Niagara Independent: Young fiddle player returns to roots

This article first appeared in The Niagara Independent on Friday July 5, 2019. The article was written by Kevin Vallier, who interviewed me earlier in the week. 

Former St. Catharines resident Alex George is one of Canada’s top young fiddle players and is performing this summer in Oh Canada Eh? in Niagara Falls. 

Alexander George is quickly becoming one of the best fiddle players in the country and this summer he has been given a chance to return home to Niagara where he will play in the musical comedy Oh Canada Eh in Niagara Falls.

The 18 year-old Humber College music student grew up in St. Catharines before moving to Almonte to attend Canterbury high school which is home to a specialized arts program. He’s thrilled to be back in Niagara for the summer doing something he loves; and getting paid to do it. “My first fiddle teacher called me out of the blue in February or March and told me there was an opportunity with Oh Canada Eh,” said George. He auditioned and got the gig. “I got lucky because these gigs don’t come around often.”

George said he really enjoys the songs he gets to play in the show, “It’s a pleasure to be a part of such a talented group. It’s a fun experience.” While the dinner theatre show in Niagara Falls, which is celebrating 25 years this season, is critically acclaimed, a lot of fun, and packs in audience members each night, George has greater ambitions.

When asked about where he sees his passion for music taking him in the future, George has a few ideas. “I feel like my vision will change but I think it would be great to be a studio musician in Nashville. I also think it would be fun to play on cruise ships and see a bit of the world.”

Teaching music is something that George would also like to pursue. No matter where his musical journey takes him, George knows that to make a career out of it will require a lot of hard work and a bit of luck. He’s already caught a few breaks. Recently he had the chance to play with Natalie Macmaster and Donnell Leahy on a few occasions including their televised Christmas special, a concert at Casino Rama as well as a show at the National Arts Centre. “It was a privilege being on stage with such acclaimed musicians,” said George. “It was a rush being on a big stage with 4,000 people in the audience.”

George, who got his first fiddle for his eighth birthday, has been playing the fiddle for a decade. “I wanted one earlier but I don’t think my parents believed I would stick with it,” he said with a laugh.

Despite an initial hesitancy in purchasing that first fiddle, George said his parents have been overwhelmingly supportive throughout his musical journey. In fact, his first exposure to music with a fiddle was when he and his parents would travel to the east coast to visit family and partake in traditional maritime kitchen parties. “My mom is from Nova Scotia and we would go there every summer. There were always kitchen parties and many of my family members would play instruments.”

While growing up in Niagara, George would play in seniors’ homes twice a week with a local fiddle club. “I performed so much as a kid it’s not as intimidating playing live now I guess.” That fiddle club, Niagara Old Tyme Fiddlers Association, presented George with a scholarship this past Wednesday. The scholarship is in memory of Elvera Ciazynski who was a St Catharines resident and fiddle club member. She died two years ago from cancer. Ciazynski always wanted to encourage young people to join the club and was a big supporter of George’s.

George’s personal music tastes span a number of genres. His studies at Humber College focus mostly on jazz so of course Miles Davis and John Coltrane are two of his favourties. But heading to Nashville and playing country would be a dream come true for the young musician. George says he likes a lot of the classic country artists because they use a lot of fiddle in their music. “If I had the choice to play with any country singer I’d say George Strait or Alan Jackson as two from the older era of country and also Chris Stapleton and the Zac Brown Band from the newer crop of country artists.”

It’s taken serious commitment and dedication just to get this far in his young career but with his desire, determination and love for his craft, Niagara might just hear a hometown boy playing the fiddle on the next big country hit.

The Niagara Independent Source Link: https://niagaraindependent.ca/young-fiddle-player-returns-to-roots/

Niagara Old Tyme Fiddlers Association Scholarship

It was a great surprise and tremendous honour for me to be recognized last night by my old Niagara fiddle club. The Niagara Old Tyme Fiddlers Association awarded me a scholarship in memory of our friend Elvera Ciazynski for my commitment to and pursuit of traditional fiddle music.

Here is local media on the recognition. From the St Catharines StandardThe art of the fiddle” and from Niagara This WeekNiagara Old Tyme Fiddlers Association encouraging new players“.

I have always enjoyed playing at the club and I remember those first times on stage when I was just 8 years old. Club members have always been encouraging and I am fortunate to have them as my friends.

Here I am playing with two good friends — Mike Mattie and Wally Knash.

Many thanks to Beth Bartley — club member and my first fiddle teacher — and to all those club members who made this scholarship possible.

Summertime Fun!

For a music student, I have the perfect summertime gig at the Oh Canada Eh dinner show in Niagara Falls. I have had a lot of fun playing in this high-energy show, and have enjoyed learning about performing in a musical theatre-like setting.

