Competition keeps fiddle music alive
Caleb Hunt of Edmonton performs at the Prairie West Fiddle Contest at the Bailey Theatre in Camrose last year. File photo/Camrose Canadian
In the decade they’ve been playing, Jackson, 19, and Samuel, 16, Corry have performed their repertoire of Ontario-style, Celtic and blue-grass fiddle music at shows and contests across B.C, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario. But the Red Deer brothers have a special tie to the local Prairie West Fiddle Contest: they were participants in the dinner table conversation that brought it to life last year at the Bailey Theatre.
With a sold-out crowd in its inaugural year, the contest fulfilled its goal of keeping the tradition vibrant in the community. Prairie West will return to the Bailey Theatre on Friday at 7 p.m. with a novelty showcase and dance where fiddlers can feel out the stage in a relaxed atmosphere before competing in their age categories throughout the day Saturday.
“[Fiddle contests] are one of the few times in the year when we get together with friends that we see very rarely but then can just fall in [with] and meet new people, but also just play until midnight or three in the morning and really connect,” said Jackson Corry. “They’re one of the best opportunities we have.”
New to the contest this year is a novice exhibition geared towards fiddlers of all ages with limited contest experience who wish to get their feet wet without competing for prizes or money. Prairie West hands out a total of $5,500 in scholarships and awards to promote the growth of musicians and the future of fiddling.
Samuel Corry took home the Leahy Family Music Development Scholarship last year and will use it to return to the Lahey Music Camp in Ontario this July. He says the stories passed down from preceding generations feed his enthusiasm for the traditions to which his fiddle connects him.
“There are so many great stories and it’s a lot of fun to go and get together with friends, young and old, to share something we can play,” he said. “It’s a really universal language, music. You can totally understand a lot from it.”
Jackson Corry added that the competition is an excellent opportunity to renew people’s interest a genre that has been enjoyed by families for centuries and was likely a part of their grandparents’ lives.
Both Corry boys look forward to competing at the Bailey Theatre again this year, a venue they say brings a level of professionalism to the contest.
“Fiddling has become what our whole lives are dedicated towards, so we really love it when we are able to share it with people,” said Jackson Corry. “We do have to often create those opportunities to share it; but when we do, it can be a really fun moment to bring something to the community that the community is missing.”
The top three fiddlers from each age category will qualify to compete in the Championship Show Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets for spectators are $20 at the Bailey Theatre box office and include admission to the preliminary age categories beginning Saturday at 10 a.m. Admission to Friday’s novelty show and dance is by donation at the door.