April 25, 2013

Fiddle virtuoso plays Ogunquit, Brownfield

April Verch brings her prodigious fiddle skills – and maybe a bit of step dancing – to Maine this weekend.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Where April Verch comes from -- the Ottawa River Valley of southern Canada -- fiddle music and step dancing make for a hot Saturday night.

click image to enlarge

April Verch and her band – Cody Walters on upright bass and banjo and Hayes Griffin on guitar – will play a show at Jonathan’s in Ogunquit on Friday and another at Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield on Saturday.

Photo by Sandlin Gaither

click image to enlarge

“Bright Like Gold,” April Verch’s latest album, came out in early April and features work by banjo virtuoso Sammy Shelor, old-time fiddle master Bruce Molsky and Mac Wiseman, a member of the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

Photo by Sandlin Gaither

APRIL VERCH

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday

WHERE: Jonathan’s, 92 Bourne Lane, Ogunquit, on Friday; Stone Mountain Arts Center, 695 Dug Way Road, Brownfield, on Saturday

HOW MUCH: $20 ($23 day of show) Friday; $20 Saturday

INFO: jonathansrestaurant.com; stonemountainartscenter.com

"Where I grew up, those things went hand in hand as people's idea of a good time," said Verch, 35, who still calls Pembroke, Ontario, home. "I started step dancing at 3, and that made me want to play the fiddle. I asked for one when I was 3, and got one when I was 6."

Today, Verch records both traditional and original fiddle-based music with her band, and performs live shows that combine music and step dancing.

And it seems to be a good time to try and convince people that fiddle music can be part of a good time.

Mumford & Sons is leading a wave of young rock bands that use traditional acoustic instruments and even call themselves "string bands," although they're not all playing old time-y tunes.

But there seems to be growing interest in the playing of old time-y music too, Verch observes, because of the growing number of fiddle camps and fiddle jamborees taking place across North America.

"There were maybe five string and fiddle camps when I was growing up, but there are so many more today," she said. "It seems that interest (in traditional folk music) comes and goes in waves, and right now, I think we're at the peak of one of those waves."

Verch and her band -- Cody Walters on upright bass and banjo and Hayes Griffin on guitar -- will be riding that wave into Maine this week, with a show at Jonathan's in Ogunquit on Friday and another at Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield on Saturday.

Verch has been recording for about 20 years, and has released nine albums since 1992. She was Canada's Grand Masters Fiddle Champion in 1997 and the country's Open Fiddle Champion in 1998. She performed at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010, and on the public radio show "A Prairie Home Companion."

Her most recent album, "Bright Like Gold," came out in early April and features work by banjo virtuoso Sammy Shelor, old-time fiddle master Bruce Molsky and Mac Wiseman, a member of the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

Verch's shows are a combination of traditional folk tunes, old country or bluegrass tunes by the likes of Loretta Lynn or Flatt & Scruggs, and original tunes written by all the band's members.

"But the songs we write sound old too," she said.

And then there's the step dancing. Verch performs some dances at every show, and the finale usually involves her fiddling and dancing at the same time.

Because she also sings, putting together a playlist that allows her time to breathe is sometimes tricky.

"The most important thing is to pace ourselves. If I've just done a dance, I might not sing the next song, things like that," said Verch.

And that is probably the essence of having a good time, whether it be listening to fiddle music or dancing up a storm: Pace yourself.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

rrouthier@pressherald.com

 

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