Handing music down in the family – like traditional fiddle tunes – keeps generations of Canadian heritage alive.
But most of all, jamming with the family is just plain fun.
As a child Gabe Mann was inspired to learn the fiddle from his grandfather Richie Mann, who incidentally, didn’t begin playing the fiddle until he was 70 years old.
When Gabe, 22, is back in town for a visit, the two often play in the living room of Richie’s retirement home in East Trail. Their bond is patently special and held even tighter by their connection through fiddling.
“I did get started because of Grandpa,” said Gabe, who now plays for a bluegrass band in Paradise Hill, Sask. “I think it really doesn’t matter what kind of music is handed down because all music is important for handing down old culture. But most of all, I keep going because fiddling is just fun.”
Besides keeping fiddling alive in the family, as a member of the Kootenay Fiddlers, Richie is very passionate about keeping traditional music alive in the community.
That’s why the musical group is bringing a world-class Canadian fiddler, Calvin Vollrath, to Trail on Oct. 30 for one night of sensational old-time entertainment.
“Kids right up to adults will enjoy this show,” Richie said. “Calvin himself was twice a grand national champion for North America and his wife Rhea (Rhea Labrie) is a heck of a step dancer. Jeremy Rusu is one heck of a back up fellow, he plays guitar, keyboard and accordion, and he’s completely blind.”
This is the first time Vollrath will visit Trail, though he performed a sold out show in Castlegar last fall.
“We were all thoroughly captivated with the concert,” said musician Kathy Markin. “Calvin is also an engaging storyteller and he extended his appreciation to Kootenay #9 Branch (Kootenay Fiddlers) for sustaining our branch and for encouraging and exposing the younger generation through our July annual fiddle, guitar and piano camp.”
Local fiddlers are encouraging the community to support Vollrath’s Oct. 30 performance in Trail because proceeds will help fund will the 2019 Kootenay Fiddlers Camp.
The annual camp draws musicians from across the country to this area each summer. The five-day event, which includes sessions for children and adults, culminates with an impressive jam session by dozens of musicians at Gyro Park in Trail.
Master fiddler Gordon Stobbe – a recipient of the Order of Canada for his work in preserving Canadian fiddle heritage – has led the Kootenay camp for many years.
And Gordon Stobbe brings the story back to where Richie, 85, got his start learning the fiddle 15 years ago.
“My dad passed away when I was 70 and there was this old violin in the basement,” Richie recalled, mentioning his father lived to 100 years. “So I went over to Nelson and bought one of Gordon Stobbe’s beginner books and started going through it.”
Later that year, he saw an ad in the Trail Times that Stobbe was heading a fiddle camp in Castlegar.
Richie went to that camp, and since then, he has never looked back.
Together, he and Gabe still attend fiddle camps from Saskatchewan to Alberta and B.C. throughout the year, including Vollrath’s camp in Alberta.
“Being self-employed most of my life, I never really had time to learn,” Richie said. “So when I inherited dad’s violin I got started, and gosh it’s been a lot of fun ever since.”
Vollrath is one of the few European-Canadian fiddle players playing professionally in the Métis style. He lives in St. Paul, Alberta.
At 13, he entered his first fiddle contest and since then, has been twice crowned Grand North American Fiddle Champion. To date, he has composed nearly 600 tunes many of which have become standard contest and dance tunes across North America and Europe. Calvin was commissioned to compose five fiddle tunes for the Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010 Opening Ceremonies to represent the various styles of fiddling the country has to offer.
For tickets to Vollrath’s Oct. 30 show, visit the Bailey box office or buy tickets online at trail-arts.com.