Young fiddlers and accompanists descended on Onward Ranch south of Williams Lake recently for the final two days of a lively fiddle workshop focused on the ‘Fiddle History of Canada’ project that the Cariboo Chilcotin Youth Fiddle Society has been working on since September 2012.
The first two days of the workshop took place at Thompson Rivers University and the last two days took place at the ranch owned by fiddle instructor Ingrid Johnson and her husband, Ty Johnson.
Johnson was joined at the workshop by fellow fiddle instructors J.J. Guy and Gordon Stobbe.
Fiddle History of Canada, arranged by Stobbe, is a unique work that showcases a range of fiddle styles — showing how they originated and explaining the impact they had on old time fiddle music.
The recent workshop was the third dedicated to the project, introducing tunes in the second half of ‘Fiddle History’ and Johnson explained that the goal is to hold one final workshop in the spring before presenting the entire concert to the community.
“What’s unique about this old-time music project is that it builds on something for two years straight. In a band class you wouldn’t ever have a two-year time frame — there is a far faster turnover of kids.
She said the biggest benefit for the younger kids is that they hear the music before they even start to play it.
“Once they start playing it they can do it without thinking about it. It’s like osmosis.”
One big change at this workshop was holding the final two days at Onward Ranch. Besides being a true Cariboo heritage location, the ranch holds personal significance for Stobbe and Guy, who participated in a day-long cattle drive on four-wheelers last year following the fiddle workshop. Johnson said the two really got into it – revving the engines and hollering at the cattle.
Gordon Stobbe said that participating in the cattle drive was the “best thing.”
“We went from being fiddlers to being cowboys for a day. It was my first time on a big ranch and we actually worked with riders on horses to move the cattle,” he said. “One rider became ill and we had to hold down the fort – we weren’t just ‘dudes’ and we had the cow poop on our clothes to prove it.”
“I was so excited to see ‘Big Red,’ the ATV I drove on the ranch last year,” J.J. Guy said, adding that teaching the final two days of the workshop on the ranch this time around was a real treat for him.
“I really like working with young kids — some may say it’s because I never really grew up,” he said. “I know how important the right teacher can be; I never really had one growing up. I know what it’s like to start out as a kid. It can feel overwhelming.
A real highlight for Johnson at the workshop was seeing the ranch ‘brought to life’ with the kids on hand.
“My husband and I have often said, after our year-end barn concerts that it’s so great to have kids running around in packs, yelling and having fun,” she said. “Having the workshop kids here playing instruments around a campfire is such a highlight — it’s a new experience for many of the kids.”