The Alberta Society of Fiddlers incorporated as a society in 1992. Until that time there had not been a society on Alberta that helped to connect fiddle events in the province. Many fiddle contests and jamborees had been supported by their local communities, but had not been provincially advertised. As a result the ASF was incorporated with a mandate to encourage, amongst Alberta’s public, young and old alike; a participation in, an appreciation for, and the preservation of fiddle music as a worthy cultural, recreation and heritage pursuit.
The ASF Hall of Recognition is a gathering of biographies of Alberta residents who have in some way, contributed to preserving and promoting fiddle music in their community and beyond.
Ed Schweigert – Medicine Hat, Alberta
Ed was born on a farm west of Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, on December 22, 1921. Growing up, his family lived in various places in Saskatchewan including Murraydale, Princinel, Farewell Creek and Crossfel. Ed enlisted in the Canadian army in July 1942. Over the next three years he would be based in Halifax, Dundurn, Sussex, Fredericton and finally Regina, where he was discharged in 1945.
Ed married May Simon on November 6, 1944. They began their married life farming at Crossfel, Saskatchewan. From there they would move to Maple Creek where Ed worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway for five years. Ed had received training in mechanics while enlisted in the army. He made use of this skill by working as a mechanic at Maple Creek, something he would do until 1973. Ed and May also spent a few years in Penticton, B.C., eventually moving to Medicine Hat, Alberta in 1976, where Ed still lives in his own home today. Sadly, Ed’s wife of 57 years, May, passed away in March of 2012. Ed and his wife May have three boys, Grant, Ron, and Philip and their families.
Ed began playing the fiddle when he was 5 years old. His immediate family played instruments and Ed “took a liking to the violin.” He played for his first dance at the age of nine and at the age of sixteen bought a fiddle with his own money – all 75 cents worth! He still plays this violin today. Ed built an apparatus that he could operate with his feet that would strum a guitar while he was playing his violin (see photo). Ed tried his hand with a lot of instruments ,being self-taught on piano, accordian, and guitar to name a few. Over the years, the dance was Ed’s avenue to make use of his musical talents. Local events, weddings, anniversaries, and birthday parties became a constant commitment with his music. The Cypress Hills Hillbillies, The Walmar Band and The Alberta 99 Band were some of the dance bands Ed was involved with. His interest and support also went toward the Penticton Old Tyme Fiddlers, The Swift Current Old Tyme Fiddlers and the Medicine Hat Old Tyme Fiddle Contest. Ed competed at many contests across Western Canada and into the U.S.A., winning over 35 first place standings. He also judged a number of fiddle contests over the years and volunteered as a regional director for the Alberta Society of Fiddlers. Ed has built fourteen violins, which have all been sold except for one favorite still remaining in his home. Ed has written, recorded and published a total of 18 tunes. In 2010,he kindly donated two fiddle tunes for the ASF Original Alberta Fiddle Tune Book, the Cypress Hills Blues, and the Prince Albert Waltz.
One of his memorable music moments occurred when he was in the army and stationed at Halifax. An acquaintance got Ed a “pass” and took him to a place where Don Messer and his Islanders were playing. He got to meet Cec McEachern , Waldo Monroe, Charlie Chamberlain, Marg Osborne and, of course, Don Messer himself. Later that evening, the band went to a private home to practice and Ed and his buddy were invited to come along. Don Messer asked Ed to join in. Ed was apprehensive, to which Don replied “how do you think we got started? What would you like to play? Don Messer’s Breakdown?” Ed agreed and away they went, playing another half dozen tunes.
Ed also met Al Cherny, the fiddler from the Tommy Hunter Show. Al was playing in Medicine Hat for a local event. Ed shared the stage with his dance band and was invited to play along with Al.
Ed says his favorite tunes are The Morning Glory Waltz, Rippling Water Jig and the Loggers Breakdown.
At the age of 91, Ed still plays his fiddle at the seniors’ home in Medicine Hat a few times a month. He says he knows what the joy of fiddle music does to the people as they begin to tap their fingers and toes – the same feeling of enjoyment that Ed has experienced throughout his lifetime.
Submitted by Randy Jones
November 16, 2012