Fiddling, step-dance students fare well at Maritime Fiddle Festival

Katie Tower
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Students of Sackville’s Stacey Read excelled in competition at the recent Maritime Fiddle Festival. From left to right are Marlise Carter, Samantha Terrio, Stacey Read, Meredith Hicks, Miriam Hicks and Madeline Carter, and in front is Maize Carter. PHOTO SUBMITTED

SACKVILLE, N.B. – Sackville fiddling prodigy Stacey Read got her start at the Maritime Fiddle Festival at the age of four. Twenty-five years later Read still continues to promote and take part in the event, traveling to Dartmouth to see her young fiddle and step-dance students compete and take in all the festivities.

Held this year from July 4-7, Read said her students did well in the competition, with many making the finals in their categories and placing in their divisions. But more importantly, they had fun, made friends and had the opportunity to see what this type of event is all about.

“It was a very good experience for them,” she said. “They can’t wait to go back next year.”

Celebrating its 65th year, the Maritime Fiddle Festival is Canada’s longest-running old-time fiddle festival and competition. Every year the festival welcomes participants, bus tours, and audiences from across North America and around the world.

Read said it’s one of very few fiddling competitions remaining in the Maritimes today and is only one of two that features fiddle and step-dance contests both in the same event.

“This is a pretty big one,” she said.

For three of her students, it was their first time ever competing and they enjoyed the experience, said Read. They didn’t even feel like it was a competition as there were other aspects to the weekend, including workshops and concert performances.

This year's featured performer on Saturday night was Donnell Leahy, married to the equally-famous Natalie MacMaster, said Read.

“It was a real treat to have Donnell there playing and Natalie even got up and played, as did four of their six young children,” she said. “It was very inspiring for the students to watch the young Leahy/MacMaster children on stage.”

Ten of Read’s students brought home awards or medals from the competition, six from the Sackville area and four from the Moncton region. The Sackville prize winners include: in nine-and-under fiddle, Marlise Carter placed third; in 10-to-12 fiddle, Miriam Hicks came in second, Madeline Carter came in third, and Samantha Terrio came in fourth. In 12-and-under fiddle, Meredith Hicks was the first-place winner: and Madeline Carter brought home a silver for 12-and-under dance. Maize Carter also competed in step dance for the first time and, although didn’t place, did well for her first competition.

Read said the hope is that this up-and-coming generation of musicians will continue to play a role in preserving old-time fiddling and “build this into the future.”

“It’s nice to see that age group there . . . and it’s important for the students to go there and meet others the same age who are doing the same thing as them.”

The four students from Moncton who competed in the Maritime Fiddle Festival also recently returned from a musical-cultural exchange in Ireland with Read, where they had many opportunities to perform and share the “music of our region” with the musicians there.

“The girls were incredibly well received as was our great collection of ‘down East old time fiddle tunes’ and Acadian-style music,” said Read.

Read said she and the girls put on 11 performances throughout their time in Ireland, including at cultural centres, seniors homes and a special Canada Day show at the Canadian Consulate in Dublin.

The Moncton girls took a number of gold, silver and bronze placings at the Dartmouth fiddle festival. Janelle Melanson, who was winner of the Don Messer Memorial prize for the highest points for any Maritime resident, also won the Fiddler’s Grand Prize, receiving an all-expense paid trip to the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddle camp, which takes place the week before the prestigious Grand Masters Fiddle Competition, which she has also been selected to compete in.

Organizations: MacMaster, Canadian Consulate

Geographic location: SACKVILLE, Dartmouth, Moncton Canada North America Ireland Dublin

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