Regina, Canada July 16th 2005
Perhaps it was a case of third time lucky, or maybe it came about through the sheer determination of one Pat Middleton, the lady who runs the Regina Symphony Orchestra.
Whatever, or whoever, it was that made it happen, the important thing is that the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, in its silver anniversary season, finally played a concert in Regina, after twice passing us by on earlier Canadian tours.
Needless to say it went over big.
An entourage of some 60 performers, ages ranging from 20 to 80, and playing mostly the violin, but assorted other instruments as well, thrilled the audience at the Centre of the Arts the other night. (This was music to the ears of the aforementioned Middleton, since the show was part of the RSO’s ongoing fundraising efforts).
The occasion was celebratory, the mood was festive, the place was packed. One dedicated follower, we’re told, coming all the way from Iowa.
What it amounted to was along, three-hour party, minus an intermission – excuse me – “interval” for the purpose of selling the CD. And if, as one patron suggested afterwards, might’ve served a better, higher, purpose as an antidote to the mid-winter blues, there’s nothing wrong in having it in summer time either.
The show was up-tempo and upbeat, with just the right mix of the slower stuff to provide a poignant contrast to the energetic flings, jigs and reels; change of pace is never a bad idea. Either way the atmosphere was predominantly sentimental and nostalgic, and the range of the material was only rivalled by the variety of colours in the plaid skirt (ladies) and kilts (gentlemen) worn by the musicians.
The orchestra is conducted on this tour by Andrew McGarva, who has a stage presence which matches, arguably surpasses, that of even the RSO’s Victor Sawa; high praise indeed.
Beginning with a song called “Jubilee” composed by Musical Director John mason, as a salute to its 25th anniversary, the orchestra offered pieces as diverse as a baroque number which sounded like something Vivaldi might have written had he been born a Celt; to the obligatory “Devil in the Kitchen” and later a kick-out the jams “Dancing Priest” in the memory of an Irish Cleric who died recently of cancer.
One of the shows main highlights was a song called simply “Kate”, composed by McGarva himself on the occasion of his daughter’s birth. (She is now two years old, and has come along on this tour, strictly for the ride this time, but that could change, and most likely will, somewhere down the road).
The concert included guest appearances by two vocalists, tenor Dennis Haggerty, and mezzo-soprano Colette Ruddy, who sang solos and a duet.
There was a piper of course, and also a master of ceremonies who told jokes that were naughty but not offensive, at least not to me. At one point, seven of the male musicians stepped into the spotlight to sing several tunes under the collective identity of the SFO Glee Club. Some of their colleagues then left the stage and went into the auditorium where they were joined in the dancing by people from the audience.
The concert ended in the only way it could, with the spectators rising, crossing their arms, clasping hands with their neighbours, and joining the performers in “Auld Lang Syne” after which the orchestra politely played the audience out of the building and into the night.
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