Friday, August 6, 2010
The violin squeaks and scratches as my wife Heather saws back and forth across the strings. It is twenty-five years since she last played and this new violin is calling on all her concentration. Her intent Scottish face with the instrument tucked under its chin is willing a fiddle tune out into the summer air. A jig or a reel, about ‘Black Donald`s pipes’.
Back a hundred and fifty years or so her ancestors walked west for days from the Red River across a sea of rolling grass, to claim land near Pilot Mound in southern Manitoba. Years before that their ancestors had been evicted from homes in the north of Scotland and ended up near Glasgow in ship building. When that ended too with the advent of steel ships these carpenters moved on to Ontario, and soon after that on to the frontier in the prairies. As they travelled, wherever they went, you can be sure that all their folk music travelled on with them in their minds, ears, feet and fingers. Now, a few generations later, it is finding its voice again.
That persistence of music, what`s carried in a tune, is elusive. It is not simply history or culture but something more integral, more elemental than that. Heather`s face, the stance of her body speaks of channels in the mind, of character, that the music is reinforcing. She persists, as her ancestors persisted and it is not at all certain that it is not the music that is expressing itself and that she is but the carrier, coming to fiddle music at last as though fated to give it audible life once more.