by Ruth DuBois
Imagine what can happen when a headliner performer like Cindy Thompson opens for a headliner performing band like Coig! Electricity, that’s what! That is exactly what’s in store this July when Almonte Celtfest celebrates its 20th anniversary! As Fiddler-in-Residence, Cindy has been tantalizing audiences several times over the past months leading up to the festival.
Cindy is originally from Kinburn in the Ottawa Valley where she grew up steeped in an Irish-English home with her parents, grandparents, and two siblings. She and her sisters learned to step dance at a very young age, and were known all over the area where they performed widely. Cindy learned to play the fiddle with coaching and encouragement from her ‘Grandpa Buck’, and by the age of 14 years, her unique style incorporating simultaneous fiddling and step dancing was garnering her awards like the National Talent Competition of the Canadian Country Music Awards. Cindy has performed live across Canada and the United States in countless special events including the Rita MacNeil Show, Tommy Hunter Show, Nova Scotia, Thunder Bay and Huronia Symphonies, the Boston Musicfest, Almonte Celtfest, and too many more to mention. She has recorded two critically acclaimed albums, widely aired across the globe. One of her favourite memories is of headlining on Parliament Hill for Canada Day celebrations. With more than 35 years of fiddling experience, Cindy has influenced and continues to teach hundreds of students, investing in them a love for music of a variety of fiddling styles. Her vast experience now serves her well in her role as a music judge at various Open Fiddle and Step-dance Competitions in Ontario.
Cindy’s passion comes from her soul. While she loves performing for appreciative audiences and enjoys the spotlight, she is quietly and deeply rooted to her Celtic heritage. She describes her ambition to leave a legacy of love for fiddling and step dancing that will live on well past the glitz and the lights of stage performances, enduring in the hearts of young people long into the future. She always counsels her students to ‘just be natural and be in the moment’ since she truly strives to be honest and authentic in her own performances, and believes that this accounts for the extraordinary energy she expresses while playing.
As a tribute to the enduring influence of the fiddle and its music on Canadian culture and identity, Parliament enacted National Fiddling Day, which took place this year on Saturday, May 21st . Cindy notes that the focus of this event needed ‘to be not so much on the performances, but more on the Celtic heritage’ it honours, including the traditions of many Canadian settlers who helped to build Canada. In her own way, that is exactly why Cindy Thompson fiddles, why she continues to teach young and older alike, and why she agreed to promote Almonte Celtfest 2016 as Fiddler-in-Residence. This year, Cindy celebrated in fine style when she promoted Almonte Celtfest at the Ottawa Fiddle and Stepdance Competition, held May 21st and 22nd in Richmond, Ontario.
This year is Almonte Celtfest’s 20th celebration of traditional Celtic music and dance to be held July 8-10th in the natural amphitheatre of Gemmill Park. There is something for everyone at this popular three day festival, including Celtic entertainment Friday 5-10 pm, Saturday 12-9pm, and Sunday 12-6 pm. Located behind the Almonte arena, the park is accessible at 182 Bridge Street. Free parking and bike racks available; bring lawn chairs, water bottles (refill stations available on site) and sunscreen. Clap, sing and dance to performers of local, regional and national acclaim. No pets or outside alcohol allowed on site. Admission at the gate by donation, so bring your family and friends to this outstanding musical event! Featuring a Little Celtz tent, and a Senior’s Tent for shade. Information including the line-up of artists and schedule of activities, at www.almonteceltfest.com