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Features for the week of November 5, 2012

Canada's top fiddler photo

Canada's top fiddler plays Tuffnell Hall

People think of Tuffnell as just another little town in Saskatchewan but to participants in the old time music and fiddling business it is an important stop thanks to the Tuffnell Circle Jammers and the Fiddle and Guitar Camp. For fiddler Calvin Vollrath it was an opportunity to play a concert in a community that has encouraged fiddling for a number of years. "It is absolutely an honour to have such a great group of musicians in our little town of Tuffnell," said show organizer Laureen Kells during the evening. She, along with other members of the Tuffnell Circle Jammers, worked with Calvin to make the show happen.

The concert took place on October 26th at the Tuffnell Community Hall and, as usual, there were very few empty seats. Calvin was accompanied by Troy Mcgillvery on the keyboards, Lucas Welsh on guitar and his wife Rhea Labrie who is a French Canadian step dancer. Calvin is the number one fiddler in Canada at the moment. During the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games he wrote and helped perform five fiddle tunes which were featured during the opening ceremonies. "I was tickled pink they came to a prairie boy to play that music," said Calvin.

His show was entertaining and sometimes amusing as he connected with the audience very well. He writes many of his own songs but also made his fiddle sing with familiar tunes such as Danny Boy and a medley of popular fiddle tunes. His songs have lots of character in both the title and the style of his music. "Sometimes the tunes just come to you, you don't have to think a lot about it," said Calvin when talking to the audience about his music. Little Burnt Potato, Red River Jig and the Carnival Waltz were among the tunes he wrote and performed on Friday evening. "We play it just like they did in the old days with a fiddle and no piano or guitar," Calvin added, just before playing the Red River Jig while his wife danced. He likes the Cape Breton style of playing and much of his music reflects that.

During the evening Rhea joined him on stage and step danced to some of the tunes. The dancing went well with the music and the audience seemed to really enjoy watching her. The last song of the performance was the Cocky Red Chicken which Calvin and the band played while she danced. Calvin and his crew played for almost two hours with an intermission near the mid way point. He had a variety of his CDs for sale and took the time to chat with members of the audience.

Calvin is originally from Saskatchewan and now lives in St. Paul, AB. The concert came about because he is on his way home and doing concerts in Yorkton and Saskatoon. He wanted to stop in Tuffnell because of its connection to old time music and fiddling.

Before the main show started, a cheque for five hundred dollars was presented to Cathy Sproule by Robert Hay of the Nipawin Fiddle Contest and Rotary Club. The cheque was to put towards the Grande Masters Fiddle Championships to be held in Saskatoon in 2013. There were tables set up near the door displaying information on the Grande Masters Championship along with the Tuffnell Fiddle and Guitar Camp scheduled for next July. Fifty tickets were available and anyone who wanted to could stay and do a little dancing after the show when some of the Circle Jammers joined Calvin on stage.

- Sharolyn Olafson