Entertainment Local

10 Minutes With Rick: A chat with Rankin's own April Verch

Rick Wharton

By Rick Wharton, Special to The Daily Observer

April Verch

April Verch

EDITOR'S NOTE: Rick Wharton, actor, comedian, radio personality, The Conspiracy Guy, and Festival Hall director, brings The Daily Observer readers exclusive interviews with some of the big name acts coming to Festival Hall. Instead of traditional story format, these pieces are brought to you in the question and answer format in the same way the interviews took place. So let's be a fly on the wall and hear what one of Canada's best best musicians, April Verch, had to say during her '10 minutes with Rick.'

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Rick: Thanks April for coming home to do this great big homecoming show back at Festival Hall as part of the wonderful Festival of Small Halls tour. How did this all come to be?

April: I first met Kelly Symes (Festival of Small Halls (FOSH) Ontario director) at the Celtic Colours International Festival in Cape Breton last year. We hit it off and while getting to know each other she told me about her work with FOSH and I was immediately enthused and excited. I had heard about the FOSH in PEI, which we played for the first time in June this year, and of the one in Australia, and I thought it was an absolutely brilliant idea for Ontario for many reasons. I told Kelly I would love to be involved some day in some way, and a year later, here we are! I do believe it's an important festival, it helps us to celebrate our communities and small halls, and brings great music from near and far"¦ I am so glad that Kelly and her team are presenting it, and that they've asked us to take part this year!

Rick: It's been almost 5 years since you played Festival Hall which is not so small. Not only are you bringing your band but an opening act called Darlingside from the U.S.A. How has the road been and what can we look forward to during the live show?

April: The road has been fantastic! It's challenging and exhausting at times, but performing live is still my passion, and I consider it a great honour to be able to do so. I'm excited to return to Festival Hall! We've had the pleasure of sharing the bill with Darlingside at festivals in Kansas City and Vancouver Island already this year and they've been blowing people away, so we're thrilled the Festival of Small Halls Ontario has billed us together again in Pembroke! For our part, audiences can expect an entertaining show with a lot of variety. We've got fiddle tunes, bass, banjo, guitar, stepdancing, vocals, a few different traditional music styles from a few different regions, some originals"¦ And lots of stories and sharing along the way!

Rick: A lot of people know and love you and your work in the Ottawa Valley. You tour all over the world. Do you get home much? Where do you live and create music when you are not on the road?

April: Thanks, Rick. I truly am an Ottawa Valley girl and I carry it with me wherever I go, so that means a lot to me. It's always hard being away, and I know it probably sounds cliché, but I think that travelling so much really does make me appreciate the valley in different ways than I would if I were here all of the time. I never take it for granted.

How much I'm away really does vary a great deal, there's no rhyme or reason or dependability to it. It's like anyone else who's self employed, you make hay while the sun shines, and you don't turn work down unless you really have to! So I take time at home based on when slow periods happen by chance, rather than trying to plan them. It seems to work out best that way. That being said, we do book quite far in advance, so nothing is last minute and that's really nice. I still call Pembroke home, but I spend a fair amount of time in the Asheville, North Carolina area between U.S. tours.

Rick : What was it like to go to legendary Berklee College in Boston?

April: I attended Berklee College of Music in Boston for a year before I started touring full time. It was a wonderful experience and quite expensive, especially with our Canadian dollar at that particular time! The string department at that time was very small and full of amazing talent. Several of my friends from that year are now full-time professional musicians who have made great names for themselves. It was a special time there. I made some great contacts and learned a lot about the music business in addition to my actual music studies. That being said, there is no substitution for the learning that takes place through the experience of being out on tour. And all of it - the music, skills, the business aspects - is such an ongoing, beautiful process that will never end!

Rick: You have toured all over the world, what would be some of your favourite places to play, live? Special nod I guess to the Vancouver Olympics"¦.

April: Absolutely, the Opening Ceremonies for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver was definitely a career highlight, and one beyond compare to anything else. You know it's really difficult to pick favourites, and I don't say that as a "way out" of answering. It's just that sharing music with audiences in so many great places and from so many different walks of life is such an amazing experience. My career has definitely taken me to places I would have never imagined, and the response to the music is, thankfully, always great, but also the response is varied and personal. What a tune or a song or a performance as a whole means to someone in a tiny community hall in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut and what it means to someone in a huge, historic concert hall in Austria, Vienna are completely different, but equally important and special. That still amazes me. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that for me, it is the variety that keeps it so special and fresh. And also, I really, really love Scandinavia!

Rick: The latest release The Newpart is really wonderful. Congratulations. Really cool record that taps deep into songs and tunes from the era before the often-mined mid-century heyday of bluegrass and folk - harkening back to vaudeville and beyond. How as an artist did you get to that place where you wanted to go there musically?

April: Thank you, I really appreciate that, Rick! It's no secret to folks that I love traditional music. Whether it be an Ottawa Valley fiddle tune, an old, classic country song, a Swedish polska, an Appalachian old-time tune "¦ I wanted more music that felt like some of those genres I love, and my producer of The Newpart, Casey Driessen, suggested listening to some music from the vaudeville era. Once I did, it seemed like a natural extension to really dig into it. Many of the artists and bands from the 20s and 30s played music that would probably be called "string band" music now, except that people just weren't calling it that, or anything, yet. I am attracted to music that takes us on a journey, many times to a simpler time, when life was slower and people still valued "hand made." These types of music are the expression of a region and a community, and it speaks to me.

Rick: The Newpart title pays homage to your Verch Home. Please share with our readers what that title means.

April: The "newpart" is what my family and our close family friends lovingly call the addition on my parents house (my family home.) Everyone still calls it the "newpart" even though it was built the year I was born! It was the room where I remember my dad's country band practising when I was a little girl, where my sister Tawnya and I practised our stepdancing, where we had all of our important family celebrations. It's always represented family, tradition and music for me, although I didn't always realize it. So for my tenth release, as I was looking back and taking stock and giving thanks, it seemed like a fitting title for the album.

Rick: Eleven albums (musical releases ), countless awards, you're a musician from Rankin who is known all over the world for her talent. What would you say to the younger talent who are just starting out trying to find their way? 

April: I truly believe that you can do anything you set your mind to. But you really, really, really have to want it. It's important to be realistic about it. It's going to be harder in many ways than you can imagine right now. And things aren't always going to go as you plan or expect. You might have to adjust your path. So just be prepared, in every way that you can. It's not enough to be skilled, it's not enough to be passionate, it's not enough to be knowledgeable in all aspects of what you're going after. You need a healthy combination of it all. And then you need to believe in yourself. It all comes down to desire, vision, flexibility and perseverance.

Rick: Thanks April it's going to be a great night of music and talent. Thanks for coming home Sept. 17 as part of the great Festival of Small Halls tour. The buzz on your show and the opening musical act Darlingside is great!

April: Thank you so much for having me, for having us! We are really looking forward to it. It's going to be a special concert, a special night, and we're thrilled to be a part of it!

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April Verch Band with special guests Darlingside performs at Festivall Hall Centre for the Arts in Pembroke on Sept. 17 starting at 7:30 p.m. For tickets www.festhall.ca or call the box office 613-735-2182.

For more information on April Verch please visit www.aprilverch.com.