NORTH NEWTON, KAN.--An April Verch show has been described as riding on a supersonic freight train from an old lumber camp in northern Ontario, across the open prairies, through the Appalachian Mountains, down the Mississippi to the Louisiana bayous and across the sea to Brazil, France, the Scottish Highlands and back, with stops at church and Carnegie Hall thrown in for good measure. Verch, a fiddler and step dancer, and her band return to south central Kansas to kick off--literally--the 2005-06 Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts series on Sunday, September 25, at 7 p.m. in Memorial Hall on the Bethel College campus in North Newton.
In June, Verch gave a benefit concert for Bethel College Academy of Performing Arts, followed by two days of fiddle and step dancing workshops for BCAPA students and instructors. Since then, BCAPA violin and dance students have been working to prepare several numbers from the workshops and will join Verch on the Memorial Hall stage to perform them.
Two years ago, Verch and her band performed at Old Settlers Inn in Moundridge and Memorial Hall in Hutchinson and did artists’ residencies in 10 area school systems, including Buhler, Goessel, Haven, Moundridge and Newton.
Now 27, April Verch has been performing since she was a child. She was a seasoned entertainer by the time she finished high school, having won step dancing and fiddle contests and appeared all across her native Canada. Following a year of intensive study at Boston’s Berklee School of Music, Verch launched her professional career by becoming the first, and so far only, woman to win both the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddle Champion and Canadian Open Fiddle Champion titles.
In addition to the world-class fiddling and step-dancing Verch does, often simultaneously, she has a voice that has been hailed as "absolutely captivating" by the Toronto Star. Since signing with Rounder Records in 2000, she has toured tirelessly, wowing audiences with sheer technical ability and boundless energy on stage. She crosses genres from bluegrass to Brazilian to Celtic, from a jaunty Canadian folksong to a poignant contemporary ballad.
"Verchuosity" (Rounder 2001) earned a JUNO (Canada’s Grammy) award nomination. "From Where I Stand" (Rounder 2003) was Verch’s recording debut as a vocalist. Verch’s upcoming Rounder release, "Take Me Back," was produced by roots music master Dirk Powell and includes a half dozen songs by Americana favorites Buddy Miller, Julie Miller and Claire Lynch.
April Verch Band member Marc Bru (married to Verch) is an accomplished percussionist whom the experts have called one of the most exceptional bodhran (Celtic drum) players in North America. Guitarist and mandolin player Tyler Grant performs and teaches musical styles including classical, bluegrass, rock and roll, country, jazz, reggae, traditional Bulgarian, Macedonian and American folk. This year, he placed first in the Wayne Henderson Guitar Contest, as well as in the mandolin contest at Uncle Dave Macon Days. Bass player Amanda Kowalski began studying classical bass at age nine, and at 15 took up jazz bass as well. She currently lives in Nashville and balances a career as a touring musician with her studies at Western Kentucky University, where she is a senior majoring in folklore and photography.
In addition to her two (almost three) Rounder releases, Verch has recorded three albums on the April Verch Music label, "Fiddelicious" (1998), "Fiddle Talk" (1995) and "Springtime Fiddle" (1992). She also released a book of original fiddle tunes, "Originals," earlier this year.
The April Verch Band’s appearance at HBPA is supported by Mid-America Arts Alliance, with generous underwriting by the National Endowment for the Arts, Kansas Arts Commission and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.
Tickets are available at Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center on the Bethel College campus, open weekdays from 8 to 5 or by calling (316) 284-5205, as well as by calling Hesston College at (620) 327-8158. Tickets are $15, $13 and $12, with discounts for students and senior citizens. For season tickets, call Hesston College.