Another Métis fiddle legend in the making
- EFN Staff | April 19, 2017
Jordan Daniels and John Arcand are like a couple old souls sitting around Johnny’s workshop, playing their favourite tunes on fiddle and guitar. They both have on their usual rumpled plaid shirts with their hair short. Now they slide seamlessly into Jordan’s favourite, San Antonio Rose. He fiddles away while Johnny strums along on guitar.
Daniels, actually 61 years junior of Johnny, is one of several of the Métis fiddling legends students. After only four years playing, Daniels has already earned the Junior 13-18 title at Fiddlefest and won Junior Saskatchewan Championships last year and the year before. His progress has come from a lot of work.
On top of the weekly lesson, Jordan practices at least an hour a day. “I wasn’t good at all when I first started playing. It took a lot of practicing but I like it,” said Daniels whose family has a long connection to the fiddle. “I am following the tradition of my moshoms. Two of my great grandparents played the fiddle and their dads and one of their dads. I heard the stories about two of them, Lawrence Daniels and Wilfred Badger. And on my mom’s side in Norway, my 7th great grandfather was a fiddler too.”
The legend and his protégé have only been working together for four years, but the respect and comfort between the two makes it seems like they have been at it for years. Maybe it’s because the musical relationship between John and the Daniels family goes way back. Johnny actually taught Jordan’s great uncle how to play and Jordan’s aunt eventually gave Jordan his Uncle’s fiddle to carry on the tradition. In quite the coincidence, it is a fiddle John Arcand made.
“That fiddle is number 5,” said John of the fiddle, one of the 52 he has handmade. “Jordan didn’t want to play it for the first bit because of the nostalgia of the instrument but he plays it now. He’s a good student. It is such a pleasure to teach these kids that have a lot of family support. It makes my job much easier.”
Since getting his first fiddle from his kohkum Thelma for Christmas at age 10, Jordan has never once missed a lesson. He has performed across Saskatchewan and even gone so far as travelling to Vancouver to play at a First Peoples event at the Museum of Anthropology at University of British Columbia. He’s becoming old hat. “I used to get stage fright, but you get used to it,” said Daniels. “But playing makes me feel good especially when I get a nice applause when I’m done.”
Old soul and lover of old country music with a collection of albums including Hank Williams, George Jones and Johnny Cash, Jordan is also a grade 9 student at St. Joes in Saskatoon. And when he isn’t fiddling he plays baseball, basketball, football and hockey both in league and for the Saskatoon Tribal Council at the FSIN Winter Games. In his spare, spare time he has also picked up and learned the guitar, mandolin and banjo. “Just more forms of blue grass instruments,” noted Jordan. “But fiddle is my favourite by far.”
With students like Jordan, Johnny is confident that the old school Métis fiddle style won’t be lost. “I’m not concerned at all. I have five really good students at Ile a la Crosse and this guy Jordan is in there too,” said Johnny. “The secret is...I just tell them to play. You may have to straighten them out in a few places, but just keep them playing. It takes years and years to perfect something, but it takes one month to lose it all.”
And with that, the old souls, on a three count, hit a quick Whiskey Before Breakfast to end their weekly practice session.