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Fiddler celebrates Canadian and Appalachian sounds

Appalachian-inspired songstress April Verch returns with her band to play Sunday at Crossings in Zumbrota.

April Verch and her band deliver a return performance at Zumbrota’s Crossings at Carnegie on at 7 p.m. Sunday April 6.

In her second decade as an internationally touring fiddler, step dancer, singer and songwriter, the Canadian-born musician pulls from the sounds of the Appalachia mountains and the deep South.

Verch’s band is rounded out by bassist and clawhammer banjo player Cody Walters and guitarist Hayes Griffin.

In concert, the group dabbles in old-time Canadian medleys that may include “Dusty Miller,” “Fiddle Fingers” and “Grizzly Bear” in combination with Appalachian-inspired tunes such as “Edward in the Treetop,” “Yellow Jacket” and “Quit That Ticking Me.”

Verch also incorporates original work and closes out the show with a grand finale both fiddling and step dancing — executing two entirely different rhythmic patterns at the same time.

Tickets are $20 in advance, $22 day of show. To reserve tickets, visit, call 507-732-7616 or stop in to Crossings at 320 East Ave., Zumbrota.

Learn more about Verch as she opens up her music, her band and her ridiculously good step-dancing by reading below.

What are your earliest music-related memories?

Actually, all of my early memories include music. I started playing fiddle when I was 6 years old. 

I grew up in the Ottawa Valley region of northeastern Ontario and there’s a strong tradition of fiddling and step-dancing there. The style is unique to the region, kind of a melting pot of influences mostly from the immigrants who settled there to work in the lumber camps when the area was settled. 

My parents were huge fans of the local tradition and my dad plays guitar and sings, so we were around the Ottawa Valley music a lot at festivals, jams and dances. I was also following in the footsteps of my older sister, who was taking step-dancing lessons, so I started dancing at the age of 3. 

I liked the social aspect of everyone having a great time with the music every time I was around it and I loved the sound of the instrument, so I started asking for a fiddle when I was 3 and finally got one for my sixth birthday.

Do you remember the first time you performed for an audience? What do you remember about it?

I remember being put up on the stage before I knew how to step-dance and absolutely loving it. When I was 2 years old, my family was attending a fiddle and step-dance competition and my sister was competing. 

During the final jamboree of the evening, right before the prizes were announced, someone saw me dancing — I used to pretend from the time I could walk — at the side of the stage and took and lifted me up on the stage with all of the fiddlers. My parents have a great picture of it. I look like I’m really dancing, and many of the fiddlers are Canadian fiddle legends that I looked up when I got older and still do. I always loved performing and being on stage. I was never nervous, I think I figured it’s what everyone wanted to do.

Who or what inspires your work?

For me, that answer is changing all of the time. Growing up, I was mostly influenced by the fiddlers and performers that I met at local jams, dances, fiddle contests, etc. 

I was also fortunate to have opportunities with my step-dance instructor to perform at exhibitions, conferences, county fairs, that type of thing. So I was around a lot of professional musicians as well and I really looked up to them. 

They encouraged me and I learned a lot about what it meant to play music as a career from them even from an early age. I would buy a lot of fiddle recordings from the events we went to and then started shopping through music catalogues later on, my dad always made it a point to play me the Canadian fiddle legends on the record player if he thought I was forgetting my roots.

These days, as I’m traveling I’m often inspired by musicians we meet or hear along the way, but also the people we meet and things we get to see. Some things inspire me to write, others to approach my music on stage in a different way.  

Describe the dynamic of your band?

I feel so fortunate to travel with the band members I have. 

They are two of the best musicians that I’ve worked with and we really click both on stage and off. 

That’s the key, and it doesn’t always work out that way. So when it happens we hold on for dear life. Cody Walters plays bass and claw hammer banjo in the band. 

He’s a Kansas native but currently resides in Asheville, N.C. He’s been in the band for over six years now. Our guitarist, Hayes Griffin, lives in Heath, Ohio, and just joined our band in May 2012 after graduating with his master’s degree in improvisation from the New England Conservatory. 

We all met through recommendations of mutual friends and though we live far apart and go “home” to very different places, we spend more time together than we do apart.

So we don’t find it difficult to write, arrange and rehearse while we’re on the road. We might show up early or stay out between tours rather than go home when we need more time for that kind of thing, but it really works out just as well I think as if we lived in the same city.

What is one of the best parts traveling as a musician?

Hands down, the best part for me is having an opportunity to share music with so many different audiences, to touch and heal people through music, to help them along their journey.

And the worst?

Long travel days and crappy hotel rooms. We try to limit them, but I’ll never get used to those.

If you could perform with any artist – dead or alive – who would it be?

John Hartford

What is the last thing you watched on TV?

“The Walking Dead”

When you are not busy with music, what kinds of things do you enjoy?

I love to garden, cut wood with my dad, help my family make maple syrup, read and crochet.  

What is one thing someone wouldn’t know about you?

I hate shopping.

If you were to listen to any song right now, what would it be?

“Fiddler Jones”

Stacy Bengs-Silverberg

Stacy Bengs has been a photojournalist at the Red Wing Republican Eagle since 2010. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota.

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