Last year fiddle instructors Trish and Geoff Horrocks attended the City of Nanaimo’s Culture and Heritage Award ceremony and this year they’re winners themselves.
They were there with their Fiddelium ensemble, which performed during the event. Geoff said after the ceremony one fiddler’s parent was moved to nominate the instructors for an award as well. That campaign was successful as the Horrockses are recipients of this year’s Honour in Culture Award, which recognizes those “known for their dedication and support of the development of the cultural fabric of Nanaimo.”
Geoff said they were “shocked” when they heard the news.
“It was just so completely unexpected. We were running a Fiddelium class, it was the last class just before Christmas, and one of the little players Leo said, ‘Uh, Trish and Geoff, we have a surprise for you.’” Geoff said. “He said, ‘We’ve nominated you for this award and you won.’ It was so cute.”
For more than 10 years the duo has been writing and publishing fiddle and piano music books under the Cross Canada Fiddle banner, which soon added a teaching side and their flagship ensemble, Fiddlelium. Among their other groups is a folk band, a group that specializes in “barn dance” repertoire, a fiddle and vocal adult group and the award-winning Fiddle Frolics, a group for young children that teaches both fiddle and dance.
Trish, who grew up in Courtenay, moved to Nanaimo 16 years ago. Geoff, who hails from Ottawa, has lived in Nanaimo for the past nine years. They first met while teaching fiddle camps in remote communities in the Northwest Territories.
“We were a part of the teaching team that would go into these small communities and teach fiddle,” Trish said. “While we were there we decided we were going to start the publishing side of the business … and then the teaching side of things started when Geoff moved here.”
Trish said Nanaimo is gaining a reputation for its fiddle community. Nova Scotia fiddler Gordon Stobbe, a member of the Order of Canada, often visits to teach at Cross Canada Fiddle summer camps and while he hails from “the centre of fiddle music in Canada,” Trish said he calls Nanaimo a fiddle “hotbed.”
“A hundred students of all ages playing music together every week on fiddle, that’s a pretty unique thing,” Trish said. “And we just started it because we know, as musicians, first of all if you think you’re going to make a living as a soloist, good luck. So [it’s] really important for students to develop that skill to be able to play with other people and then it just kind of exploded on its own.”
Looking back over the past decade, Geoff said, “the whole thing has kind of taken on a life of its own,” especially when it comes to the ensembles.
“Out of the groups that we started other groups have spun off…” Geoff said. “So it’s grown. This thing has grown and it seems to be really well rooted now in the community so Nanaimo’s going to have fiddle music for ever more. It’s just going to be one of the traditions of Nanaimo I think.”