The Community Press

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Fiddlers Orchestra returns to roots

Asphodel-Norwood – The Donegal Fiddlers Orchestra is coming home.

After four years of using the old town hall in Havelock as its base for Saturday night performances, the fiddlers will return to the Asphodel-Norwood community to its monthly dances. A media release last week said the municipality and the orchestra have come to an agreement for the use of the Norwood Town Hall “that is satisfactory to both parties.” And that means the Donegal Fiddlers will be performing their range of celtic, traditional, country and dance music in Norwood.

The doors to the hall will open at 7 p.m. “and the strains of fiddle music will fill the century-old spaces,” says Donegal Fiddlers member Marie Forgrave, of Campbellford, adding that the musicians are looking forward to utilizing the ample space at the Norwood Hall and being able to accommodate the orchestra’s ever increasing monthly crowd.

The fiddle orchestra has added a variety of instruments to its base of 16 fiddles, guitar, bass fiddle, tin flute, mandolin, accordion, keyboard and percussion which resulted in “an ever more interesting sound,” making the orchestra “truly a unique group” that is ready to provide fun and entertainment.

The musicians who later became the Donegal Fiddlers at first came together simply to practise and socialize. Then people started to drop in to listen, and soon the informal group had a devoted audience. Pushed by founding members such as Alilee Thompson, the band coelesced and formed an identity and a musical pattern. They adopted the name of a 19th-century one-room school house southeast of Norwood that had been turned into a community centre called the Donegal Hall. The hall became their headquarters, and the fiddlers played there until 2005, when the building was sold, becoming part of a residential property. That’s when the group turned to the old town hall on Mathison Street in Havelock, where they started performing the first Saturday of every month. In between, they performed at church halls, community dances, diners clubs, agricultural fairs and dinners, summer festivals, trailer parks and service club fund raisers, including the Frankford Fiddlers on the Trent review for the World Food Grain Bank.

“We are truly travelling minstrels,” says fiddler and former band publicist Rob Gordon.

The Donegal Fiddlers have also taken their show east, playing a concert in a small community near Sherbrooke, Que. before going on to play in Murray Harbour and  North Rustico, P.E.I., Bay St. Lawrence and Ingonish, Cape Breton Island, and Pictou, N.S.

The Donegal Fiddlers have been recognized with a Peterborough Cty. arts award. And they have made three CDs “for our own enjoyment” says bassist Ron Scott, noting that the recording sessions also helped the musicians focus and refine their music.

Member Rob Gordon has summed up the philosophy of the fiddlers by quoting lines from an operetta by Austrian composer Franz Lehar: “For what is more than women and wine, the happy land of music is mine, and all is always well where the music makers dwell.”

Community Newspaper
By Bill Freeman

Norwood - The acclaimed Donegal Fiddlers Orchestra will kick off an eighth season of community dances at the Norwood Town Hall. The orchestra was founded ten years ago but first began entertaining at community dances the following year as they settled into the former Donegal School House in Asphodel Township. The school hall's closure and burgeoning crowds led the Fiddlers to Havelock and then back to Norwood and its historic town hall in 2009.

The Donegal Fiddlers will be busy this summer playing gigs in Belleville, Campbellford, Brighton, Cobourg and other regional communities with a passion for good music. There was even a group from Mississauga that travelled to the Norwood Town Hall to be entertained by the orchestra. "The repertoire of the ever more talented and popular group continues to expand as does the variety of instruments; viola and cello have been added to its numbers," says bass player Ron Scott.

The members of the Donegal Fiddlers Orchestra continue to enjoy perfecting and performing their eclectic and spirited music for all who care to listen.
The dances are held the first Saturday of the month.
All are welcome to attend and have a good time. Guests are invited to bring food for a mid-evening lunch.
Cobourg Radio Interview
President Ron Scott and Publicity Director Jay Sherwin were invited to chat with Jan Spragge on Cobourg radio station 89.7 FM.