Fiddler alumni return to the Creek

Coast String Fiddlers

Jan DeGrass / Arts & Entertainment Writer
June 19, 2014 12:30 PM

Chelsea Sleep (third from left) leads the senior group of Bad to the Bow at last Saturday’s anniversary concert.

There were more than a few misty eyes in the audience last Saturday, June 14, when the Coast String Fiddlers (CSF) invited everyone to an anniversary concert and kitchen party at the Roberts Creek Hall — the venue where it all began 20 years ago.

Anneke Bonser opened the show with a fitting tune — Scotland the Brave on the bagpipes. 

Ann Law, who has been instrumental in encouraging music on the Coast for the past 20 years, hosted the concert.

“The fiddlers have put the Sunshine Coast on the map for Celtic music,” she told the audience, praising the Coast for the support the group had received. “This community has embraced them.”

Law spoke about the highlights over the years: the memorable trip to Iqaluit to play with local musicians, the two invitations to the Aberdeen International Youth Festival in 2005 and 2010 and the exchange visit with Belgian dance students. A video and media clipping retrospective on display at the hall showed the fiddlers on stage at Robbie Burns night, the traditional Christmas ceilidh and the Vancouver Folk Festival, among other appearances.  

The original CSF students that started out under Michelle Bruce’s tutelage in 1993 were younger then. They are all grown up now and some have continued on to musical careers of their own, inspired by what they learned and by the camaraderie of the group. Danny Hart, the first CSF student leader, has recently become a father himself.

Happily the founding group has had their bows taken up by the CSF 3G, the third generation of fiddlers led by an original player, Talia Strang. She first performed on stage at the age of two-and-a-half, a memorable occasion that ended sadly with a broken fiddle. Now in her graduate year, she is a polished performer and leads the little ones.

Chelsea Sleep, an alumna of the CSF, teaches the junior and senior fiddlers in Bad to the Bow. Sleep grew teary-eyed as she had to say a poignant farewell to two graduating students, Emilie Simkins and Ruby Riesco. Perhaps that’s why they followed up with a tune so haunting that it touched a musical chord in all of us. Many will remember Bad to the Bow from the traditional Father’s Day concerts. The senior group is all grown up, and they are playing with verve and polish.

Bruce could sometimes be seen playing in the background, looking on proudly. She said goodbye to graduating students Clare Lyle, Felix Rankin and Talia. Later, Bruce was thanked in a glowing tribute from Law then, in turn, Ann and John Law were thanked for their years of contribution.

The show closed with everyone who could play an instrument all crowded in on stage together, including returning CSF alumni. No need for music stands on stage as everyone had learned the tunes by ear. The singing and dancing continued after the concert with a kitchen party and refreshments.

The influence of the CSF-inspired School of Celtic Music held each year in the Creek is apparent. Many of the selected tunes were those of Daniel Lapp, Canadian composer, multi-instrumentalist and previously one of the school’s instructors.

The Sunshine Coast School of Celtic Music runs July 7 to 11 and is followed by the gala music event of the year, a concert at Rockwood in Sechelt on July 11 at which instructors and students perform. For more information about the school or for concert ticket availability, see 

© Copyright 2015 Coast Reporter


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