Saskatchewan

Fiddling around: Sask. fiddling project hoping to capture stories of past, present

Mitchell Dureault hopes to gather stories, interviews, photographs and videos to share publicly.

Mitchell Dureault started the project in 2013 and expects it to take another 10 years at least

Mitchell Dureault is a fiddler from southern Saskatchewan. He's started a project cataloging fiddling stories from around the province. (Submitted by Mitchell Dureault)

A Saskatchewan musician is hoping to catalogue fiddlers around the province before some regionally significant music is lost to the ages. 

Mitchell Dureault is in the early stages of a multi-year project. He's hoping to gather stories from fiddler's past and present into one place for people to access for decades to come.

Dureault's passion started at a young age. 

"My grandfather, he had played the fiddle for most of his life," Dureault said. "One of my favourite pictures I have of him and I together is playing — well, my attempt at playing with him — Christmas Day in the year 2000."

Mitchell Dureault (far right) first tried playing in 2000 with his grandfather keeping a close eye. (Submitted by Mitchell Dureault)

Dureault started formal lessons not long after and has been playing and now teaching in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The fiddling community is widespread and special, he said. 

"No matter what your background is, your age, your ability, everyone treats you as family," he said. "They offer help in any way they can. You always have someone in your fiddle community that you can reach out and talk to in a time of need."

Mitchell Dureault loves to fiddle, and he also loves hearing stories from other fiddlers. For the next decade he'll be doing just that as he reaches out to over 180 Saskatchewan fiddlers to hear their stories. He explains the project to host Shauna Powers. 9:55

The idea for the project started when Dureault was visiting Nova Scotia. He was in a library in Church Point and found a book that has records about local musicians. It sparked the idea to do one in his own home province. He started in 2013. 

"I started collecting material such as records and photos and oral histories and talking to folks and hearing stories of them and their relatives, which has been a great ball of fun so far," Dureault said. 

Fiddle and music in general was a really main focus of community gatherings and events before the introduction of the television and the radio.- Mitchell Dureault

After putting out the call to see who would be interested, Dureault has more than 180 people on his list to talk to. 

"[Fiddling] was always kind of a focal point for families," Dureault said. "At one point in time, fiddle and music in general was a really main focus of community gatherings and events before the introduction of the television and the radio."

Mitchell Dureault started his history project in 2013 and expects it to take more than a decade. (Submitted by Mitchell Dureault)

Dureault said he has been told that even when radios were introduced, fiddlers would battle the radio to learn songs as quickly as they could.

He hopes the end products will be a book and a website that people can publicly access, including sheet music and videos. Even if it takes more than a decade to finish. 

"It kind of was a connection through multiple generations and held everyone together." 

Anyone wishing to contact Dureault or share a story can email saskfiddlehistoryproject@gmail.com or go to www.mitchelldureault.com.

About the Author

Heidi Atter

AP/Journalist

Heidi Atter is a journalist working in Regina. She started with CBC Saskatchewan after a successful internship and has a passion for character-driven stories. Heidi has worked as a reporter, web writer, associate producer and show director so far, and has worked in Edmonton, at the Wainwright military base, and in Adazi, Latvia. Story ideas? Email heidi.atter@cbc.ca.

With files from Saskatchewan Weekend