Just by glancing at the poster ahead of the event it was reasonable to assume Kelli Trottier and Greg Sim would deliver a good show at the Kootenay Gallery this past Sunday night. The poster was well done and, after all, would entertainers be touring thousands of miles from home if they weren't fairly competent?
Getting a chance to meet the pair about a half hour before show time it became clear this would be an evening to remember. Case in point: Kelli mentioned a past affiliation with a touring show called "Bowfire" – kind of like an acrobat using Cirque du Soleil® as a reference.
Kelli Trottier (a fiddle player who calls Kingston ON home) and Greg Sim (a Dartmouth NS-based guitarist) were accommodating and gracious from the get-go, supplying interesting info that would have been much tougher to get with the appreciative throngs vying for their attention later.
There were at least 80 music lovers wedged into the gallery for the sold-out show. That many bodies soaked up quite a bit of sound – leaving just enough echo for the barely amplified duo to create a beautifully balanced sound. Greg's guitar required just a smidgen of electronic boost from a smaller-than-toaster-size amp to hold its own with the robust fiddle.
Once underway the show was a sonic and visual adventure, deftly paced and throughly entertaining.This tandem has a joint talent-account that is apparently bottomless and the seasoned performers made full use of it.
Trottier is a quadruple threat: equally outstanding on fiddle, vocals, songwriting and step-dancing. Wrapped around her offerings like a favourite quilt was Sims' flawless guitar...at once supportive and inventive. Each player was a joy to behold.
The two sets ran the gamut from barn-burning instrumentals in the Celtic vein to Texas swing, a couple of Bing Crosby pop standards, timeless gems from the likes of Patti Page, Ian Tyson and Dolly Parton, some bluesy originals and one that sounded, to me, like a Transylvanian Hornpipe.
When Kelli got into her tap shoes and demonstrated the art form she's been working on since the age of four the adoring crowd lost it.
The show was steered along by the warm and humourous team.
The Castlegar stop was the last on a two and a half week tour of BC that had taken Trottier and Sim as far west as the Island. Needless to say they were pleased by the turnout which had been strong in every location on the tour.
Back to the start of the evening, when Trottier and Sim had both indicated their strong commitment to teaching as well as performing. Sim is a busy man, a collaborator in many musical ventures including sound engineering and production. He has a gig coming up leading a guitar workshop in Nunuvut.
Trottier was asked her opinion of the current state of fiddle playing in Canada, whether its alive and well in terms of new players given its high degree of difficulty.
"I like to think so," she said. "There are a lot of adults (taking it up) and, even last night at the show we had a lot of teenagers who were fiddle-players, and five-to-seven year olds. I think it is coming back."
Acknowledging the strong desire and work ethic required to get good on an instrument like the fiddle, Trottier made a point of stressing the up side of taking it on.
"I think the biggest thing is getting the message across that it's fun,"she explained. "It's an instrument and you do have to put the time into it, but you don't want to lose what has been around for years. So hopefully there are enough of us out there, promoting it and teaching it, to entice a lot of younger players to take it up."
There were plenty of wide eyes at the gallery that night, the young and not-so-young, dancers and fiddlers getting some big time inspiration.Many thanks to the Kootenay Gallery for hosting the show, and to local resident Ted Crosfield for acting as the link between the musicians and the gallery.