One trick to enduring Saskatchewan winters is to get in the habit of making music whenever possible. Emerging in springtime with several new tunes committed to memory is a satisfying feeling. When I moved back to the prairies several years’ ago, I was happily surprised to discover that I still knew how to play the mandolin. All those intervening years hadn’t mattered when it came to remembering some of my favourite tunes.
During the next few winters, I downloaded tons of good music from the internet and played the mandolin whenever I thought I’d succumb to the cold. I took some lessons, played with friends and joined the local mandolin orchestra.
Then I began toying with the idea of learning to play the violin. Really, how hard could it be to pick it up considering that mando and violin strings are tuned the same ? Since my father had stopped playing his violin owing to deafness – courtesy of WWII – I had use of a violin that was in good shape.
I signed up for lessons and soon realized that mastering the violin bow was no easy feat. Having an inspiring teacher, Shamma Sabir, kept me practicing and learning new techniques. And then there was the fiddle group – every Saturday afternoon last year, a group of us got together and learned new tunes from an incredible young fiddler.
This winter our group continues practicing even though Shamma has moved and is only in town for lessons every now and then. That sustains us though. With each lesson, we add a few new tunes to our playlist. Sometimes we have an audience since we practice at a nursing home – it’ s great fun and keeps us warm on Sunday afternoons.
There’s something silently satisfying about making it through a snowy winter playing great music and enjoying good friends.