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A fiddle adventure

I arranged for a primo table at Hugh’s Room for the April Verch Band’s CD release well before I tumbled from the front steps and broke my ankle – and we didn’t want to miss this show. There were some challenges. To start with, dinner and a show meant a long stretch without being able to elevate my leg, plus there were some logistical challenges. Hugh’s Room is a wonderful place but accessibility is not its strong suit. There is a staircase up to get in and then two short staircases down to get to our table near the stage. Fortunately there were good railings and I’m getting around pretty well on crutches. My bigger worry was the washrooms. To get from our table to the washroom meant going up two short stairs and then going down a significant stairway. This was really going to be a challenge. I dealt with this by restricting liquids, and fortunately, I didn’t have to make that difficult trip.

April Verch is a fiddler who comes out of the Ottawa Valley tradition (but whose music now includes the broader old time tradition). She started off step-dancing as a child and soon moved to fiddle. As a young woman she won both the Canadian Open and Canadian Grandmasters fiddle championships, and she has been touring with The April Verch Band since. We were wowed by her show at Hugh’s Room several years ago and were very excited to hear her play live again. Here’s a video from her website.

She calls her new recording The Newpart, which is a part of her parents home that was renovated around the time she was born. Not new at all, the newpart is where she practiced as a child and which obviously a place she has a great fondness for.

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Cody Walters has played bass and clawhammer banjo with the April Verch Band since 2007 and guitar and mandolin whiz Hayes Griffin has been with her since 20012. There was a special treat last night as well. Tony McManus, one of the finest Celtic guitarists around, opened the show with an inventive and magical set. April Verch joined him on stage at the end of his set, and as well McManus came back to play mandolin with the band at the end.

As well as playing fiddle and singing, April Verch has another instrument – her feet. Several times during the show, she flew into step-dancing breaks that were nothing short of fantastic, and at the end of the show, she played and danced at the same time. At one point in the show, she sprinkled something from a jar onto the plywood surface the band uses as a stage. This must have been some kind of sand, and she used her feet dragged across the plywood as a very effective percussion instrument.

We had a fantastic time with our friends at the show. By the end though, my leg was telling me that getting home, getting the aircast off, and elevating my leg was priority one.

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