MORRISBURG – If the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage board was hoping for a group who could fire up their new season and leave the audience begging for more, then it found the perfect musicians for its opening concert, February 19th, at Upper Canada Playhouse.
The Fitzgeralds swept on to the Playhouse stage and simply took the house by storm.
Julie, Kerry and Tom Fitzgerald, with guest artists, bluegrass fiddle player of the year, Alanna Jenish and outstanding upright bass player, Charles James, were exhilarating, highly accomplished performers who gave a memorable concert. The audience was thrilled. The cheers began at The Fitzgeralds first number and never let up.
The siblings were raised in East Coast, traditional and French Canadian musical styles. They are award winning fiddlers, to say nothing of being incredible step dancers and singers. Versatility is clearly the Fitzgerald hallmark. From an original number, Lakehouse Jig, to a beautiful interpretation of Stan Rogers’ Northwest Passage, they explored all musical genres during their show.
There was, as Tom said, “a bit of a kitchen party feel” when they struck up tunes from PEI, or got “back to our roots with an old time jam set” that had the audience’s toes tapping and their hands clapping to waltzes, jigs and reels. Even swing got a Fitzgerald spin with Cindy Walker’s It’s All Your Fault.
The Fitzgeralds are comfortable on stage, sharing a genuine sense of humour. “Being in a family band, there is naturally some sibling rivalry. We love a competition, be it music – or pond hockey.” They easily establish a strong connection with their audiences. As Julie Fitzgerald said in an earlier interview with The Leader, “I think there is a down home feel to our music. The music is simply happy. There are no negative connotations, and people really seem to need that, especially in these times.”
Yet some of their pieces at Saturday’s concert were deeply moving. An instrumental number, originally for Irish pipes, was arranged by Tom in a gentle, almost mystical fiddle interpretation.
The same was true when he soloed on Over the Rainbow using a detached bowing technique. And no family with the name Fitzgerald could ever leave the audience without a beautiful version of the classic, Danny Boy.
There were rollicking numbers like The Temperance Reel (“Yeah, a number about fiddlin’ and drinkin”), and Billy the Bully, a cheeky salute to older sister Julie’s “alter ego” who ‘comes out’ on those long concert tours. And the Chair Dance, written for drumsticks and tap was all rhythm and all fun.
A very well-deserved standing ovation drew this evening of truly exceptional music to a close.
The St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage, following the long drought, has scheduled a line-up of outstanding musical concerts this spring. If the incredible Fitzgeralds on stage, starting the 2022 season, is just one sample of what lies ahead, you don’t want to miss a single show.