Jokes abound about the lack of appreciation people have for certain musical instruments – for example, the range of an accordion: about 50 yards. Our apologies to lovers of that fantastic, fun instrument, but the wags are known to substitute at will their own personal choice, for example, the bagpipe, hurdy gurdy, tuba….
One particular source of music that’s something of an icon in Atlantic Canada – and never a source of derision – is a step closer to a celebratory role across the country. The fiddle is an undying symbol of East Coast culture. On Thursday, in the Senate, a private member’s bill from Senator Elizabeth Hubley passed third reading, achieving unanimous consent. If successful, enactment of the bill would designate the third Saturday in May each year as National Fiddling Day.
Now all it has to do is get through the Commons, the bill’s next destination for further study. Hopefully any atonal members in that lot won’t politicize it and screw things up.
It sounds like a labour of love for Hubley, a senator representing P.E.I. A committee hearing involving fiddlers from various regions helped advance the proposal. She had the endorsement of such star performers as Natalie MacMaster. Hubley said she’s hoping such a day would help Canadians recognize the role the fiddle has played in the country’s history and celebrate the instrument itself, a cherished focus of many cultures.
We’ll recall the observation of the late, great John Allan Cameron that the two people of greatest prominence in any Cape Breton community were the priest and the fiddler.
Its portability helped make it the instrument of choice of so many as Canada was settled. And we can marvel over the many, diverse styles reflected across Canada: from what we might hear in a Newfoundland harbour, to a Cape Breton village, the fiery reels of the Irish and French in Quebec, the Métis in the northwest.
We need more symbols to celebrate this country, and this is a fine candidate.