Over 70 people from as far away as Alaska to Calgary descended on Smithers last week to partake in Northwest Fiddlefest 2011.
Fiddlefest, held at the Banner Mountain Lodge, is a music camp featuring mostly fiddle music, however instruments at the camp were wide and varied and included a mandolin, guitar, bass, electric keyboard and a hurdy-gurdy.
Fiddlefest used to be an annual event, organizer Karen Price said, until three years ago when it went on a hiatus. This year, she and a group of others got together to bring back the wildly popular event that brought together music lovers from across the region.
Looking around this year, you could certainly say it was a success. Young and old, experienced and beginners, from here and from afar, the sound of music and melodies were in the air from dawn until dusk each of the five day event.
“The purpose is to help them grow and to inspire them,” Price said.
The experience can be quite intensive, she said, where they can make great leaps in their musical ability. Whether it’s learning a new music style, a new instrument, or learning how to play in a group or pick up their solo play, there’s plenty of things to learn.
This year brought six instructors to the camp. Anne Lindsay, a versatile musician working with violin and fiddle, brought with her her skills in gypsy style music, while local Rachelle van Zanten taught song writing. Other instructors, some as far away as the Maritimes, offered courses on keyboard, bass, singing and of course fiddle, while art classes were also offered.
“There is something here for all levels,” Price said.
For improv classes all the musicians have broken into groups to create their own piece. Featuring all experience levels, these groups faced off against one another Friday evening for a fun-filled challenge to see whose compilation reigned supreme.
And, once classes wrapped up at around 5 p.m., things didn’t end there. Often musicians would continue in their own groups until as late as 11 p.m., Price said, and throughout the evening more talents were brought to the table as well including breakdancing, and an art show demonstration, followed by a family dance.
“It’s s such a positive for the kids,” Price said. “They’re doing something productive and creative and you don’t need to worry about them.”
Instructor Emilyn Stam said it’s an experience like no other for the kids (and adults). A pupil of Oliver Schroer’s, Stam was working with the attendees on developing their improvisation skills.
“Improv is giving them a chance to play without saying how,” Stam said. “it’s learning to open up and seeing what comes out.”
The talent at Fiddlefest is amazing, she added. Many of the attendees, kids especially, have already written their own songs. The camp not only gives them a chance to share their works, but for them to pick up wholly different styles as well; styles we may not see here in the Bulkley Valley.
“They’re taking music into their own hands,” Stam said.