Pem­broke’s Verch home for an all-star NAC show

April Verch re­turns home for an all-star con­cert as part of NAC’s Canada Scene fes­ti­val

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - LYNN SAXBERG lsaxberg@post­ twit­ lynnsaxberg

Pem­broke-based fid­dler and step­dancer April Verch has been putting her own spin on the Ot­tawa Val­ley fid­dle tra­di­tion since she was a child and mak­ing a ca­reer of it for al­most 20 years. Now 39, with fans on both sides of the At­lantic, the Berklee Col­lege of Mu­sic grad re­leased two al­bums this year and re­turns home on July 8 for an all-star fid­dle con­cert that show­cases styles from across the coun­try, part of the NAC’s Canada Scene fes­ti­val. Lynn Saxberg man­aged to catch up with the busy mu­si­cian, be­tween teach­ing at fid­dle camps and tour­ing with her band.

Q: Tell me about your new record­ing, the April Verch An­thol­ogy.

A: It’s a cel­e­bra­tion of my first 10 releases, with a cou­ple of tracks off each re­lease and a cou­ple of brand new ones. It gave me a chance to look back and cel­e­brate all the mile­stones along the way, and put some­thing out so that new peo­ple who haven’t known me the whole time can get a sense of some of the ear­lier record­ings. And for the peo­ple who have been with me the whole way who have been ask­ing for some of the ear­lier releases, which I just can’t carry all of them with me any­more.

Q: What was it like pick­ing the tracks?

A: It was ac­tu­ally en­joy­able. I didn’t think it would be. I thought I would hear some of the ear­lier stuff and cringe be­cause you know how it is to go back that long. But it was re­ally cool. Each record ended up re­mind­ing me of a dif­fer­ent point in my life and my ca­reer. It was a lit­tle bit more dif­fi­cult to nar­row down maybe than I thought it would be. We wanted to in­clude a cer­tain num­ber of coals and styles, so that helped de­cide what tracks to in­clude.

Q: Any ob­ser­va­tions on the evo­lu­tion of your style?

A: I guess I was a lit­tle bit sur­prised. I al­ways thought I got more eclec­tic and pas­sion­ate about more styles as time went on, which is true. But I was sur­prised at how eclec­tic the record­ings were in the be­gin­ning. I thought the ear­lier ones would sound more Ot­tawa Val­ley, and they did to a cer­tain ex­tent, but there was al­ways some other stuff thrown in there as well, which I’d for­got­ten about.

Q: Is it im­por­tant to you to keep ex­per­i­ment­ing with new styles?

A: I think what is im­por­tant to me is just to play what I love. And you don’t know what that’s go­ing to be. I think I’ve found my own sound, and that’s partly why I’m able to ex­per­i­ment with so many dif­fer­ent styles. I’m com­fort­able with my sound and who I am as a mu­si­cian. If I want to try to do some­thing, I’m not afraid to do that be­cause I don’t think I’ll sound like I’m try­ing to be some­thing I’m not. There’s enough of me in there that I think it’s clear, ‘She’s not an Ap­palachian player but she’s play­ing a tune from that style, and it re­spects the tra­di­tion but it still sounds like April.’ I think that’s some­thing I’ve got­ten bet­ter at over the years. There’s no sub­sti­tu­tion for do­ing it and ex­per­i­ment­ing with it to get to that point.

Q: What style speaks to you now?

A: The last few years, I got brave enough to try more old-time Amer­i­can stuff, which took me the long­est of any style to feel com­fort­able with. And so I sort of mas­tered that and lately I’ve been turn­ing my at­ten­tion to song­writ­ing, look­ing ahead to the next project. I have been writ­ing songs for a while, but it’s some­thing I want to put a bit more time into and delve into a lit­tle deeper. I’ve also started writ­ing more lyrics.

Q: What was chal­leng­ing about the old-time Amer­i­can style?

A: The bow­ing pat­terns are quite dif­fer­ent from the Cana­dian tra­di­tions and cer­tainly from the Ot­tawa Val­ley tra­di­tion. There’s more of what I’d call a fig­ureeight pat­tern and a dif­fer­ent syn­co­pa­tion, whereas the Cana­dian fid­dle is very ar­tic­u­late. We slur but we clip our slurs, and it was very hard for me to not sound like a Cana­dian play­ing an old­time Amer­i­can tune.

Q : You also have a new record­ing, Go­ing Home, with Joe New­berry, who’s a vet­eran old­time/blue­grass player. What makes you click with him?

A: We’re both re­ally grounded in the tra­di­tions that we come from. Me, of course, the Ot­tawa Val­ley stuff, and he’s from Mis­souri and grew up with the Ozark mu­sic. You wouldn’t ex­pect that we’d have a lot in com­mon, Ot­tawa Val­ley and Ozark, but my dad taught him­self to play by lis­ten­ing to West Vir­ginia jam­boree on the ra­dio, and Joe grew up with fid­dlers who lis­tened to Cana­dian and Québé­cois fid­dle on the ra­dio. So he says that a lot of the Cana­dian fid­dle tunes I play sound vaguely fa­mil­iar to him, even though he doesn’t know them. In ad­di­tion to that, we’re both re­ally pas­sion­ate about shar­ing mu­sic that’s rooted in where we come from.

Q: You per­form in Europe reg­u­larly. Why do you think au­di­ences in other coun­tries en­joy Cana­dian fid­dle tunes?

A: I’ve thought a lot about this. It’s not al­ways the mu­sic, it’s the fact that you’re shar­ing some­thing that’s gen­uine. If you’re pas­sion­ate and you’re talk­ing about why you play it, where it comes from and the con­nec­tion you have to it, that sort of trans­lates to peo­ple. Even if it just makes them think about a sim­i­lar thing in their life. There’s al­ways a con­nec­tion to be found that way if it’s com­ing from a real, hon­est place.

“I think I’ve found my own sound, and that’s partly why I’m able to ex­per­i­ment with so many dif­fer­ent styles,” says 39-year-old fid­dler and step­dancer April Verch.

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