An army of fiddlers both young and old descended on Prince Rupert on Oct. 7, as the Valley Youth Fiddlers took to the Lester Centre stage to perform Alaria’s Fiddle.
“We had a great evening tonight, and it was an incredibly responsive audience,” said Leslie-Jean MacMillan, the production’s music director. “We’ve come here before and people that we know from before showed up to support us, and it was so good to see them.”
Alaria’s Fiddle is a musical that was developed and written by the Smithers-based group. It’s a story about a young girl named Alaria who lives on an isolated lighthouse on Canada’s west coast. Alaria has little to do, but play her fiddle over the marine radio to fisherman sailing close to the island, but becomes frustrated when she runs out of new music to play. She sends out notes in bottles to the world asking for music to play, and she receives gifts of music from different countries around the globe.
The result is a diverse and eclectic performance that draws on the diverse musical tastes of cultures from around the world. Combined with musical proficiency and sheer size of over 50 fiddlers and other musicians in the group, Alaria’s Fiddle was a performance that thoroughly entertained the crowd.
Patrick Williston, who wrote Alaria’s Fiddle, said the fiddlers were excited to tell a maritime story in a maritime community where fishing is a part of the way of life. As someone who grew up on the northwest coast and now has two daughters, Williston said it was his own experience on the ocean that influenced the writing and telling of this story.
“Hearing the sound of marine radio is something people are intimately familiar with here,” he said. “And i know that when I’m out on the coast, those sounds can both be calming and reassuring, and can fill you with a sense of anxiety.”
Prince Rupert is the second leg in the fiddler’s Fall tour schedule. MacMillan said the group has already performed in Terrace, and would be taking the show to Witset, Smithers and Burns Lake to finish the season. The group also performed on the lower mainland earlier in the Spring. She said having a community come together to share in a passion like this was a unique experience that she is grateful for.
“It’s great that you have families and neighbours together on stage,” she said. “Sometimes the kids help the adults, sometimes the older ones help the younger ones, and then you catch them behind the stage jamming out. It’s like family.”