For 19 years, the Blue Skies Fiddle Orchestra has been playing a ‘Little Christmas’ concert in January and last Sunday it once again filled the Maberly Hall with people and music.
Joined by the Lanark Fiddlers Guild, the group played a three-hour concert with a variety of tunes ranging from Logging Camp Christmas to Silent Night under the direction of conductor Cindy McCall, who’s now in her ninth year at the helm of the group.
McCall needed some time to collect herself after the concert but offered: “This happens every concert — I put my heart and soul into it.”
The orchestra itself consists of some 60 players, including 36 or so in the main group along with about 15 beginners and 10 intermediates.
“The transformative effect this has on people in terms of community is amazing,” McCall said. “It crosses all ages and not many organizations are like that.”
Jessica Wedden, who’s been making a name for herself as a solo performer for some time now, would agree. A high school student now, this was her fifth Little Christmas concert and she got her start with the orchestra.
“Cindy’s amazing,” Wedden said. “Everyone’s so supportive.”
For Wedden, although she enjoys her solo career and/or playing with one or two other musicians, said playing with the orchestra is cathartic.
“It’s relaxing,” she said. “It’s really nice playing with so many other people who support each other.”
The group really does span all ages, from kids to great grandparents.
The acknowledged veteran of the group is Martina Field-Green, who played in the very first concert back in 2000.
“For the first few years, we played at Oso Hall in Sharbot Lake,” she said. “We were about 12-15 people then and it was just fiddles — we didn’t start adding other instruments until later.
“It was the dream of (founder) Carolyn Stewart.”
She said Stewart started bringing in workshops and they started adding things like pennywhistles and “drums to keep us together.”
She said they gradually started adding more instruments.
“Carolyn’s dream was to bring fiddle music back to the area where it was so prevalent many years ago,” she said.
If you’d like to join the group, learn fiddle or are just curious, call McCall at 613-278-2448.
In addition to lessons and concerts, they also go to jamborees in Cape Breton and PEI and hold an annual Jamathon fundraiser.
“We draw people from all sorts of remote communities,” she said. “It’s affordable because of the support from Blue Skies in the Community.”
Rural Frontenac Community Services has been awarded $952.83 from Blue Skies in the Community to continue the Frontenac Skies bucket drumming ensemble. With the Blue Skies funding new percussion instruments were purchased for the group.
Frontenac Skies is a percussion ensemble that features children and youth using bucket drums to create sound, rhythm and songs. This project continues to address the need for free, fun musical activities in the area that encourage rural youth to learn an instrument, be active and connect with a group in their own community in a fun environment that promotes inclusion.
Children and youth interested in joining the ensemble, join Lily at the Child Centre (1004 Art Duffy Rd., Sharbot Lake) on Wednesdays from 3:00-4:00 pm.
Upcoming: Join Lily and the Frontenac Skies on Sunday, February 10, 2019 during the Heritage Festival to try out the new percussion instruments and listen to the ensemble. The Child Centre will be open from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm with lots of activities for families to enjoy, including snow shoeing.
“The Blue Skies Community Fiddle Orchestra” directed by Cindy McCall is an all ages group of 50+ fiddlers, with guitar, percussion, whistle, viola, cello, bass and flute accompaniment. They will perform some of their recently perfected delightful repertoire. This enthusiastic bunch hails from the rural areas close by and rehearses every other Sat and Wednesday at the Maberly Hall. Their fiddle music is sure to get your toes tapping and the fun they are having is contagious!
The Lanark Fiddlers Guild directed by Cindy McCall will perform a selection of Celtic and Christmas tunes. Their arrangements will make the old wooden hall ring with splendor.
Then the Fiddlers Guild will join together with the Blue Skies Fiddlers for a dynamic selection of seasonal favourites from all over the world.
Please join us at the Maberly hall from 2pm to 5pm for our annual “Little Christmas Concert”.
Admission is $10 at the door. Children are free. Refreshments are available.
You’re in for a real treat on Sunday Jan 7, 2018
“The Blue Skies Community Fiddle Orchestra” directed by Cindy McCall is an all ages group of 40+ fiddlers, with guitar, percussion, piano & penny Whistle, viola, bass, cello, and flute accompaniment. They will perform some of their recently perfected delightful repertoire. This enthusiastic bunch hails from the rural areas close by and rehearses on Saturday and Wednesday at the Maberly Hall. Their fiddle music is sure to get your toes tapping and the fun they are having is contagious.
