"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”

Henry D. Thoreau




What is Going on in the Kitchen?

By Rebecca Hiebert

The term “Kitchen Party” refers to a style of gathering that has been around for hundreds of years. During a Kitchen Party, friends and family gather together eating, playing music, singing, and dancing. Anyone can join in, regardless of musical ability and everyone is welcome. Traditionally Kitchen Parties tended to feature folk music: reels and jigs with their origins in Scotland, Ireland, Cape Breton and from Metis culture, to name a few. The Kitchen party is, and was, a way to create entertainment on a cold winter night, even on tight a budget!

Our family learned about the Kitchen Party culture when our eldest son began taking fiddle lessons from a wonderful teacher in Winnipeg. He introduced us to the world of traditional music and the inclusivity it teaches. We were introduced to Music Camps that welcome all ages of participants, from the eager enthusiast to the shaky beginner. Lessons during the day, jamming in the afternoon, and instructor concerts and square dancing in the evening created exciting days, encouraging even the most uninterested to consider picking up an instrument. The overarching message being that whoever you are, and whatever your skill, you are a musician and you are valuable.

The message that we are all musicians is not what is usually portrayed in pop-culture. We are bombarded with computer-enhanced sound bytes that would leave anyone to believe that making music is best left to the “professionals.” Being a successful musician takes hard work and perseverance, it also takes motivation and being surrounded by pop-stars is intimidating, not motivating. Conversely, the traditional music scene is exhilarating. There are formal and informal networks of traditional music communities crisscrossing the Prairies. The largest school division in Manitoba, the Frontier School Division, has an enormous fiddle program that employs many musicians, regularly flying them to remote schools, bringing music to isolated communities. In the process they are connecting people of diverse backgrounds through the joys of music. 

We are all musicians, and we are all valuable. Together we can make music, whether that be using musical instruments or the harmony of getting along regardless of diverse views. Everyone is welcome to the Kitchen Party of life, whoever you are and whatever your challenges. At the Kitchen Party we create community together, valuing each others differences and celebrating life. What is music for? It is for creating community, it is for creating happiness and it is for creating connection. I feel incredibly lucky to have stumbled onto the rich music traditions found here on the Prairies. 

Want to join a Kitchen party? 

Music Camps:




Frontier Fiddlers: http://www.cbc.ca/manitoba/scene/music/2012/03/16/frontier-fiddlers/

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