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Fiddler bringing ‘The Gift’ to Grind

Masha Scheele Photo

Masha Scheele

Fiddling his way across Canada is Alberta fiddle player, Calvin Vollrath, on his tour featuring new album, ‘The Gift.’

Vollrath returns to Hinton on Oct. 5 after performing at the Friendship Centre’s National Indigenous Peoples Day just over one month ago.

He also brought his fiddle show to Hinton in the fall of 2018 and performed in the community years ago with country singer Danny Hooper.

He’s been performing on stages across Canada and looks forward to the smaller venue atmosphere at the Old Grind, he said.

“It’s special to play in those small settings like that, where you’re right in close with the people and it just kind of becomes a big house party,” said Vollrath.

Vollrath performed at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Vancouver with a crowd of 60,000 people and everyone watching on TV, but he said nothing is more special than performing in a small space surrounded by people.

He added that audience members don’t need to be fiddle fans to appreciate the music either.

“We play so many styles of music, they’ll hear music from Don Messer, the old Don Messer days, they could hear the music from Elvis Presley,” he continued, listing other names like Tom Jones, Merle Haggard, Charley Pride, and Louis Armstrong. 

Each tune includes a story told by Vollrath, about the origin or inspiration of the music.

“It’s not just about the music, it’s the stories,” he said. “It’s not just your typical fiddle show.”

Alongside Vollrath, musician Jeremy Rusu performs the piano, accordion and guitar.

“He comes from Winnipeg, he’s 100 per cent blind, but he’s got the gift of music,” said Vollrath. “It’s really just amazing.”

Bringing the class to the show, Vollrath said, is his wife and step dancer Rhea Labrie.

Songs from across his 69 released albums will be performed during the show, as well as some works that aren’t recorded. 

“We have a set list but we have a really hard time following it because we can play dang-near anything and we do,” said Vollrath.

Audience members will often request a song, sometimes leading the way down a different list of songs and derailing their setlist.

Many of his tunes are based on people, places, and events and he attempts to portray those things in the sounds.

Over time, his music has changed due to the influences of other styles and musicians.

“When I was growing up, my father played the fiddle, so that was my inspiration. That was the music I knew, I knew nothing else,” he said.

Nowadays, he added, people are exposed to every style of music through the internet.

When Vollrath composes his music he tries to bring all the different influences into his melodies.

He tries his best to keep old-time music and Metis-style music alive. 

“I can sit down to write a real old time tune or I can sit down and write a progressive tune, or meld them together. Marry two styles together to create something new,” he said.

Going forward, he hopes to keep performing as long as he can play.

“This is what I’ve done my whole life and I’m nearing the age of 60,” he said.

Calvin Vollrath performs at The Old Grind on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 7:30 pm. 

Only a limited 55 tickets are available for the performance and available through Lois Carnell at 780-865-0979.