The Lanark Fiddlers Guild directed by Cindy McCall will perform a selection of Celtic and Christmas tunes. Their arrangements will make the old Wooden hall ring with splendor.
“The Unspoken Rests” a youth segment of the Blue Skies Orchestra will also perform a few Jigs and Reels that they have been polishing up for your enjoyment.
Please join us at the Maberly Hall from 2pm to 5pm for our annual “Little Christmas Concert”. Admission is $10 at the Door. Children under 12 are free. Refreshments available.
Prepare yourselves for a delightful afternoon of fiddles, friends, and Chnstmas cheer! Join the Blue Skies Community Fiddle Orchestra for their 17th annual "Little Christmas Concert' on Sunday January 8 at the Maberly Hall from 2-5pm.
The concert will feature the joint talents of the Prep Orchestra (who have only been playing together since October), the Intermediate Orchestra, the BSFO, and the always anticipated Lanark Fiddler`s Guild. The Unspoken Rests, a talented youth ensemble group representing the BSFO, will also play a lively set of tunes.
Admission is $10 and refreshments are available. Be sure to arrive early. It's always a full house! Bring your family and friends to enjoy the Christmas spirit through music.
The Drum is the thing as Sullivan makes his mark as Artistic Director
Scheduling a family-based Drum from Peterborough to open the Blue Skies Festival on Friday night, and the Big Smoke Drum along with Chilean-based hip hop artist Akawui to close the festival on Sunday night, was a precedent-setting decision from Danny Sullivan in his first year as artistic director.
It was the first time a drum has graced the main stage in many years, even as the festival has explored music from around the world. The experiment worked, as the first performance culminated in a round dance with hundreds of participants, and the finale on Sunday night brought the entire crowd back their feet.
In between, the musical highlights included performances by the 14-member Lemon Bucket Orchestra from Toronto; Jonathan Byrd and the Urban Cowboys from Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Irish Mythen from PEI; and Swamperella from Toronto, among others.
The hot, sunny weather, along with a push by festival organizers (who are all volunteers) to increase the sale of single day passes to the event, helped set an attendance record on Saturday. In the past, the festival has been notoriously reluctant to promote itself for fear of overcrowding the festival site.
Overcrowding did not prove to be an issue, however, as the crew of site and parking volunteers was able to handle the crowds. Aside from some sunburns and an ambulance call for a broken leg, the festival went off without a hitch in its 43rd rendition.
The Blue Skies Music Festival has been around for 43 years, but for many people it is a phantom event. Day passes have been available at locations in Perth, Kingston and Ottawa, but they can be sold out by mid-July. A schedule of performers is never published until a few days before the festival, and although people who make the trip up to Clarendon always report that the performances are memorable and the vibe is more than friendly, many people feel that the festival is not accessible.
That is all changing, as Blue Skies finally joins the 1990s (it may even make it to the new millennium in a few years).
Not only is the schedule of performers available online at blueskiesmusicfestival.ca, tickets are also available at the same location. Camping passes are still hard to come by, as many of them are reserved for committed volunteers and the rest are allocated by lottery in May of each year, but Friday night, Saturday and Sunday tickets are now readily available. In addition to being available online, they can be purchased at the front gate to the festival, on Clarendon Road off Road 509, on the Saturday and Sunday morning of the festival, which takes place on July 30 and 31 this year.
The festival has a new artistic director this year, Danny Sullivan, who may be familiar to some readers because he has programmed several music series at MERA in McDonalds Corners. Sullivan, who lives with his family off the Bennett Lake Road north of Maberly, served as the artistic director at Blue Skies once before, he recalled when interviewed earlier this week, in the mid-1980s.
At that time the music director at the festival had less authority than they do now. The bands they wanted to hire were vetted by a committee.
“I left the job after one year, even though it is usually a three-year term,” Sullivan said, “because it was hard to program the way I wanted to while pleasing a group like that.”
Since taking on the job after last year's festival, Sullivan has attended different kinds of music conferences and showcases in Montreal, Toronto, and elsewhere.
“I made sure to see a live performance by every band that I booked this year. You can't tell how a band performs in front of an audience by their recordings and videos,” he said, “and I not only had the job of booking the bands, I also have to put together programs that fit together well.”
