These kids really are fiddleheads

Despite their demanding practice schedule, the Fiddleheads still find time to climb on the jungle gym.

Despite their demanding practice schedule, the Fiddleheads still find time to climb on the jungle gym.

The group of 23 children, ages five to 14, will be putting on a musical show in Dawson this week.

Shouting and laughing together as they ran and climbed about, the young musicians took short breaks to talk about their production.

“It all starts when Katie walks into a cemetery,” said Katie Furlong, perhaps speaking both of her character and in the third person.

“She’s looking for a quiet place to practice her fiddle,” added Anna Rivard.

“And she meets ghosts!” yelled a few more kids from the group. Everyone begins to fill in the story, yelling over one another.

“…The ghosts tell their stories and sing songs.”

“They become friends…”

“…and decided to meet every year…”

“…at solstice!”

Trying to lead such a lively bunch of fiddle-playing ghosts is a bit of work, said Trish Barclay, the show’s director and writer.

“I sometimes have to remind them that there’s only one director,” she said.

“But the kids have a lot of ideas and we try to use as many as possible. It’s a collaboration.”

Barclay also plays Dot in the production, while her husband Marc Desormeux plays Bert.

As she spoke, one of the kids sat down at the piano and filled the Golden Horn elementary school gymnasium with upbeat ragtime music.

All of the kids are multi-instrumentalists.

The oldest Fiddlehead, George Rivard sings, plays guitar, clarinet and spoons in the show.

The Fiddleheads began nine years ago when Barclay, a music teacher, noticed that some of her students were beginning to lose interest in the violin.

“They were getting bored with the music and some had mentioned they’d like to try theater,” she said.

When a request was made that Barclay put on a musical in honour of the Klondike’s 100th anniversary, she gladly took up the challenge.

Barclay and her students loaded themselves on a bus and performed throughout the Yukon.

This year’s play is a rewrite of that original show.

“I had wanted to call them the Fiddlekids, but Mark Smith began calling them the Fiddleheads by mistake,” said Barclay.

The mistake stuck.

The show was such a success that they decided to do it again.

Annie Avery joined the next year to write music and become the group’s “piano maestro.”

The stride piano in the background ends abruptly and some of the kids pick up their fiddles and begin to play soft classical violin.

What’s the difference between a fiddle and a violin?

That’s easy!

“Structurally there is no difference between the two instruments, the difference mainly lies in the style in which it is played,” said the kids, reciting a line from the play.

Last week, the young performers started practicing everyday, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., with an hour break for lunch and playground tomfoolery.

The busy schedule isn’t too much for them.

“The kids are amazing. Playing just seems to give them energy,” said Barclay.

The kids told a slightly different story.

“We get a bit grumpy,” said one. “It’s tiring and your feet start to hurt.”

And practice isn’t the only thing they complain about.

“Travelling is the worst,” said another. “It’s a six-hour drive!”

“I hate it when people stare at you.”

“…it gets really hot under the lights!”

“…and people are flashing their cameras even though they’re not supposed to.”

It wasn’t as difficult to decide what it was that they loved the most about performing — “Dawson!”

After the show the actors all get to visit the ice cream shop – a unanimous favourite – and they sometimes go swimming.

“But the best part is playing together, we’re best friends,” they said hugging and giggling, with only a slight trace of sarcasm.

For many of the kids, this will be their second year with the fiddling group.

For George, Anna, and Odette Rivard it is their third.

The younger, first-year children are referred to by all as “the grommets.”

“They don’t play that much,” said Barclay.

“But it’s great for them to be part of something bigger. It builds confidence.”

Confidence is definitely not something the seasoned Fiddleheads lack.

“Girls are better,” said Katie, commenting on the cast of 19 girls and four boys.

“The guys think it’s not cool,” added Anna.

The show runs from July 11 to 19 at the Palace Grand. Shows start at 7 p.m. daily.

In keeping with the ghost theme, there will be a 3 p.m. matinee held on Friday the 13th.

A show for Whitehorse is planned for the fall.