by Chris George
Young Almonte fiddler Alexander George recently spoke and performed on Parliament Hill in support of legislation to declare a National Fiddling Day.
On February 4, Alexander appeared as part of a panel of witnesses before MPs on the Canadian Heritage Committee to share with them his experiences and views on the importance of fiddle music in our country.
In their deliberations, MPs heard from Senator Elizabeth Hubley, who is the author of the legislation, Graham Sheppard of the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Association, fiddle and step dance performer Kelli Trottier and the 14-year old Almonte resident.
Alexander took the opportunity in his testimony to speak of his experience with the Ottawa Valley fiddle music scene. He told MPs: “It has a rich history of Celtic, country and Valley fiddle music. The Ottawa Valley has the Heritage Radio station and Renfrew’s Valley Stage that keeps our history alive”.
Almonte’s Puppets Up! and Celtfest festivals and the recent Country Music Heart Jam fundraiser for Ottawa Heart Institute were all mentioned in his testimony.
Alexander thanked local business owner Charlie Kitts for his support and he joked about attending the weekly, Wednesday night fiddle jam sessions at Naismith Pub where “I drink ginger ale and play to my bed time of 9:30.”
Alexander also thanked his fiddle instructors, including Almonte resident and Canadian champion fiddler Cindy Thompson, saying “she is a great mentor and friend.”
He mentioned how he hoped to be able to carry on the tradition as MPs and the witnesses referred to him “representing the future of fiddling in Canada.” Alexander commented: “Fiddlers are part of a sharing community that has a proud tradition of coming together to play and entertain. I really can’t explain it, but fiddling is a great feeling – playing with fellow musicians and seeing the smiles on peoples’ faces. I am very happy to be part of Canada’s fiddle community.”
As part of his testimony, Alexander also got the opportunity to perform for the MPs, playing a Calvin Vollrath tune, Lieutenant Governor’s Waltz. In the question and answer segment of the meeting, Liberal MP Stephane Dion asked him to play a set of jigs for the Committee.
MPs unanimously passed the legislation through the Canadian Heritage Committee that afternoon. Bill S-218 now awaits third reading in the House of Commons in the coming weeks. When passed by Parliament, Canadians will then celebrate our tradition of fiddle music on every third Saturday of May with a National Fiddling Day.
Canadian Heritage Committee testimony of February 4