N.W.T. fiddler ready to play against the masters

·3 min read
Yellowknife musician Andrea Bettger is heading to the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Championship this week. (Kate Kyle/CBC - image credit)
Yellowknife musician Andrea Bettger is heading to the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Championship this week. (Kate Kyle/CBC - image credit)

With fiddle in hand, Andrea Bettger is on her way to Winnipeg to compete against some of the top fiddlers in the country.

The Yellowknife musician has made a name for herself in the N.W.T.'s fiddling community over the years as a brilliant teacher of music and a persistent performer, even hosting a "float-in" concert with boats when the COVID-19 pandemic closed down most live music opportunities. She's written books, released records and composed her own music.

But going to the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Competition?

"I've never done anything like this before," she told Loren McGinnis, host of CBC's The Trailbreaker, Wednesday morning.

It's the second time Bettger has been invited to take part in the competition. The first time, she recalls, she looked at the invitation and didn't know how to react.

This time around, she decided to take the advice of friend and fellow musician Carmen Braden and take the leap.

"I've just never really — I wouldn't stand up on a stage and proclaim myself as a true, authentic fiddler," she said. "That's why it makes me laugh a little bit."

Elite gathering

The Grand Masters is a serious musical competition. Teresa Watson, a member of the Aurora Fiddle Society, said the competition has featured some big names in the fiddling world in the past.

"It's also a chance to meet people who are significant in the fiddling world, so making those connections ... as well as performing, and the placing and possible title," she explained.

"I think for any fiddler, it means a lot to go and to be able to compete at that level."

As for Bettger, Watson said the N.W.T. has been fortunate to have a musician like her here.

"She doesn't let things stand in her way — she finds a way around them, and because of the kind of person she is, she has lots of people who will rally around her and help her," she said.

"We're very fortunate to have had her teaching fiddling here. I've learned so much from her, not just about fiddling but about ways to get things across to kids that are a little unique."

Showcasing the North

Bettger said her plan is to go, see what the competition is about, meet cool people and spend a weekend in Winnipeg.

Of course, she's thoroughly preparing for the competition while she's at it — after all, it's an opportunity to show off the musical talent of fiddlers in the North.

"My role in this event, I feel, is to just be sort of like a vessel — the person that's to bring Northern music to Winnipeg and showcase ... the Northern fiddlers that live here and have lived here," she said.

That's obvious in her set list, which features names like Richard Lafferty, Colin Adjun, Stanley Beaulieu and Lee Mandeville.

"This is kind of the purpose of me going, I feel," she said.

The competition runs Friday and Saturday at Winnipeg's Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.