By Maggie Gammons
When I joined the IBRC as a youth intern in September, I was thrilled to learn that I would be working with a fellow fiddle player. Abby and I share a love for French-Canadian fiddle tunes, even though we learned to play them across the country from each other (she learned back east in Maine while I learned out in middle-of-nowhere Saskatchewan). From the start, we put our fiddle minds together and began scheming of ways to make a fiddle community here in Butte. This is a hard task to tackle, it turns out, when there are not many other fiddlers in town (unless, of course, they’re all in hiding), so we turned to the neighboring communities for our trial run.
On the 28th of November, we held our first ever Fiddle Tune Swap. Participants drove in from Bozeman, Helena, and Pony Montana, to join us Butte fiddlers for a day of tune learning, teaching, playing, and performing. Over the course of the afternoon, we learned 3 tunes: a Canadian Prairie tune, Old-time dance tune, and a funky contemporary Old-time cross tune (“Meligne Canyon” by Gordon Stobbe and J.J. Guy, “White Face” by Joe Thrift, and “Keeping the Cats Happy” by Mark Simos).
The tune I prepared to share was Meligne Canyon, written only last year by fiddle legend Gordon Stobbe of Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan fiddler J. J. Guy. I learned it right from the source, and have since played it with fiddle friends everywhere from Saskatchewan to Cape Breton— but never here in Butte. It was such a special experience for me to teach it at the tune swap and perform it at the showcase. I always feel like I’m participating in a tune’s evolution when I share a tune (and I can’t think of a more beautiful thing to share).
After we swapped our tunes, the IBRC held a tune showcase which was open to the public. It was exciting to see the Foreground Gallery fill with people coming out to listen to the participants perform. A truly enjoyable evening ensued for performers and listeners alike.
Our Tune Swap was successful on multiple levels. We achieved the main goal of the event (to swap tunes) but more importantly we learned that there are musicians out there who are looking to join a fiddle community— a community which we are in a position to foster. The IBRC looks forward to future fiddle-based events, and I have made it a personal resolution to host at least one more event like this before my internship ends. The showcase after the Tune Swap proved that Butte’s appreciation for fiddle music is there—now all we need is more players. This tune swap was the first step, and I’m excited to see what will come next.
If you are interested in supporting our fiddling endeavors, follow us on Facebook and look for the next Fiddle Tune Swap event, or feel free to send us an encouraging note to email@example.com.