Métis fiddler Mel Bedard will be remembered for his prodigious talent and generous spirit. The multi-award winning musician passed away on May 19 at the age of 85.
Fiddler Patti Lamoureux first met Bedard when she was seven years old and just getting into the fiddle contest circuit. She recalls him coming over to the house regularly, jamming with her and teaching her tunes. He would even phone her up when he discovered a new tune that he thought she would like and teach it to her over the phone.
"He was quite the mentor to me and a lot of other fiddle players, and I just really enjoyed hanging out with him," she said.
Among the other fiddlers he mentored is the modern master Calvin Vollrath, of Edmonton. He frequently recounts the story of Bedard driving out to Edmonton to hear him play in his first fiddle contest, then staying to encourage him, explain the ropes and fill him in on the fiddle contest scene.
Bedard was noted for his traditional Red River style of playing, which he learned from his friend, fiddling great Andy DeJarlis.
"Andy DeJarlis was a big influence of his and he was a hero of mine as well," said Lamoureux. "I remember Mel telling me stories about Andy, so I would soak all that up through Mel, him being an idol, but also hearing about my other idol through him."
Fiddle contests are legendary in Manitoba and really reached a zenith in the 1970s and 80s. They took place in small communities and lasted the entire weekend with people frequently camping out in summers.
"They were full of dancing, and after the contest, the fiddles would come out and the jamming would start. The competition was sort of secondary. It's all about the camaraderie and the friendships that are made and the fun we'd have afterwards. The jams would often go on until dawn and Mel was always the last one standing," she said, laughing.
Lamoureux will remember Bedard as a great friend. "He was just always willing to share his music, and to share what he learned by his experiences. His legacy will live on."
A memorial service will be held for Mel Bedard in his home town of Selkirk. Man. at the Gilbart Funeral Home on Monday, May 26 at 2:00 p.m.