Copyright © 1998 All Rights Reserved.
by Mary-Lynn McEwen
Sunday, September 20 at 8:00 p.m.
Calgary violinist Karl Roth has a hard time saying no. If he were good at that word, there might have been a vacant chair and only three violin players on stage with ViolinsQuad Sunday night. Of course, they would have no longer been a quad, either. But the point is moot, because Karl Roth cannot say no.
"Well, to get more serious, it sounded like fun and it's a benefit for CKUA, which is a worthy cause," Roth says. "They go a long way for helping local bands get their music out there. And I've never played at the Rozsa Centre. I'm a single father and you get in these little trenches where you play and you play what you're used to playing because that's what comes easy. It's a neat way to go some place you don't usually go. To get outside your usual bowl, as the French would say."
When Roth is joined by Tanya Kalmanovitch, the musical director of the project and, like Roth, a jazz violinist herself, Irish fiddler Shannon Johnson, and Jonathon Lewis from the Plaid Tongued Devils, he will definitely be outside his bowl. "Jonathon did a couple of things that are Balkan jams as it were, Shannon is doing a bunch of Irish stuff and I've never played fiddle before - I'm not a fiddle player. And then there's a little semi-classical stuff, Tanya's doing some swing arrangements and it's like, when's the last time you heard of four violin players getting together?"
The group will be rounded out by the ubiquitous Russell Broom, Jann Arden's guitarist, with John Hyde on bass and percussionist Robin Tufts. They work so well together that Karl comments, "I get along with everybody and we have a good time, although it sort of reminds me of playing in the youth orchestra again."
But Kalmanovitch says that this grouping goes beyond just four violinists getting together on stage, which is a tradition not uncommon in classical music history, like the stuff Vivaldi arranged for violins. "It's unusual but not unheard of to put four violinists together, it's one of those celebrations of the instrument. What makes this unique is in the past, whenever I've heard of four violinists together, they were all coming from the same musical idiom. They were all classical or all jazz players. With this, Karl and I are jazz, Shannon is traditional, and then there's Jonathon, who's coming from left field. So it's great to toss everything in.
"I'm the only one who went through formal classical training, although everyone takes the lessons in their adolescence. We call these people alternative players or whatever because it's an instrument you don't usually see in a pop context or whatever. And everybody here has a unique story about how they became a black sheep compared to their classical friends," she says.
So when the flock gathers on Sunday night, expect that anything might go, Kalmanovitch explains. "Bluegrass, traditional Celtic, some jazz, some swing, some classical fused with a little bit of jazz, a tango I just finished writing, some traditional Romanian music, and some world music," Kalmanovitch explains. "We tried to make it fun and accessible so that people would not just be soothed, but excited."
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