March 3rd, 2024

Jig and jam sessions share Metis culture


By Troy Bannerman - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on November 23, 2023.

Long & McQuade, the Lethbridge Public Library, and Lethbridge and Area Metis have come together to provide Lethbridge with a unique musical opportunity.

The Jig and Jam Metis Music program started on Oct. 5 and is being taught by Monique Giroux, Brittany Lee, and Dan Beeson-Bergeron.

At the beginning of the program students were given the option to learn fiddle or guitar. Following the music lessons, the students are taught traditional Metis dances such as the Red River Jig, the Rabbit Dance and more.

The program is being held at the Crossings Branch of the Lethbridge Public Library. It’s free and open to the public. Sessions are held every Thursday from 6:30-8 p.m.. The dance portion starts at 7:30. The program will run until January 11.

Lee, the dance instructor, said in a recent interview that “Jig and Jam is a wonderful opportunity for Metis and non-Metis individuals to join in some of our cultural pieces such as our dances and some of our traditional music. Our hope is that people can learn and grow in this community to be able to provide those cultural teachings to both our people as well as the greater community so that our culture can be passed down for generations.

“We are very grateful for the Lethbridge Public Library’s Crossings Branch to be able to house this program and provide us with the space and the support that we need. And Long & McQuade for being able to provide some participants with a fiddle to be able to participate in these lessons,” said Lee.

“We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to be able to showcase some of our culture right in the heart of Lethbridge where people can freely experience it. And it’s wonderful to see when we have our Jig and Jam nights that people who are frequenting the library are very interested in it. We get a lot of people asking questions, and we get a lot of people who are just excited to see something different in the community.”

Beeson-Bergeron, the guitar instructor, said “the library has been very accommodating to us. It’s a very busy place. So they have been very gracious with their space.”

Beeson-Bergeron said that thanks to the loaned instruments students are getting a chance to learn an instrument, an experience which otherwise may not have been available to them.

“I think it’s been a great opportunity to provide, first of all, to provide music lessons for the community, and then also to share our Metis traditions. I think those are the two biggest parts about what we do. It’s been really great to see how much the students have been able to come out of their shell in terms of their guitar playing, and that they’re starting to get a lot more comfortable playing in a group. Some of them were coming into this never having played guitar before. I guess for me what has been important is being able to share my love of guitar with the community as well as being able to bring in my Metis heritage along with it.”

Giroux, the fiddle instructor, noted “I think it’s had a really positive impact on the community because it allows people to get to know each other in a fairly informal setting, and to learn how to do something together.

“The Lethbridge and Area Metis has put in a lot of work to make sure that this can run. It’s not easy to make sure that all the partners are in place to allow it to happen. It’s also a fairly substantial time commitment because it happens every week. And there’s a lot of behind the scenes things that have to happen.”

Giroux added “I think running it for a couple of years will help us establish a kind of core group of fiddler’s so that we can start running old time dances and other events.”

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