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

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

Published on April 15, 2014

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

©Brian McInnis - The Guardian

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.