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.”