Desbarats residents Benoît Schryer Lefebvre, 25, and his sister, Áine Schryer O’Gorman, 16, won first place in the Open and 18 & Under competitions respectively at the annual Pembroke Fiddle and Stepdance Contest on Labour Day Weekend. This is the second year in a row that Benoît has placed first in the Open contest, this year in a field of contestants that included the 2nd and 3rd place finishers at the recent Canadian Grand Master Fiddle Contest in Abbotsford, BC. The two victories this weekend mirror their respective first place finishes in the 18 & Under and 9 & Under back in 2012 when Benoît was 18 and Áine 9 years of age. Once again the two were accompanied on the piano by their mom, Julie Schryer. Áine also came third in the Twin Fiddle class, competing with Lucas Candelino, who recently won the 18 & Under Canadian Fiddle Contest in Shelburne and who has been attending the local AlgomaTrad Family Camp for the last ten years.
The Schryer family are no strangers to the Pembroke Contest as Benoit and Áine continue to follow in the footsteps of their Uncles Raymond, Louis, Pierre, and Daniel, all from Sault Ste. Marie, who have all been successful competitors in Pembroke since its inception in 1976. Pembroke is one of Canada’s largest fiddle competitions, taking place in the heart of the Ottawa Valley Fiddle and Stepdance region, and arguably the most prestigious contest after the Canadian Open held in Shelburne. Friday night at Pembroke is the night of the preliminary competition where 10 fiddlers are chosen from the initial field in both the Open and 18 & Under class. These 10 go on to compete again, each performing their competition set, a waltz, jig, and reel, on Saturday evening to an audience of approximately one thousand people at the Pembroke Arena. Benoît and Áine are of course known as well as part of their family band, The O’Schraves, who will be performing at the Canada Dry Stone Wall Festival on Amherst Island, near Kingston, ON, on September 14 and at the AlgomaTrad Fall Heritage Festival Gala Concert on Friday, October 4. More information for this event, part of a weekend of traditional music, dance and heritage art workshops, including blacksmithing, dry stone wall building, natural dyeing, fiber arts and more, can be found at www.algomatrad.ca.
Another young fiddler who attended this year’s AlgomaTrad Family Camp also did very well at this year’s Pembroke contest. Eight year old Chapeau, PQ resident Wilson Lazarus, whose entire family attended AlgomaTrad 2019 in August, won the 9 & under contest. As well, many local lovers of traditional fiddle music and stepdancing make the trek to Pembroke every year – a large group of Sault Ste Marie, Desbarats and the North Shore residents, approximately 60 in all, are among the 600 or 700 hundred trailer homes that make up the Fiddle and Stepdance Park in Pembroke, home of dozens of legendary all-night music jams, stepdancing displays, and singing sessions.