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Local fiddler presents weekend fiddle extravaganza

Author: 
Deirdre Tombs, Sweetgrass Writer, Edmonton
Volume: 
12
Issue: 
5
Year: 
2005

Page 7

Fiddle fans in Edmonton will have the chance to enjoy three days of fiddle heaven presented by local fiddle sensation Calvin Vollrath.

Put on your dancing shoes because the weekend starts April 22 with an Old Tyme Dance at the Yellowhead Motor Inn. A CD release party follows on Saturday for two albums-Strings of Pearl, a collection of his own compositions, and Metis Style Fiddle, a compilation of traditional Metis tunes.

Guest fiddlers John Arcand, the master Metis fiddle player from Saskatoon, Gilbert Anderson, Laurier Sauve and others will join Vollrath at the release party at the Arden Theatre in St. Albert. The Kikino Northern Lights Dancers, a Metis square dance group, will be on-site to add a bit of spice to the celebrations.

Vollrath said it's always important to have dancers in a show.

"It's like cigarettes and a bar," he joked. "They kind of go together, you know? It's important for people to see the dancing. It just all adds so much life to it."

The Calvin Vollrath Fiddle Gala is slated for Sunday April 24 at the Arden Theatre. Vollrath will host the show while his guests from Saturday display their own fiddling styles.

The weekend is a celebration of Vollrath's 30th anniversary in the music business.

"Hard to believe. It feels like yesterday when I got started playing for dances," wrote Vollrath in an announcement of the event.

Vollrath was born in Edmonton into a fiddle playing family. His father, Art "Lefty" Vollrath, was also an accomplished fiddle player. Calvin grew up watching Don Messer's Jubilee, a musical television variety show that aired on CBC television from 1958 to 1969. He first picked up a fiddle at the age of eight and, by the age of 17, Vollrath was winning world championship fiddle competitions.

As a teen in Morinville, he quickly became a popular fiddle player. Metis square dances began hiring him on a regular basis, and then the Native friendship centre in Edmonton hired him to play every Friday night for about 10 years.

Vollrath said that he has had many career highlights, such as participating in the World Music Expo in Berlin, Germany. He also played in front of 54,000-plus people at the closing ceremonies of the World Track and Field Games in Edmonton in 2001. His TV credits include playing with the house bands on CTV's Sun Country, and CBC's Native Nashville North. Vollrath will receive the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award on April 16.

In 30 years, Vollrath has written more than 350 compositions, many of which have become standard tunes at dances and contests across Canada. One of his compositions came from another one of his career highlights. Vollrath was commissioned to write the theme song for Fiddles of the World, an international fiddle convention in Halifax in 1999, an honor Vollrath said was very special.

Vollrath's passion of fiddle music is never ending, and it keeps him busy writing music.

"I mean, just all of a sudden melodies just kind of pop into my head, you know, driving down the highway ... You just start getting this melody in your head. So now I carry a little pocket digital recorder, a little tiny thing that you can just press the button, it's recording, and if I've got a thought, I whistle into the machine or hum into the machine... There's music going through my head all the time. It's kind of sickening after a while," joked Vollrath.

For those who like a swing and jazz sound to their fiddle music, a third CD will be available to purchase, although Vollrath is not officially releasing this CD at the party. Vollrath recorded the album with various Nashville musicians last year. He said this CD was different from any other kind of album he has produced before and without the Nashville musicians it is difficult to reproduce on stage.

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