April Verch

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Olympic Fiddler!

Well as a lot of you know by now, I had the experience of a life time recently when I performed in the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.  I have been super busy ever since and it’s taken me a little while to get to this, but I really wanted to share some of my fantastic memories with you here and give you a bit of the background and scoop on the whole deal!  And let me say thank you so much for the notes of congratulations and support from so many of you.  I tried to reply to as many as I could but you were all so kind that I didn’t quite make it to everyone, so please know that you have my heartfelt thanks for being so great!

Now – back to the beginning!  I was contacted by VANOC in early June 2009.  They informed me that they wanted me to be a part of the opening ceremony but before they could discuss anything with me I had to sign several different confidentiality agreements.  Even after I had signed the various agreements, I didn’t know much about the segment and I didn’t know who else would be involved in my segment.  After a few months I received some short snippets of music to learn and I was asked to pre-record my fiddle parts (which I did with Damon Criger at his studio in Pembroke) and send them in to VANOC.  A couple of months after that we had our first conference call with David Atkins (Executive Producer of 2010 Olympic Ceremonie), Drew Anthony (choreographer of Olympic Ceremonies) and various other members of their team.  It was during that call that each of us learned the details about our segment: who else was involved, what the set would be like, what costumes would be like (they were designed by Anne Seguin-Poirier of Cirque du Soleil).  After that phone call details started getting confirmed bit by bit and things got more involved and detailed the closer we got to the Opening Ceremonies on February 12, 2010.

One of my favourite parts of being involved with the ceremony was working with my fiddling peers Daniel Lapp, Sierra Noble, Samantha Robichaud, Andre Brunet & Ashley MacIsaac.  They are all fantastic musicians and the most wonderful people to work and hang out with.  Not to mention all of the dancers (including Brock Jellison!) and all of the other VANOC personnel we had the pleasure of getting to know.  Everyone was so postive and motivated to make the show the best we could and it felt so great to be a part of a team like that.

Performing in this event was an amazing experience.  There were more than 50,000 people in BC Place when we performed and the estimated viewing audience on TV (from what I’ve heard) was over 2 billion people.  I can’t imagine doing anything in my lifetime that will have as big an audience as that.  That’s a bigger viewing audience than the Grammy’s, the Super Bowl, probably even the World Cup.  It’s not every night you get up to perform and look at your peers and say “we are performing in the biggest show in the world right now” and know for certain that it’s true!  I was nervous, but in a good way, just really excited and thrilled to be a part of it all.  The best part was thinking about how fortunate we were to be bringing Canadian fiddle music to the world stage.  And I felt really good about how we were doing it – various regions were represented (the best they can be in a limited time) – and I felt honoured that the Ottawa Valley had a fiddler amongst the crowd.  I felt responsible to do the best job I could in representing us, and fiddlers everywhere.  I couldn’t help but think of all of the fiddlers who have influenced me in my lifetime and the ones that came before me and just how proud I thought they would be to have Canadian fiddle music heard in that way.  It was really emotional in that way.  It was a once in a life time amazing experience.

Our segment was called “Rhythms of the Fall: Fiddle Nation”.  It was written, arranged and choreographed specifically for the ceremonies.  Some of the tunes we played were written specifically for the segment by Calvin Vollrath of St. Paul, AB, some were traditional tunes and some were common Canadian fiddle tunes like Ward Allen’s famous “Maple Sugar”.  We gathered in Vancouver for initial costume fittings, to learn the choreography and rehearse for several days in late January, both in practice tents that were set up to replicate the stadium as well as in the stadium itself, which was still under construction at the time.  Then we all returned to Vancouver on February 5th and rehearsed daily through until the opening on February 12th.  In addition to learning our parts there were rehearsals for lighting, cameras, technical elements, staging, etc.  It was amazing to see the scope of such a production.  There were teams of people that took care of everything – props, in ear monitors, safety belts (BC law requires the performers who are staged above a certain height be tethered to the stage – which we had to build in and out of the choreography!), hair, make-up…it was endless.  And everyone we encountered throughout the process was friendly, professional, positive thinking and first class.  It was such a learning process on so many levels.

We were able to meet and cheer on the athletes outside our dressing room as they passed to make their way into the stadium.  They were very friendly and excited and many of them wanted to take our picture!  We took lots of them too!  I saw Clara Hughes at that point…  I met a few of the other performers that were in other segments.  Everyone was thrilled to be a part of this event and there was a great camaraderie.  Each person in my segment received one ticket to watch the Opening Ceremony, and my husband, Marc Bru was seated in the VIP section which was really exciting, since Donald Sutherland, Wayne Gretzky (and his family), Julie Payette, Barbara Ann Scott, Romeo Dallaire and Rick Hansen were all seated just a row or two in front of him!

I was on tour for several weeks before flying to the Olympics and then I returned to touring immediately after, but we were able to stick around for a few days following the Opening Ceremony and we enjoyed attending 2 women’s hockey games, a men’s curling game, and the men’s ice hockey game.  We saw Canada participate in all of the events we attended.  I wore my Canadian Olympic gear with so much pride!  There was an amazing amount of excitement in the air in Vancouver!  We were enjoying the men’s moguls in a restaurant with giant TV’s when Bilodeau won his gold medal and the entire place and the streets erupted – it was so much fun to be there for that moment.  That evening we had tickets to the Victory Ceremony at BC Place and we were there when he was awarded his medal.  That was something I’ll never forget!

All in all it’s hard to put an experience like this into words.  I might not ever be able to convey what an honour it was to be a part of it all but I won’t stop trying every chance I get.