Prince George

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Branch #1, Prince George, is a vibrant group of fiddlers, backup musicians, and those who just love to listen, who enjoy getting together to jam, dance and have fun together! We are committed to bringing the upbeat, happy sound of old-time music to our community by providing music at various events, dances, and seniors’ residences. We jam Tuesdays at 7 pm, 663 Douglas St. Come join us!

BRANCH #1 CONTACTS

Branch Mailing Address – Box 416, Prince George, BC V2L 4S2       

Facebook Address – https://www.facebook.com/pgfiddlers   

Phone or E-mail – E-mail: pgfiddlers@gmail.com  (250) 565-1025

NEWS LETTERS  For recent news and upcoming events check out our latest Branch #1 newsletter – click on date below

January 2024

PREVIOUS NEWS LETTERS CLICK HERE

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BRANCH #1 EXECUTIVE AND MEMBERSHIP

Executive for 2024, elected at AGM February 18, 2024         

  • President: Beth Bressette
  • Vice President: Shawnee Newton
  • Treasurer: Michelle Sims
  • Secretary: Richard Mansfield

Directors:

  • Alex Arnott
  • Elizabeth Eakin
  • Barry Nakahara
  • Brian Orr
  • Doug Borden

Membership                                                                                                          

66 Members, including 9 children/youth and 12 ‘Life Members’  (special designation with benefits awarded to those members who have provided exceptional volunteer support for the club). Within our membership there are 21 fiddlers and 20 backup musicians. Annual membership, due 01 September each year, is $16 for adults and free for children and teens under 18 with an adult member.

REGULAR EVENTS

MONTHLY DANCES –  2nd Saturdays  Sept – March (except Dec)  At some of our dances the hall has been packed!  We encourage families to attend our dances by keeping our door price low  and not charging for children under 18 with parents/grandparents, and the result has been a great mix of all ages, where dancers can learn some group and couple dances. Dances are 7 – 11 pm at the  Elks Hall, 663 Douglas St. Admission $10, includes ice cream bar snacks, door prizes and spot dance prizes. After March 9 the next dance will be Sept 14, 2024.

WEEKLY JAM SESSIONSevery Tuesday evening 7 – 9 pm, September to June 30 at 663 Douglas St. Cost $5 towards hall rent. All instruments welcome, as well as those wishing to just pull up a chair and listen or have a dance or two. For more information call (250) 565-1025.

GROUP BEGINNER FIDDLE LESSONS Group lessons with Shawnee Newton. They run in six-week packages for new and beginner fiddlers of all ages; $60. Please contact Shawnee regarding the next session start dates at (250) 568-2215 or (250) 614-8192 or at shawneem@telus.net.

ANNUAL SPRING JAMBOREE  – Our 2024 Spring Jamboree was an amazing success, with four talented instructors – Alex Kusturok, Chloe Davidson, Nolan Murray and Bruce Coughlan putting on a great concert and top-notch instruction for those 42 who registered for the weekend lessons. Friday night kicked off the weekend with a Family Dance/Ice Cream Social.

PLAYOUTS groups of fiddlers and backup musicians volunteer their time to entertain at seniors’ residences and special events in the community as they come up.

GUEST INSTRUCTORSThe club occasionally brings in a renowned fiddler to put on a concert and provide group instruction  and individual private lessons if desired.

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BURSARY – Application deadline May 15

Branch #1 offers a bursary to a young person graduating Grade 12 and going on to post-secondary studies. The bursary is awarded annually based on contributions to the club by the applicant and their immediate family.  Eligibility:

  • The applicant must be an active and current member of the Branch for at least the past year
  • The applicant and/or a member of the applicant’s immediate family must have contributed a minimum 10 hours of volunteer time to branch activities and events over the past calendar year.
  • The applicant must provide proof of enrollment in a full-time post-secondary program.
  • Can be eligible for up to 4 years provided criteria is met each year.
  • Up to $500 annually; amount to be determined by the board

Application process Please submit a letter by May 15 to BC Old Time Fiddlers’ Association at pgfiddlers@gmail.com or Box 416 Prince George, BC V2L4S2  _____________________________________________________________________________

