Order of Canada recipient and fiddler Gordon Stobbe was back in Williams Lake last week working with the Cariboo Chilcotin Youth Fiddlers.
He arrived Monday and led workshops at Thompson Rivers University up until Friday.
On Saturday, Sept. 22, Stobbe along with the young fiddlers and their instructor Ingrid Johnston hosted a barn dance at the historical Onward Ranch.
“We will be playing some traditional old-time dance music,” Stobbe said ahead of the event. “There will be some square dancing and line dancing too, and we will be doing some waltzes, two-step and polkas.”
Johnston said they would also be doing a sneak peek to showcase some of the music the youth have been working on.
For more than a decade, Stobbe has been coming to the Cariboo to teach fiddlers and creating a new show for the Cariboo Chilcotin Youth Fiddlers every few years.
The latest show, which they started working on last year, will feature Celtic people, their history and music and will be performed in Williams Lake in May 2019.
Stobbe said when he was a kid, he’d look at a map of the world and all the countries that were under the Commonwealth were in red and they were all over the globe.
“The old saying, ‘the sun never sets on the British Empire,’ was where the Celtic people were as well. The Celtic people who migrated were sometimes the black sheep of the family. The criminals might be shipped off to Australia or people who had no prospects because older siblings had inherited everything might head for the new world. It could have been famine, or political strife. There were lots of reasons why people migrated.”
A lot of the Celts were clannish, he added.
“If somebody moved to some place they were followed by relatives and friends and all of a sudden a town that had no Irish people was full of Irish people. They would begin to blend in with other cultures and music did too. But there were some isolated places where the music hasn’t changed such as in Cape Breton where Scottish people arrived.”
Johnston said the show is about the different places the Celtic people migrated to and the different cultures that they mixed with, how they affected the people in those places and how they were influenced by the people in those different countries.
In receiving the Order of Canada, Stobbe was recognized for his commitment to the preservation of fiddle music as a performer, composer and teacher.
“For the first few segments of each class this week, Gord’s been talking about his experience receiving the Order of Canada and the different people he has met,” Johnston said. “It’s great because how many of our kids will ever meet someone who has received an Order of Canada?”
A few weeks ago the 35 recipients of the Order of Canada were inducted at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
“There were two musicians, an Olympic athlete, some scientists, teachers, people fighting for women’s issues, First Nations, a sculptor, and print-maker, a real cross-section of people who have devoted their life to doing one particular thing and made contributions in Canada that are significant,” Stobbe said.
Stobbe was also recognized for his willingness to travel across Canada and work with young fiddlers, Johnston said.
“Sometimes we ask someone to come to Williams Lake and they don’t want to so for us having someone who is willing to travel and come to a small city is amazing and work with kids of all ages and different instruments.”
The youth fiddlers are enjoying being back in the saddle playing now that the summer is officially over, Stobbe said.
“A lot of kids have been doing summer things. A lot of them went to the Gavin Lake fiddle camp in July, but now they are back in school and back with their instruments. I think for some of them there’s a little element of rust that’s being knocked off.”
Playing new music is always exciting too, he added.
They are working on a brand new set from South America with tango and salsa tunes, Johnston said.
“They are really enjoying that because they haven’t done anything ever from South America. It’s different rhythms and Gord spent some time last night working with a young guitar player.”
Some of the youth fiddlers are going to Nova Scotia in the first week of October and have three days planned to visit Cape Breton.
Next Friday, Sept. 28, because it’s a Pro-D day, some of the fiddler will be busking in grocery stores and at the farmers markets as a last fundraiser for the trip.
Johnston said the fiddlers received funding from the Central Cariboo Arts Society for the barn dance.