appearing to make assumptions. You should re-read your comment. Stop wasting time and write something meaningful. Finally, a senator that recognizes the arts and music scene - it's kinda nice!!! YOU GO GIRL!!!

  • hi that guy
    April 16, 2014 - 11:32

    You assume a lot. Because we all have an opinion you assume we all are music haters? What silliness. More music, less lecture.

  • That Guy Feom PEI
    April 16, 2014 - 08:46

    Maybe an appreciation for the arts is what's needed, because it's the first thing to go in economic crisis or from school curriculum. I'm assuming all the negative commentators here don't listen to any music. Music heals. Music speaks when there are no words to express with spoken word. If this passes, I will write a piece of music in honour of this day. And to all here who say they hate fiddle music and run from it, great!!! Because music doesn't take well to haters anyways, it's for more open minded folks seeking healing and a general love of life. All music does this, some of it without words. Generally we reject things we don't understand. Fiddle music is one of those styles that many people don't understand, and that's ok.

  • AMAZED
    April 15, 2014 - 19:45

    REALLY...Someone cannot say something negative about Stewart -Olsen and her Duffy connection...is this Pravda now we are reading!

  • Serious Reader
    April 15, 2014 - 13:34

    Agree with every single statement so far....how about "a tax free day" ? That would help "every Islander" not just a few. I think you should put your fiddle away and start really doing some work...Not impressed!!

  • antisenate
    April 15, 2014 - 12:02

    What about "senators do something useful" day? That would be historic.

  • Highland Fling
    April 15, 2014 - 11:55

    If this is all the Senator has to offer, she should submit her resignation. There are many more pressing issues facing Islanders and Canadians that need attention than this kind of nonsense. It's easy to see why the Upper Chamber has become a useless institution.

  • Well Spent Taxdollars
    April 15, 2014 - 11:09

    Wow , we really are getting our money's worth from this Senator . This senate is really a necessity in our government , how could we get along without it ?????????????????????????

  • joe doe
    April 15, 2014 - 10:45

    THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I'VE SEEN THIS SENATOR AND I'M 66 YRS OLD AND LIVED HERE ALL MY LIFE.

    • Me too
      April 15, 2014 - 10:59

      I've never heard of her before & thought it was just me.

  • just an opinion, nothing against the fiddle but
    April 15, 2014 - 09:25

    Why stop at the fiddle? Why not the drums, the washboard, the kazoo, the triangle etc? PEI already has the stereo type of step dancing and fiddle music being the base of our Island. Is this what Senators do? They get paid for ideas that Joe on the street could come up with for free? No wonder some want the Senate abolished.

  • Jon
    April 15, 2014 - 08:28

    And this is another reason why no one takes the senate seriously....

  • voter
    April 15, 2014 - 08:06

    another 500 dollars earned !!! a hard hour of work for a senator

  • not everyone
    April 15, 2014 - 07:58

    Not everyone likes fiddling - some people run from it.

    • Not Everyone Likes Senators
      April 15, 2014 - 12:32

      As for fiddling I can take it or leave it. It is Senators I don't like.