Phil Howes & Debbie Herriot-Howes

 

Phil & Debbie live in Markham, Ontario. They both discovered their love of traditional violin music on their own, and have now been performing and studying this music together for over twenty years.

Debbie is a very accomplished pianist, earning her A.R.C.T. from the Royal Conservatory of Toronto. Debbie founded and directed the Markham Acedemy of Music for 5 years, then decided to move to Scotland - eventually returning to Canada to take up the study of law. She has long been regarded as one of the leading piano players in the Canadian fiddle community, accompanying fiddlers with a style that is uniquely her own, with complex chord and rhythm patterns that enhance the musicality of the traditional music.

Phil refuses to say how long he has been playing the violin, but has played with a number of orchestras and musicals including the Toronto Youth Symphony, Oshawa Symphony and Etobicoke Philharmonic. He also has more than a passing interest in guitar and performed for many years on guitar in numerous bands. After being introduced to the fiddle tunes, Phil immersed himself in studying, performing and developing his expertise in this area. "My classical training focused almost exclusively in teaching western music as it developed in Italy and Germany, which is fine, but it largely ignored the whole body of extremely beautiful music that grew out of the Celtic influences in north-western Europe and the British Isles. Once I found it, I felt like I was home - and have continued to be amazed at the depth of the music that I have learned. This music has a different tonality and rhythm structure than what we call classical music, and has survived and come down to us in the folk idiom, sometimes almost derisively as "fiddle" tunes. We now know that the best violinists in Scotland in the 18th and 19th centuries would often be called upon to play both Bach and traditional dance tunes in the same evening, so there is in fact a large cultural and technical crossover that exists."

Phil & Debbie perform together at numerous engagements, including the Royal Ontario Museum, Campbell House, Markham Museum, community fairs and festivals throughout Ontario, Scotland and in Cape Breton. They are also active in the Ontario Fiddle community, teach at the Canadian Fiddler's & Stepdancer's Hall of Fame Music Camp, and currently are directors of the Hockley Valley Music Camp, and can often be found at contests where Phil is a well regarded and entertaining MC and adjudicator and Debbie serves as house accompanist.