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Metis style fiddling showcased. (Guide to Indian Country 2002: All My Relations).

Some call him the master of the Metis fiddle. Some call him a legend. But whatever you call him, 59-year-old John Arcand from Saskatchewan has polished his fiddle skills to an exemplary degree.

Arcand's father taught him to play the fiddle when he was six. And six years later he was playing for the Red River Jiggers, square dancers, and dance troupes.

Arcand has also written more than 250 original tunes that are played across Canada and the U.S. He is an active promoter of fiddle music, especially of the Red River tradition.

Arcand made his lifetime dream come true with the first John Arcand Fiddle Fest in 1998. Now the festival has become one of the major fiddle events in Western Canada and is held annually on the second weekend in August.

"Fiddling has been good to me, very good as a matter of fact...I figured I'd give something back to Creator or the people. I just started a really small fiddle fest...that was five years ago, and we are here today about 10 times as big already," he said.

The event is geared towards Metis performers, he said.

"In order to hold a festival, you have to have the people, so I got the Saskatchewan Fiddler Association to join up with us and we hold the white man's version of the fiddle contest, but we have also our Metis one...there's not enough Metis fiddlers (to have a contest on their own)."

"The white man music is structured, the bars are equal, the beats are equal, whereas...with Metis fiddling, the timing is emphasized more than the actual notes are."

Arcand said in white man's music you have to have your notes as clear as you can, whereas Metis fiddling is geared more for dancing.

This year, Arcand expects 3,000 people to show up for the Fiddle Fest.

"We should be pretty close to it, because we have all these 11 Metis fiddlers that were in on this CD project, they're gonna be here for this leg of the CD release."

The Drops of Brandy CD has just been released by the Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research and is part of the Drops of Brandy Fiddle Project.

"The project began as John's idea. He is adamant about the preservation of the Metis culture and felt that the fiddlers represented on the CD were the Metis masters in their areas and that their traditional material should be preserved for the future. He took the idea to the Gabriel Dumont Institute, and acted as the co-ordinator in the fiddling portion," said wife Vicki Arcand.

The other part of the project is a book of the music recorded on the CD.

Fiddlers recorded on the CD who plan to play the festival are Richard Callihoo, 82, from Grovedale, Alta. who is recognized by his peers as the elder statesman of Metis fiddling; Albert "Hap" Boyer, 74, from North Battleford, Sask., who can always be seen at Back to Batoche Days and at other Metis celebrations; Richard Lafferty, 58, from Hay River, N.W.T., who plays fiddle tunes learned from the "old time" fiddlers who traveled up and down the Mackenzie River; Homer Poitras, 61, from Elk Point, Alta., who has received many awards for his efforts in the preservation and promotion of Metis fiddle music and dance; Gilbert Anderson, 68, from Edmonton, who teaches and promotes fiddle and dance through the Edmonton Metis Cultural Dancers programs; Henry Gardipy, 53, from North Battleford, Sask., who won the Reg Bouvette Trophy contests at the Back to Batoche Days in 1985-87; Emile Lavallee, 61, from Manitoba, who was part of the Laurentian Valley Boys Band; Mel Bedard, 73, from Selkirk, Man., who is the first reco rding artist to use the term "Metis" on an album and is an experienced judge and competitor; and Garry Lepine, 52, from Britle, Man. who has attended many fiddling competitions across Western Canada. Pianist Trent Bruner, 47, from Canwood, Sask., who is he national accompanist for the prestigious Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Championship in Nepean, Ont., will also play in the August concert.

The three-day fest will take place at Arcand's Windy Acres Vacation Farm near Saskatoon from Aug. 9 to 11.

Friday night, a three-hour concert will feature traditional Metis fiddling as well as Jess Lee, well known as a founding member of the Midnight Rodeo Band.

Saturday there will be a first ever traditional Metis fiddle contest.

"The difference is on the Metis one they have to tune the fiddles three different ways like the old people used to do and they have to play by clogging their feet also," Arcand explained. Saturday night the vocal talent contest will take place, as well as the Old Time Dance with Debden's Bannock Country.

"And then we have Canadian Red River Jigging championships, Saturday and Sunday," he said.

"It's a good-time kind of has a Metis Native flavor. People who attend it seem to enjoy that. If you went to a non-Native one, you wouldn't see the Red River Jig," Gilbert Anderson said about the festival.

A one-day pass is $15; a weekend pass is $20. Children 12 and under attend free. Unserviced camping is available onsite. Riviera Hotel and Westgate Motor Inn are sponsors of the festival. For registration or more information, phone (306) 382-0111 or visit
COPYRIGHT 2002 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
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Author:Dansereau, Inna
Publication:Wind Speaker
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 1, 2002
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