Cana­dian fid­dle tunes, blue­grass or folk: April Verch follows her muse

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Arts Living - BY JACK BERNHARDT

April Verch was born to her art.

Verch, a na­tive of Canada’s Ot­tawa Val­ley, be­gan danc­ing at the age of 3. She re­ceived her first fid­dle on her sixth birth­day. Now 40, Verch has com­bined her award-win­ning fid­dling and step danc­ing with song­writ­ing and singing into a dy­namic stage show that’s been seen in Canada, Aus­tralia, China, the United Arab Emi­rates and be­yond.

Verch will join Raleigh mu­si­cian Joe New­berry Dec. 8 at The Cary the­ater for their an­nual hol­i­day show high­light­ing con­nec­tions be­tween tra­di­tions of Canada and the South­ern United States. The New­ber­ryVerch col­lab­o­ra­tion, a seam­less blend of Cana­dian and Ozark/ Ap­palachian styles, is a mas­ter­ful fu­sion of shared in­ter­ests and mu­si­cal tastes.

“We have a lot in com­mon, not only with mu­sic but with a phi­los­o­phy on mu­sic and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of it, and the roots of it,” Verch said in an in­ter­view.

“We re­ally do fall into it eas­ily, and I think that’s be­cause we feel the same way about it and be­cause we ad­mire each other’s work. And we’re re­ally good lis­ten­ers. Any time we’re play­ing to­gether, we’re lis­ten­ing to each other.”

New­berry is an award-win­ning ban­joist and song­writer who is known to Tri­an­gle audi-

ences from his work with for­mer Red Clay Ram­blers Jim Wat­son, Mike Craver and the re­cently de­ceased Bill Hicks. He has toured the United King­dom and been fea­tured on the BBC mu­sic se­ries, “Transat­lantic Ses­sions.”

Mean­while, Verch is among her coun­try’s most cel­e­brated artists. She was named Cana­dian Grand Mas­ters Fid­dle Cham­pion in 1997 and Cana­dian Open Fid­dle Cham­pion in 1998. Her clev­erly ti­tled 2001 CD, “Ver­chu­os­ity,” earned a JUNO award (the Cana­dian equiv­a­lent of a Grammy) for Best Roots/ Tra­di­tional Solo Al­bum of 2001. And she per­formed at the Open­ing Cer­e­monies of the 2010 Win­ter Olympic Games in Van­cou­ver, Bri­tish Columbia, as one of six artists cho­sen to rep­re­sent the Cana­dian fid­dle tra­di­tion.

Verch ac­quired her pas­sion for coun­try mu­sic from her fa­ther, who was in a coun­try band when she was growing up, and the events she at­tended as a kid.

“There were clas­sic coun­try jam­borees and dances,” she said. “So I grew up around a lot of Ot­tawa Val­ley coun­try artists. They were some of the first peo­ple to in­flu­ence me.”

Verch as­sem­bled the April Verch Band and be­gan tour­ing in 2000. To­day, she spends around 200 days a year on the road.

Mar­ried to her bassist/ ban­joist Cody Wal­ters, she de­votes time be­tween tours at his home in Asheville or hers in Pem­broke, Canada.

Though raised on Cana­dian fid­dle tunes, Verch’s reper­toire is an Amer­i­cana mix of gen­res and styles. Her di­verse tal­ents have earned her an in­ter­na­tional fol­low­ing.

“I think part of the key for me is to be able to play in a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent types of venues,” she says. “Also ... I’m sort of ver­sa­tile, so I’m not just play­ing blue­grass fes­ti­vals, or just folk, or just Celtic. It makes it harder for mar­ket­ing some­times, but the good side of it is that I can play enough gen­res that I fit in dif­fer­ent mar­kets, which has been re­ally good for keep­ing busy at it.”

Whether blue­grass, folk, or Cana­dian fid­dle tunes, Verch follows her muse wher­ever it leads.

Th­ese days, it’s lead­ing her to Nashville, Tenn., where she’s record­ing an al­bum of 1950s and ’60s coun­try clas­sics. Her fa­ther will play gui­tar on one of the tracks.

“I’m go­ing to record this clas­sic coun­try al­bum and we might play the record for a week­end at a re­lease show,” Verch says.

“But the plan, then, is to take a few of those fa­vorites and in­cor­po­rate them into the live show but still have the va­ri­ety. I feel that’s what I’ve be­come known for, and that’s where my heart is.

“I’m go­ing to record the clas­sic coun­try al­bum, but I don’t want to say I’m a coun­try artist. I don’t want to pre­tend to be some­thing I’m not.”

Whether per­form­ing with New­berry or her band, record­ing coun­try songs or her orig­i­nal com­po­si­tions, Verch pur­sues her ca­reer with de­ter­mi­na­tion and in­de­fati­ga­ble verve. She at­tributes her suc­cess in part to the sup­port and coun­sel of her par­ents.

“I do have a good work ethic, and I got that from both of my par­ents,” she says. “I feel very lucky that not only do they sup­port my mu­sic but also teach me how to man­age things. My mom taught me to keep books and be my own ac­coun­tant and be or­ga­nized. I’m sure they never thought I’d end up hav­ing a ca­reer in mu­sic, but it re­ally serves me well.”

PARKER J. PFIS­TER

April Verch and Joe New­berry play to­gether Dec. 8 at The Cary. Verch is among Canada’s most cel­e­brated artists.

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