Nova Scotia

National Fiddle Day: The difference between a fiddle and a violin

While musicians around the globe rosin up their bow in celebration of World Fiddle Day, Cape Breton player Donald MacLennan attempts to answer the age old question: What is the difference between a fiddle and a violin?

In the 20 years he's been playing, Donald MacLennan has owned the grand total of one fiddle

The cover of Donald MacLennan's new CD Belleville. (Facebook)

While musicians around the globe rosin up their bow in celebration of World Fiddle Day, Cape Breton player Donald MacLennan attempts to answer the age old question: What is the difference between a fiddle and a violin?

The push for a day dedicated to fiddle music began worldwide in 2012. In 2015, Canada designated the third Saturday in May National Fiddle Day.

The federal government said it was in recognition of the cultural and social history the instrument has in Canada as well as the different styles of fiddle music.

But what makes a violin a fiddle?

MacLennan told CBC's Weekend Mornings it's a question that has been plaguing humanity for "centulenia.

"Fiddle is a slang term really, to be technical, but a lot of people, I think, would say it depends on the music you're playing. I personally use it interchangeably for myself," he said.

​Not that MacLennan has a lot of experience with different violins or fiddles.

In the 20 years he's been playing, MacLennan has owned the grand total of one fiddle. He found it in pieces stuffed in a closet at his parents' home.

MacLennan grew up with many family members playing fiddle and enjoyed the sound so asked his father if he could get the old, broken one fixed up to start playing.

An uncle in Mabou did just that and MacLennan's musical career was born.

"I've been playing it ever since," he said. "I haven't switched, I haven't sold it to get a better one. I stuck to my guns."

MacLennan said he intends to "hang on as tightly as I can remember" to his stalwart fiddle.

With his new CD Belleville, MacLennan takes his fiddle in a new direction. He taps more into his mother's French roots, gypsy jazz as he calls it, rather than traditional Cape Breton fiddle.

MacLennan is currently on tour and plays with his quartet Saturday night at the Company House on Gottingen Street in Halifax.

With files from Weekend Mornings