Old time fiddle music has become a major attraction at the Aldergrove OAP Hall, with fans coming from as far as Vancouver and Hope to dance Saturday afternoons away.
Gladys Andreas, who has been coordinating the twice-monthly dances here since she started it in June of 2013, says, “It’s been very successful. We have 60 to 80 attend, with the oldest regular being 94 years old. Many of them would like us to play every week but it would be hard to get all the players to commit to that.”
The orchestras are all volunteers from the Central Fraser Valley Fiddlers, Surrey Old Time Fiddlers and Hazelmere Heritage Fiddlers, who take turns at providing the music for the dances.
Gladys is a long-time member of all of these fiddle organizations and performs herself with the groups at their weekly rehearsals, as well as at their dances and shows.
“We play schottisches, waltzes, polkas, foxtrots, heel and toe, and square dances,” says Gladys.
“Julius Cotter, who is 90, calls the square dances, and sometimes he joins in on fiddle or harmonica. It’s rewarding to see people enjoying themselves, the smiles on faces, the rapport they have, hugging one another. It’s inspired me to start writing a poem about it.”
While most are there to dance, Gladys notes there are some who come just to listen and enjoy themselves even if they are wheelchair-bound.
The cost to attend is kept low, thanks to other volunteers such as Norm and Mary Hildrum, who help by shopping for, and preparing the refreshments, sausage and cheese plates and desserts. The $6 admission fee includes everything, from the music to the refreshments and light lunches.
“People love the treats. We’re going to have cupcakes with red hearts on them for the Valentine’s day dance,” says Gladys.
And while the fiddlers, accompanied by pianists and guitarists, are all volunteers many of them are professional performers. Gladys has performed in Las Vegas, and Surrey Fiddlers president Evan Sanyshyn and his son Michael are top notch players. Michael is a winner of many awards and has performed on concert tours across the North American continent with many of the top country music stars, but he enjoys sitting in with the old time fiddlers if he has a free night.
A retiree herself, Gladys keeps busy as a contributing member of 11 organizations, as well as contributing to the upcoming B.C. Old Time Fiddlers Association history book.
But her first love is playing fiddle — as well as dulcimer and mandolin.
“I grew up on a farm in Alberta and that’s what we did for fun, we played music and went to dances.”
The Aldergrove Seniors’ Old Time Dances are held every second Saturday, 1-4 p.m. at Aldergrove OAP Hall, 3015 – 273 St. Cost is $6 per person, includes refreshments. Upcoming dates to mark on calendars are Feb. 28, March 14 and 28, no dance April 11 as there will be line dancing instead that day, and resumes on April 25, May 9 and 23, June 6 and 20. There is a summer break for July and August, and dances resume in September.
The Surrey Fiddlers also host monthly dances at Clayton Hall, 18513 – 70 Ave., on the first Thursday of each month from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
The public is also welcome to attend the weekly practices of the fiddlers, although there is no dance floor available at the venues. Typically 15 to 20 members attend and musician guests are also able to sit in and play.
Central Fraser Valley Fiddlers meet every Wednesday, 6:45-9:45 p.m. at the Hallmark seniors’ centre, 3055 Princess St., Abbotsford. There is no admission fee. Funds raised by the club go to providing fiddle workshops for youths.
Hazelmere Heritage Fiddlers meet every second, third and fourth Monday, 7-9 p.m. at Hazelmere Heritage Hall, 16 Ave. at 184 St., Cloverdale. Admission is $2. Funds raised by the club go to hall maintenance and to the food bank.