He also decided that, for his first year, he would not book any acts that have already played at Blue Skies in the past.
“One of the performers I am most looking forward to seeing, Corin Raymond, was at Blue Skies with the band, the Undesirables, several years ago but he is coming back as a solo act. He always brings something different to the stage,” Sullivan said.
Another act that he mentioned was Akawui, who will be closing the festival on the Sunday night.
“Akawui is a former mixed martial arts fighter of Chilean heritage, who has indigenous roots through his Mapuch grandmother. He performs in a Latino-urban-electro style with a hint of the Chilean star-band Inti Illimani. At the end of his show he is joined by dancers from Akwasasne in full mask. It should be a spectacle that will get people moving.”
The final act dovetails with the opening of the festival on Friday night.
“Blue Skies is one of the only festivals that owns the land where it takes place, and this is the 10th anniversary of the year when the land was purchased. In order to celebrate that, and the 40 years before that when the land was owned by Oskar Graf, as well as the Algonquin stewardship of the land for thousands of years before that, we will be holding a drumming ceremony to start the festival with members of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation.”
Danny Sullivan said he already has plans for next year's festival, but for now he is looking forward to seeing how all the pieces he has assembled will come together in 2016.
And for the first time ever, everything anyone needs to know about attending the festival can be found at their website.
On April 23, the Blue Skies Fiddle Orchestra (BSFO) Jam-a-thon took place at the Maberly Hall. This year's Jam-a-thon, which was a fundraiser for the orchestra, also celebrated Tay Valley Township's 200th anniversary of the Perth Military Settlement.
The all-afternoon acoustic jam circle featured an array of soloists, trios and groups sharing songs with a community of joyful musicians and listeners.
The day began with Gary's lively play-along tunes. The hall was abuzz with the sounds of all kinds of instruments, including the fiddle, bass, mandolin, cello, and ukulele.
Next, the beginner and intermediate groups showcased their well-rehearsed sets of reels, jigs and hornpipes.
Shortly after, the Unspoken Rests, a youth ensemble group representing the BSFO, played their signature set of tunes, featuring their own arrangements and ending with a rock n' roll, foot-stomping tune by Gordon Stobbe.
The Fiddlers Guild then performed their dynamic sets of tunes, some of which were accompanied by entertaining narratives.
To follow, the Long Sault Trio shared their music, which consisted of original and traditional tunes, and ended with a captivating, new vocal number.
The Classical Group brought a new angle of music to the Jam-a-thon and many people were raring to play along and join the fun.
The pie auction was a massive success. Eager pie-buyers helped raise over $300 on the auction alone.
At the end of the afternoon, the over 50-member Blue Skies Community Fiddle Orchestra performed their polished set-list of tunes including bluegrass, Scottish, and Cape Breton tunes.
With the help of sponsors and the community, over $3000 was raised from the Jam-a-thon. The jam was a great turnout and for sure a huge success for the BSFO.
Community Fiddle Orchestra to hold “Little Christmas Concert”
by Jeff Green
Why hold a Christmas concert in January?
Either because you celebrate Christmas on January 6 as the Orthodox churches do, or because you are the Blue Skies Community Orchestra.
At one time the orchestra held their Christmas concert on the Saturday or Sunday before Christmas, but one year, this being southern Ontario, an ice storm hit on the day of the concert. Instead of canceling completely until the following Christmas, the orchestra booked the Maberly Hall for the first Sunday in January, and through word of mouth and some frantic postering, a crowd came out to hear Christmas music two weeks after Christmas.
Not only was it a large crowd, it was an appreciative crowd, and it led the orchestra to switch the date of their Little Christmas concert on a permanent basis.
So, on January 3, 2016 at the Maberly hall, everyone is invited to extend the holiday musical season from 2 – 5 pm.
The Blue Skies Fiddle Orchestra, as well as their intermediate and beginner orchestras, will be playing. Also the “Unspoken Rests”, a group of talented young orchestra members who have taken on some of the classical repertoire, will perform. Rounding out the entertainment are the “Lanarky Fiddlers Guild”, who were formerly known as the Heritage Fiddle Orchestra.
The orchestras will perform seasonal favorites, among many others.
Admission is $5 and refreshments will be available.