Métis fiddle player places 9th in Canada-wide competition, wins People’s Choice Award

Tristen Durocher learned how to play the fiddle by sound and can't read music. He said the only time anyone teaches him is at a four-day fiddle camp he attends in Saskatoon every year. (Tristen Durocher, Métis Fiddler/Facebook)

“it’s nice to hear all the different fiddle traditions that are present in Canada all in one place.”

– Tristen Durocher

A Métis fiddler from northern Saskatchewan is receiving national recognition.

Tristen Durocher, 23, is originally from Buffalo Narrows and went to school in La Ronge. He lived in Prince Albert for a few years—performing at the Indigenous Peoples Arts Collective (IPAC) at the Mann Art Gallery—before he moved to Saskatoon.

Durocher has been to the Canadian Grand Masters (CGM) fiddling competition four times, in which you have to be invited.

He attended this year’s competition on Aug. 23 and 24 in Abbotsford, B.C., placing ninth out of dozens of fiddlers and receiving the People’s Choice Award.

“You get to meet all of these excellent fiddle players from all over the country and each of them have their own distinct style. Every different style of Canadian fiddle has a different repertoire of tunes that they traditionally pull from, so it’s nice to hear all the different fiddle traditions that are present in Canada all in one place,” he said.

Durocher didn’t have any teachers growing up in rural areas of the province. He only learned from others at the four-day John Arcand camp in Saskatoon.

Throughout the rest of the year, he would learn by listening to fiddle albums.

“To this day, I can’t read music. All of my learning is by ear,” said Durocher.

This is the first time Durocher has made it past the original round, where the judges choose their top 11 fiddlers to play a second time.

Each player only gets five minutes per round to play four songs: a waltz, a jig, a reel and a song of choice.

He said he hadn’t prepared to play a second time.

“I just picked four songs that I really loved, that I enjoyed playing and that I’ve known for a long time. And for my fourth, final song, for my tune of choice, just for giggles I guess, I decided to play My Heart Will Go On, the Titanic theme song,” he said with a laugh.

Durocher attributes winning the People’s Choice Award to playing songs that are recognizable.

“I noticed a lot of people, because they’re only given four songs to really show what they can do musically, they just jam pack them full of ornaments and fancy things, so it’s almost like the song becomes unrecognizable because it’s so embellished and built up,” he said.

“I wanted to show the audience that hey, this is what the tune is and this is what I’m going to do to it.”

Durocher decides what to play by feeding off of the audience’s reactions.

“I’m not one of those fiddle players that is too scared to look at anything but their fingers when they’re playing because I’ve grown up in northern communities where we’re always having community suppers and elders gatherings and different celebrations,” he said.

“I’m looking at them, I’m talking to them, I’m laughing with them, so when I pick up my fiddle, I still look at them because I can see what they’re enjoying and what they’re not enjoying.”

Being in the top 11, Durocher is automatically invited to next year’s CGM fiddling competition in Winnipeg, Man.