Yukon's fiddlers supporting Paraguay children who play instruments made from trash

A gap is being bridged between fiddlers in the Yukon and a young orchestra in the slums of Paraguay Monday.

'It really helped me think about how little you can live with' says young Yukon fiddler

Young Yukon musicians, the Fiddleheads, are fundraising to support children who play in the Recycled Orchestra in Paraguay. (Left to Right) Melina Stad, Ava Milner, Kate Mason, Menna Zanger, Keitha Clark, Sascha Nelson. (submitted by Keitha Clark)

Whitehorse woman Keitha Clark has been playing the fiddle for 20 years.

But she'd never seen anything like this one: an upcycled fiddle with a taped-up metal body, a heavy, solid wood scroll at the head and a neglected metal fork as its tail.

This recycled instrument was made completely out of trash from the landfills in Cateura, Paraguay. The Recycled Orchestra plays music from these instruments made from old oil cans and discarded wood and tools. (submitted by Keitha Clark)

"It was heavy, that's what struck me about it," said Clark, the artistic director of the Fiddleheads, a fiddle group for Yukon's young musicians.

The recycled instrument was made completely out of trash in the small town of Cateura, Paraguay — home to the country's largest landfill.

"The guy who crafted the instrument, he had never had any experience making [them]. He worked at the landfill in Cateura… He didn't really know what he was doing, yet he built those beautiful pieces," said Clark.

It helped connect a group in Paraguay to a group of fiddlers in Whitehorse.- Keitha Clark

And it's these very recycled instruments that a group of children in Cateura use to make beautiful melodies. The group is called the Recycled Orchestra, and on Monday evening, the Fiddleheads are screening a film in Whitehorse based on their Paraguay colleagues.

"I like how they use the trash that they live with and make instruments out of that," said 13-year-old Melina Stad, one of the senior members of the Fiddleheads. 

Stad says the recycled instruments sound "really good" and that it's "really cool" how it brings the community together.

"It really helped me think about how little you can live with and how little you need," said Stad.

Playing one first hand

Last year, Clark had a "serendipitous" opportunity to play some Yukon tunes on one of the recycled fiddles while delivering funds for the Recycled Orchestra by hand to a contact in Vancouver. He had one of the recycled instruments at his home.

Clark had a 'serendipitous' opportunity to play one of the recycled instruments made in Cateura. She said it sounded 'mellow and warm.' (Left to right) Janos Mate and Keitha Clark. (submitted by Keitha Clark)

"To have a first hand connection to one of those instruments that the kids in the orchestra played and have had the chance to play, it was a neat experience," said Clark, who said she played a tune she had learned from the respected fiddler, TahlTan elder Gerald Edzerza.

"It helped connect a group in Paraguay to a group of fiddlers in Whitehorse. It just helps bridge that gap."

The sound?

"It was amazing," she said. "It was mellow and warm. And I was expecting it to be thinner and not have the depth that it did."

Homemade pizza and film

The Fiddleheads are hosting the event Monday night at the Yukon Beringia Centre. Tickets are available at Dean's Strings or at the door.

Homemade pizza will be available for sale starting 5:30 p.m., followed by a live performance and the screening of the film Landfill Harmonic.

All proceeds will go to the Recycled Orchestra in Paraguay.

with files from Dave White


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