It has been a real pleasure working with high caliber entertainers – actors and musicians, both instrumentalists and vocalists alike, who are responsible for putting on such a great show.

Come out this summer and laugh through an evening of entertainment! I would look forward to seeing you, eh!  

You can order your tickets here: Oh Canada Eh!

 

Another Great Experience

I have been very fortunate to yet again be invited to play in an auxiliary string section with Natalie MacMaster, Donnell Leahy, and their band.

This latest performance was at the theatre in Casino Rama in front of an audience of 4000 people. I performed in a few numbers, playing string pads under Donnell Leahy and a few tunes in a jam-like setting.

While I have performed many gigs in my life, it is incredible to see the work and effort put into a show of that caliber. I am extremely blessed to have opportunities like this, and it is incredibly humbling to be in the presence of such great talent and musicianship.

Many thanks for the opportunity

Check this website: Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy

PHOTO CREDIT: From the Natalie and Donnell website photo gallery – https://www.natalieanddonnell.com/gallery/

Video: Shallow

I have been fortunate in my first year at Humber to not only learn a lot from my professors, but also to make great music with my friends. I had a blast at the many impromptu jam sessions – some lasting well past midnight. Most of the great music created with my friends was not captured on video. Thankfully, my good friend Harrison produces terrific YouTube videos. He took it upon himself to orchestrate projects, some of which I played a part in. You can check out some of his great work here: Harrison King Music.

I am accompanist in the rendition of Shallow from A Star is Born.

 

The National Musicfest and Casino Rama

I am really looking forward to this week!

On Tuesday night I will be performing with musicians from Humber College as the Humber music program is featured at the National Musicfest Finals. This year the national music showcase and contest is being hosted in Ottawa. The Humber Experience is taking place at the Bronson Centre and the performances begin at 8 p.m. I am performing with the Humber Strings under the direction of Drew Jurecka.  More information on this event is here.

On Saturday afternoon I am performing in the Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy show at Casino Rama.  What a thrill this will be to again be included in a show with these exceptional fiddlers. Show time is 1 p.m. at the casino and you can buy your tickets here.

So, this week it is going to be travelling from Ottawa to Orillia – with a special 25th anniversary Oh Canada Eh! show on Friday in Niagara Falls. Great opportunities – great fun.

An award winning show — Oh Canada Eh!

I am thrilled to be part of a dinner show that has been running for more than two decades! This week Oh Canada Eh Dinner Show appeared at the Attractions Ontario Awards Ceremony to accept its 2018 Top Performing Arts attraction. Congratulations! This recognition is a wonderful tribute to the actors and musicians who have made this show so much fun and entertaining night after night.

It was surprising to see that when the show producers were accepting the award, I was used in the show’s promotional piece.

I hope you can join this year’s cast to enjoy the show’s 25th anniversary. Come see the show through October 26th as we celebrate “All Things Canadian.” For the new 25th Anniversary production, the show features 30 minutes of new material. There are new costumes, a new set — and some new faces for a wonderful night out.

Here the link to the Oh Canada Eh website where you can order your tickets:

http://www.ohcanadaeh.com/

Honoured with Humber Award

It was an honour to be the recipient of the Scott Henshaw Memorial Award, given to me by the Humber Faculty of Music for both my academic standing and music performance. It was especially gratifying to be recognized for my improvisation, which is something I have only picked up entering my music program this year. I have worked hard at this element of my music and the recognition means a lot to me. What a great year!
I was pleased to receive the award by none other than Ted Quinlan.
Thank you to Seraphic Entertainment Ltd for establishing and sponsoring this award. Thank you to Drew Jurecka and the Bachelor of Music program for such a wonderful experience in my first year at Humber. And thank you to the Humber Faculty for selecting me as the recipient for this honour.

Joining Oh Canada Eh? Dinner Show This Summer

I am very excited to have been selected to join the cast of Oh Canada Eh? Dinner Show in Niagara Falls this summer! I am the show’s fiddler entertaining more than 100 audiences through my summer break, from the beginning of May to Labour Day! 

It is super to be performing at this premier tourist attraction. Here is what the dinner show website – OhCanadaEh.com – says about the show. 

Canada’s Longest Running Dinner Musical!

Join is for our 26th season! This two-hour show features all-Canadian music; from maritime folk songs to modern pop. Come meet our singing Mountie, Hockey Player, Anne of Green Gables, Klondike Kitty and more. This high-energy production features over 70 songs from all-Canadian artists including music from Paul Anka, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, the Bare Naked Ladies, Avril Lavigne, Justin Bieber and many, MANY more. While you’re enjoying the show, our performers serve our famous all-Canadian, family-style meal; at what other restaurant are you served your dinner by a singing Mountie?

I will post more on the show and my summer in the weeks ahead. Rehearsals start later this month! 

This summer I hope you might plan a trip to Niagara to take in the show!  I would love to see you!