April in April: Fingers and feet set to fly at the Miners’ Hall Saturday night

Allyson Kenning
By Allyson Kenning
April 13th, 2011

No doubt a lot of readers have heard of Canadian fiddlers Natalie MacMaster and Ashely MacIsaak, but we have also a fiddle virtuoso from the Ottawa Valley who has made a big name for herself in the roots scene not only with her fantastic fiddling but with her two-stepping as well. Her name is April Verch and she will be raising the roof of the Miners’ Hall this Saturday evening.  The show is the fourth and final offering for this season from the Rossland Council for Arts and Culture (RCAC) and its performance series; and as a special bonus, on Saturday afternoon, prior to her show, Verch will be facilitating a fiddle workshop at the Hall for beginning and intermediate fiddlers.  “There are a lot of fiddle workshops and fiddle instructors around here,” says Nadine Tremblay of the RCAC, “but April is going to focus more on Canadian fiddle styles, so more traditional stuff.”  The workshop, which will run from 1 – 3 PM, still has some openings, and people wanting to participate need to pre-register with a form printed off of the RCAC’s web siteand handed in to Out of the Cellar. The registration fee is $25 and spaces are going quickly.  “We do quite a few workshops,” April Verch herself told me during a telephone interview. “Not as many as performances just because the schedule doesn’t always allow it. It always depends a little bit on what the local fiddle scene is and what experience level there is–and interest-wise, as well. I try to tailor them to what the people who show up want to learn.”  Verch says that Canadian fiddle styles vary greatly from region to region and from coast to coast–something not everyone is aware of.  “Every province can be broken down into little areas and there are distinct fiddle styles in different regions. Some of [those styles] can be grouped under “Old Time Canadian”. Those styles are more of a melting pot of influences. So the Ottawa Valley [fiddle sound], where I’m from, could be called Old Time Canadian, [as could] the Maritime fiddle sound or the Western Canadian fiddle sound. Those all fall under the umbrella of Old Time Canadian. And there are some other ones that are more distinct that have stayed true to the roots of a specific people who settled in a certain place. So the French Canadian or Quebecois, or the Cape Breton, who stayed true to the Scottish roots, or even the Metis – those don’t fit under the Old Time umbrella.”  Verch notes that she considers herself an Ottawa Valley fiddler, which is what she grew up with. Verch was born and raised, and currently resides, in Pembroke Ontario, just a couple hours’ drive from the nation’s capital. She started playing the fiddle when she was six years old and by the time she had finished high school, she had recorded and released two albums, was touring full time, and was an instructor at fiddle camps. At around the time she went to Boston’s Berklee College of Music, she was also crowned Canadian Grand Masters Fiddle Champion and Canadian Open Fiddle Champion.  But fiddle-playing is only part of Verch’s deep well of talent: she’s also a notable step-dancer, and incorporates this element into her live performances. In fact, Verch has been step-dancing longer than she’s been playing the fiddle, having started out on that path at the age of three. Attendees at Saturday night’s show will get to see her fancy footwork as she does some Ottawa Valley step-dancing as she plays.  The audience can expect a varied show, in which Verch performs as part of a trio. Joining her on stage are Clay Ross on guitar and percussion and Cody Walters on claw hammer banjo and upright bass.  “There’s a lot of variety in the show, first of all because we’re switching between fiddle and instrumental and dancing, but also we play a lot of different styles,” explains Verch. “They’re all forms of traditional music, but they’re from different areas of the world. So we might play a French Canadian tune, a bluegrass tune, then a Brazilian tune, and then an Old Time American tune. The songs are covers, or traditional, and there’s some original stuff. We explain a lot about what we’re doing and why we picked a certain piece and we try to get to know the audience. It’s just like a social event.”  2011 has been a busy time for Verch, who just completed recording a new album that will contain, for the first time, some of her own original lyrics, and her schedule looks relentless through the summer and fall. After their short tour of the Kootenays (the trio plays in Creston on Thursday and Nelson on Friday), this troupe of travelling minstrels heads for the Far East and an 8-show romp around China, with venues in Beijing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai, among others. For these shows, Verch and her group are adding a traditional Chinese folk song to their set list, in keeping with their tradition of keeping tradition alive. For more information about April Verch, please check out her web siteTickets to Saturday’s performance are available for $20 in advance at Out of the Cellar in Rossland and at the Charles Bailey Theatre box office in Trail, and are $25 at the door. For more information on the fiddling workshop, you can visit the RCAC web site or call Nadine Tremblay at 250-231-7943

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