Annual Winter Festival Fiddle Show makes a comeback with Saskatchewan talent of all ages

Joseph Desjarlais on stage at the EA Rawlinson Centre during the 2023 Prince Albert Winter Festival Fiddle Show on Sunday evening. -- Bailey Sutherland/Daily Herald.

The EA Rawlinson Centre was packed with local music lovers on Sunday for an evening of ‘toe-tapping tunes’ courtesy of the Prince Albert Winter Festival Fiddle Show.

Opening up the show was Joseph Desjarlais, a Metis fiddle player from Ile-a-la-Crosse who stays busy studying neuroscience at the University of Saskatchewan and hosting fiddle jam sessions at Oskayak High School every Sunday. Desjarlais took the time out of his busy schedule to show Prince Albert and the greater fiddle community what he’s been working towards over the last ten years of his musical career.

Show Producer Kerri English said there’s a great need for fiddle music in Prince Albert and to not have it included in the Winter Festival would be a shame.

“It’s a tradition,” said English, who added that it’s not only a great way to get exposure for some of the players, but also acts as a drive for the younger generation to get involved.

A Special Youth Ensemble made up of English’s students were one of the acts to take the stage on Sunday. With only one practice before showtime, the students ages four and up proved to be nothing short of an amazing group of up-and-coming musicians that had no problem pulling it all together for a fun performance.

“They’re a great group of kids that are all enthusiastic about their music,” said English.

Local fiddle player Janaya McCallum, who first played in the Prince Albert Winter Festival when she was 5 years old in 2002, was one of a variety of performers to grace the Rawlinson stage on Sunday. McCallum grew up playing fiddle in her family’s band, The Trudel Family, and is half of the sister folk duo, Jay and Jo.

Saskatoon engineer Booker Blakely was asked to perform in the Fiddle Show after one of English’s students had a chance to hear Blakely’s music during a fundraising show to play at the Canadian Grand Masters in Canwood.

Blakely has been playing violin since he was a small child, venturing into folk and Canadiana from the classical music he started in. Learning from local legends like Gordon Stobbe and JJ Guy inspired him to teach music in smaller towns in the north with the Frontier School Division’s fiddling program.

Blakely said it’s great to be a part of the fiddle revival in Prince Albert, as “it’s been a core of the north for quite a long time”.

Prince Albert music lovers should be sure to check out the Winter Festival’s upcoming shows, Voices of North on Feb. 16 to 18, followed by the Youth Extravaganza on Feb. 19. Tickets can be purchased at Canadian Tire or online at