Yellowknife twins Annie and Issie Thomas and Sophie and Grace Clark are getting together for their final year as fiddling quartet Double Treble.
The twins have known each other since playschool. Fiddling entered their lives when the Clark twins and Issie Thomas started playing together in a program called the Fiddle Cats. A few years later Annie joined in.
Their love for fiddling didn’t stop when the school year ended.
“During the summers we still wanted to play so we started busking on the streets or at the market, to make some extra money,” said Issie.
The group then started getting hired to play gigs, at which point they realized they needed a name. Thus, Double Treble was born.
The two sets of twins agree they enjoy their time practising and playing together.
“We laugh too much,” said Sophie about the feedback they often receive from new teachers.
“We joke around with each other all the time. We end up on the floor laughing and they’re just trying to teach us the song.”
The sound of Double Treble is hard to pin down, said Sophie. The group pulls from an eclectic mix of traditional, Irish, Metis, contemporary and groovy fiddle tunes. There are some classic fiddle songs, but more often than not fiddle music varies from region to region and person to person, and each fiddler may play a tune differently.
“Usually people write songs on the go,” said Annie of the creative process behind fiddle music. “I find as people travel different places like around Yukon or something then they’ll write songs. Or if they think of a tune that reminds them of a certain place, then they’ll write a song.”
As with many Northern artists, Double Treble have had to learn their craft in unorthodox ways. With a dearth of violin players to learn from in person, they take lessons over Skype.
Sometimes a sudden power outage will disrupt their lessons, Annie said, but they make do.
Having access to NWT Arts Council funding allowed Double Treble to bring their fiddle teacher, Zavallennahh Young, to Yellowknife in March. The group even played at the Snow Castle with Young.
This experience was crucial for their development, according to Annie. Some details, such as how the bow is held or small adjustments in sounds, cannot be noticed over Skype.
The band doesn’t get out of the territory often, but when they do, they find a strong Canadian fiddling community that inspires their learning. Aurora Fiddle Society jams are also inspiring for the group, as each fiddler plays songs slightly different ways.
With only one year left together before the four friends go to separate parts of Canada for higher education, Grace said they hope to record some of their favourite songs for the future.
“It’s really sad to think about it because we’ve been doing this for so long,” Annie added. “I honestly haven’t thought about it. This is a moment for me.”