The Aurora Fiddle Society in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, was recently awarded an NWT CultureFund grant to commission original fiddle tunes by master Northwest Territories fiddlers. These tunes have been and are being transcribed, so that they can be taught to the youth fiddlers in Yellowknife, and eventually to share with all fiddlers, including those that are attending the Canadian Grand Masters to be held in Whitehorse, Yukon, in August of 2024. The youth fiddlers of the Aurora Fiddle Society are attending this event, and they will have learned these original tunes to share and perform while they are there.
The original tune that I have shared in this publication is called the ‘Dead Man’s Waltz’, and it was composed by Stanley Beaulieu who resides in Hay River, Northwest Territories. Stanley wrote this tune as a dedication to all of the old-time fiddlers who have passed away; to remember them. They were his teachers.
Stanley learned how to play fiddle at a very young age. He grew up with a family full of musicians. Stanley was taught by his dad, Solomon (who Stanley says played with closed fingers – he didn’t use the tips of his fingers), while they lived on the trapline in Northern Alberta. He also learned from his older brothers who all played music. His mom, Marie, played the harmonica, and Stanley says his unique bowing resulted from playing with her, and imitating her blowing in and out with his bow changes.
Stanley would get up at 5 am to listen to Don Messer on the radio, and he learned a lot this way. He also learned from and was friends with Eleanor and Graham Townsend, whom he shared the stage with. Stanley’s family is related to the Lafferty’s, many of whom are musicians as well, including NWT Métis fiddler Richard Lafferty, who passed away a little over a year ago.
Stanley has lived in Hay River, NT, since 1967. He has 6 children, and still plays when he has time in his busy life. I had the good fortune of meeting Stanley when I moved to Hay River in 2003. I learned a lot from him, and I have enjoyed his performance style and sense of humour over the years.
I will leave you with a quote from him:
“…I grew up in the bush with my parents and had lots of time to play violin when all the chores were done…a violin is small enough to carry and fit into a dog sled. You can’t fit a piano in there.” - Stanley Beaulieu
Director of the Aurora Fiddle Society