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Sweet music

North Atlantic Fiddle Convention

A Crowd of Bold Sharemen will provide some of the local content for the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention

By David Sorensen

Memorial is hosting a massive gathering of fiddle aficionados in early August. The North Atlantic Fiddle Convention is part conference, part concert series taking place on the St. John’s campus and throughout the City of St. John’s from Aug. 3-8.

But it’s more than an academic exercise, said Newfoundland musician Fergus O’Byrne. He said festival organizers are offering something for anyone with an interest in the fiddle.

“The convention is more of an open house for fiddle music,” said Mr. O’Byrne, who is assisting the conference organizers with publicity. “There are public concerts and workshops throughout the week with world class fiddlers from around the North Atlantic rim.”

Organizers expect about 6,000 people to attend the performances and workshops and some 100 of the world’s leading fiddlers and fiddle scholars will be in St. John’s.

The symposium will see presentations from about 45 different scholars with presentations spanning a diverse range of subjects, including step dancing to hip hop, and fiddling in African culture.

Dr. Martin Lovelace of the Folklore department at Memorial and conference chair, said papers will be given by scholars from Western Europe, especially from Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Ireland, as well as Canada and the United States.

“The idea of the convention, which was pioneered by Dr. Ian Russell at the Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, is to bring together scholars and performers of fiddle and dance traditions to share their mutual enthusiasms,” said Dr. Lovelace. “Many scholars of fiddle and dance are also excellent performers, just as the performers are deeply knowledgeable about the traditions they have inherited and learned. The convention, with its conference, workshops, and concerts offers many opportunities for exchange of ideas.”

Dr. Lovelace added that six papers will be given by Memorial graduate students: Jill Allison, Anthropology; Kelly Best, Graham Blair, Meghan Bowen and Evelyn Osborne, Ethnomusicology; and Kristin Harris Walsh, Folklore.
Dr. Holly Everett of the Department of Folklore will also present a paper, as will two of Folklore’s recently retired faculty, Professor Emeritus Dr. Neil V. Rosenberg and Honorary Research Professor Dr. Peter Narváez.

Mr. O’Byrne said the concerts are a rare opportunity to see the world’s finest players in concert, with over 50 performers from around the world taking the sage for thematic evening concerts. The events will feature an average of six acts per show, with regional favourites like Crooked Stovepipe sharing the stage with international success stories like Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser.

Aside from evening concerts, there will be a number of day-time events, including Soup and Scandinavia, a lunchtime concert headlined by Denmark’s Haugaard and Høirup.

The final component of the conference is the workshops where the public can interact with and learn from the performers.

For more on the NAFCO convention, check out