Craig Bakay | May 08, 2019
“Keep calm and fiddle on” was the motto last Saturday as the Blue Skies Community Fiddle Orchestra held its 8th annual Jam-a-thon & Pie Auction fundraiser at the Maberly Hall.
The hall was packed with music and musicians, and yes, the great majority of those were fiddles and fiddlers.
And right in the middle of it all was orchestra leader Cindy McCall, complete in her Yes (the band) T-shirt, handing out percussion instruments and providing some semblance of organization to all this (it’s a jam, after all, how much actual structure can there be?).
“I’m having a great time,” she said. “It’s our major fundraiser and we have more bands than ever participating — all ages and styles.
“There’s a lot of goodwill here — a lot of people brought food and donated things.
“Many people brought tunes they wrote and they gave me the music and charts to hand out.”
McCall has been leading the Orchestra for 10 years.
“There are 53 people in the orchestra right now,” she said. “There were 10 when I started.
“We’re in a pretty rural area here and there isn’t a lot of arts and music education in the schools.
“(But) the tradition of fiddle music is very strong here.”
And that’s important, she said, because passing on those traditions is a big part of what they do.
“If we don’t pass this on to our kids, it will die,” she said. “(The Orchestra) is a vector for musical education.
“It’s community based and next year will be our 20th.
“It’s touched hundreds of lives.”
To that end they’re planning a 20th anniversary concert, likely in the late summer or fall of 2020 which will include some of the musicians who got their start in the Orchestra like fiddler Jessica Wedden, Jaier Mullally, who’s studying opera at U of T and the Sullivan brothers, J. T. and Noah.
There have been plenty of offshoot of the orchestra such as Fiddlers and Friends and the current trio, The Space Between (Fern Marwood, Sarah Jeffrie, Willow Marwood) and others like Jerrard Smith, who’s still a member but on this day brought his own band DLUX (David Pollard, Diana Smith, Vicki Hanes, Marty Rennick and Larry Hanes) to jam along.
“The lending library gives me the tools to put a fiddle in any hands that want one,” McCall said. “And every fall, we start a new beginners class.
“This has become more than a full-time job for me.”
And for the record, that was Lois Webster behind the mask, auctioning off pies, most of which went in the $40 range.
“Thank you to the community for all its support,” McCall said. “We couldn’t do this without them.”