HISTORY of BRANCH #1

Informal fiddling jam sessions in the 1960s in Prince George led to the formation of the BC Old Time Fiddlers’ Association in 1968 in Prince George that would bring all fiddlers and backup musicians together to further promote and encourage the art of old-time fiddling.  The founding members became the first board, but other enthusiasts quickly joined in. The board formed their own constitution and held their first contest in 1970.  For the early years the contest was held in conjunction with the Fall Fair and was extremely popular.  Guest fiddlers in the early years (who were also judges) included Al Cherney, Graham Townsend, Calvin Vollrath and Reg Bouvette.  Fiddlers came from all over the province as well as Alberta and the US to enter the contests, which eventually led to the formation of other branches throughout the province. In 1978 a group was formed to head up a provincial association and Prince George became Branch #1 of the British Columbia Old Time Fiddlers’ Association. The Prince George club became very active in the 1970s and 80s, and in 1977 had two 16 foot giant fiddles built to scale that decorated parade floats and contest halls for many years. The Championship Contest continued to be held in Prince George for 1978 and 79, and after that it began to rotate throughout the branches. Prince George hosted the Provincial Championships in 1989 and 2014 to mark the club’s 20th and 45th Anniversaries. In November 2018 we had a fantastic evening to mark our 50 YEAR CELEBRATION.  There was a full house of 135 tickets for a catered dinner, concert featuring former and current members performing tunes written by some of the early members, and a dance. We even brought in one last showing of our GIANT FIDDLES, which were created for the club in the 70s.

CURRENT

The first branch has evolved since its formation 55 years ago, and we currently have a good mix of  all ages participating in jams, lessons, dances, jamborees, play-outs, performances and volunteering. The branch has grown and changed, and become a more vibrant part of the community.  Like many other branches, the Prince George branch became concerned with decreasing numbers of contestants in the contests, and in 2015 replaced the contest with a Jamboree, a fun weekend filled with workshops for various levels of fiddling and backup, as well as a concert, dinner and dance. Our first seven Jamborees have been great successes and we expect to plan another for next spring!

Before Covid, our Thursday Jam nights brought 50 to 80 people out weekly at 7 pm; at least half of these folks come to listen and dance. On jam nights we offered group lessons in adjoining rooms, both beginner and intermediate/advanced, for the first 45 min while the accompanists had their opportunity to provide songs and music for the dancers in the main hall. A weekly group fiddle lesson was a dream of two of our members who have since passed away, Charlotte Lapp and Ardea Wylie. After their lesson this mixed group of children, teens and adults of all levels of ability then went on stage together to play some of the new tunes they had been learning, as well as other fiddle tunes, until 9:30 pm.  As always, the fiddlers were joined by an array of backup musicians on stage and a room full of dancers on the floor, which gave them an opportunity to learn dance tempos and practise playing with other musicians.  This group often opened for celebrity fiddlers that we hosted for concerts and workshops. They also played for community events as a large group, while smaller groups played regularly each month at 8 seniors’ residences.  Besides our weekly jams we had monthly dances from September to March, with rotating groups of fiddlers and backup providing the dance music, and volunteers providing a lunch and bar.

Covid changed all of this, and when we couldn’t rent the previous hall we moved our Jamming to the Elks Hall. We have decided for now to stay at this venue, where we have a small acoustic circle jam instead of a big weekly dance. It is hoped those who used to enjoy our weekly jam-dances will come to our monthly dances instead.  We are learning lots of new tunes and are able to perfect them by slowing them down when we need to, without worrying about the dancers.  We don’t know for certain what the future will look like, but for now we are holding small jams and working on our tunes. Everyone is welcome to come out – to play, watch or dance.

The club is able to continue only as long as we have helpful and willing volunteers, which can be challenging in this busy day and age. We now have a Facebook page, a valuable way to share upcoming events and new fiddle tunes. With our membership at 50 – 60 (once the stragglers renew their memberships) and new fiddlers coming all the time, we believe the club is an inspiration to the community to develop an appreciation for old time fiddle music, as well as being a source of learning and enjoyment for all member musicians and supporters.

Annual General Meeting 

  • Our last AGM was Sunday, February 18, 2024, preceded by a potluck dinner.