Local youths finish first at the Pembroke Fiddle Contest
Desbarats residents Benoît Schryer Lefebvre, 18, and his sister, Áine Schryer O’Gorman, 9, won first place at the annual Pembroke Fiddle and Stepdance Competition on Labour Day weekend in the 18 years-and-under and 9-and-under contests respectively.
This is the second year in a row that Benoit has placed first, in a field of 25.
In the past two years, Áine placed 4th in her class but made it to the top this year, competing against 20 other contestants from around the country.
Pembroke is one of Canada’s largest fiddle competitions and arguably the most prestigious 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 the 18 and under class.
These 10 go on to compete again, each performing their competition set, a waltz, jig, and reel, on Saturday evening to several thousand people at the Pembroke Arena.
The 9-and-under contest occurs Saturday morning with the playoff occurring in the early afternoon.
As winner of her age group, Áine then performed as part of the Saturday evening programme.
Benoît and Áine regularly play with their family band The O’Schraves, who are part of the evening concert at the Bruce Mines Agricultural Fair on Saturday, September 8.
The band is also in the studio recording their first family CD the following week and hope to have it finished this fall.
The Schryer family are no strangers to the Pembroke Contest as Benoit and now Áine follow in the footsteps of their Uncles Raymond, Louis, Pierre, and Daniel, who have all been successful competitors in Pembroke since the late 70’s.
The Schryer family, including Benoît and Áine’s mom, Julie Schryer, have been going to the Pembroke Event since its inception in 1976.
The tradition is in good hands as five of Sault residents, Julien and Juliette Schryer’s grandchildren, now compete regularly at Pembroke.
As well, a large group of Sault Ste Marie, Desbarats and the North Shore residents, approximately 60 in all, are among the 1,000 trailer homes that make up the Fiddle and Stepdance Park, home of dozens of legendary all-night music jams, stepdancing throw-downs, and singing sessions.
Other members of the AlgomaTrad Family Camp group who also attended Pembroke this year were the Devon family, from St. Joseph Island, whose daughter, Sarah, 18, competed as well, accompanied on piano by her sister Carolyn Devon, and Áine and Benoit’s cousin, Rachel Kulawic, 15, of Beamsville, Ontario.