All through my musical life, except for 6 months of Suzuki instruction, I had never taken classical violin lessons. To be honest, I just wanted to play fiddle music.
When I was accepted into the strings program at Canterbury High School in Ottawa, I had no choice but to step up my game. In grade 10, I realized I needed classical instruction and technique in order to progress my musical abilities to the next level, and so I started taking classical lessons with Karoly Sziladi.
In the first lesson I had with Karoly, he asked me what my goal was before the end of high school. Because I like a good challenge, I told him that I’d like to learn what I considered one of the hardest and coolest solo violin pieces: Zigeunerweisen (translated Gypsy Airs). Zigeunerweisen is a musical composition for violin and orchestra written in 1878 by the Spanish composer Pablo de Sarasate, based on themes of the Roma people.
Really, I had no expectations I would reach that level in two years, at least not to a performance standard. In fact, for me, learning Zigeunerweisen was more of a life goal and not necessarily a high school goal.
That being said, Karoly kept pushing me, and I had the pleasure of performing Zigeunerweisen at my Grade 12 Cadenza at the Chateau Laurie. Because each student was allowed just 5 minutes for their performance, I had to cut out a few sections. I hope you enjoy.
If you’ve been following my blog, you would have read about my performance with Jim Hunter at the Ottawa Fiddle Club in December. We did a 1/2 hour set together, with Jim accompanying me on piano. The live performance was recorded. Afterwards, we secretly put a CD together for my parents, my grandmother, and my Godparents for Christmas. I’m pretty happy with how the CD turned out. All the pieces are live, except for the one entitled “For the Love of Tara”. I thought it would be nice to harmonize in this beautiful piece, so we did a studio recording of me playing the different parts. You can listen to it below and, if you’re interested you can listen to more songs from my album under “Recordings”. I hope you enjoy!
Here are some notes from my performance at the Ottawa Traditional Fiddling and Folk Art Society on Friday night. I was the feature performer for the club’s December meeting and I thoroughly enjoyed playing at this event in the company of so many talented musicians.
For the evening, I had put together a set of some of my favourite tunes reflecting the various styles of music that I am drawn towards. The songs also reflected the important influences I have had over the last 8 years of playing.
During the show I recognized Calvin Vollrath as one of my favourite fiddlers and the performer/composer who has the greatest impression on me. I performed three Calvin tunes: “Little John MacNeil”, “Willowspring” and “Lieutenant Governor’s Waltz” I expressed my thanks to all that the great Denis Lanctot taught me and performed my favourite Denis song, “For the Love of Tara.” I was also thankful to Cindy Thompson who taught me so much when I move to Almonte. I thanked her for helping me through learning “Carignan’s Clog.” I ended my show with my current favourite Ottawa Valley tune, the beautiful Brian Hebert waltz “Sunset on the Ottawa”
Thank you to the OTFFAS for your support of my playing and for giving me this opportunity. And I especially thank my accompanist and friend Jim Hunter. With Jim, it is always a lot fun!
My set list for the night…
Cheticamp Jig / Devil in the Dirk / Mason’s Apron / Frank’s Reel
I have many people to thank for the honour given me as recipient of the 2017 Danny O’Connell Memorial Award. First, I want to thank Mr. O’Connell and the O’Connell Family for this recognition. Second, I wish to thank the Ottawa Traditional Fiddling and Folk Art Society for their continuous support in me. And third, thank you to the musicians and residents of Almonte who have encouraged me and supported me and my music.
This picture has Colleen O’Connell handing me my award certificate. Jim Hunter is also seen in this photo as I was fortunate to have him as accompanist for my performance at the Celtfest announcement.
The picture below is taken with Graham Crate, President of our Ottawa fiddle club. I was glad Graham was on hand Sunday. I am very grateful for my friends in the fiddle community.
By way of background on this special award. The memorial fund was established by the O’Connell Family in 2004 to provide encouragement and financial help to traditional Ottawa Valley fiddlers under 25 years of age. It is a award provided in memory of Danny and his passion for fiddle music. Recipients are nominated by three respected organizations with enduring records of interest in the tradition: the Renfrew County Fiddlers, The Irish Society of the National Capital Region, and the Ottawa Traditional Fiddling and Folk Art Society. Traditionally, the recipient is presented with the award and does a brief performance at Almonte Celtfest, in which Danny was an avid participant.