The Cultural Arts Theatre Society (CATS) performance series end this week with a high-energy fiddle and step dance show by family band Everything Fitz.
The Fitzgeralds and Co. are toe-tapping their way onto the CATS Theatre stage April 13 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30 and can be picked up at The Flower Shoppe. This tour has brought them on 33 stops across Canada and the United States
“We just have so many different musical tastes within the same group that to fit it all in, it gives a pretty interesting mix of music,” said fiddler and step dancer Tom Fitzgerald.
Everything Fitz is rounded out by Tom, his sisters Kerry and Julie on fiddle, parents Paddy and Pam Fitzgerald on bass guitar and piano, and Kyle Waymouth on guitar.
“There’s a special energy on stage when you’re performing with our own siblings,” he said. “The communication is different than in another band, because we know each other so well and we play with each other all the time, so we have our own chemistry.”
Audiences can expect a bit of old-time Canadian, East Coast and American fiddle numbers as well as a few swing and jazz tunes to get their hands clapping, if the step dancing doesn’t do the trick.
Although the three fiddling styles overlap, Tom explained that old-time Canadian is geared towards square dances and callers, while the American fiddle style is in the bluegrass and folk tradition with more instrumentation. East Coast music, ŕ la Natalie MacMaster, is all about the rhythm.
“There’s just a drive that they have that no one else has,” he said. “Over the years we’ve been around a lot of East Coast players and we’ve travelled out there a bunch and we’ve absorbed a bit of that style as well.”
The siblings also like to fuse traditional and modern styles, anything from pop and dance music to old country and bluegrass tunes. The genre blending has sister Kerry experimenting with electronic dance music (EDM) and making her own beats with fiddle music.
“She listens to a lot of pop music and DJs, so she’s literally taking a fiddle tune and putting EDM beats to it,” Tom said. “That’s an extreme example, but each of us take our own modern tastes, so we’re starting to add more songs in the show that reflect that.”
Even so, he said the show is easy listen to, especially for older audiences.
“It’s always a work in progress still. We’re all growing at fast rates and in different directions personally, and so it’s always a cool challenge to try and put a show together that people will still like.”
The Fitzgeralds grew up in Bancroft, Ont., about midway between Toronto and Ottawa, and met their guitarist, who is from Stratford, Ont., at a step dance competition years earlier as kids.
“In the last couple years he’s gotten more popular as a guitar player so we picked him up as well. We’re not competitors or enemies this time, we’re on the same team,” he said with a laugh.
Although the Fitzgerald parents grew up in a musical household, they never played professionally, the fiddle or step danced. It was more of a fluke, he said, that his parents stumbled into it while at a fiddle and step contest in Ontario.
“They enjoyed the music and they started taking us to lessons and getting us involved in the contest scene. Probably in our first few years we were competing in these. It’s a really great way of nurturing talent and you’re surrounded by other kids playing. It was a really good environment for us to grow up in.”
The family has toured Saskatchewan and Alberta many times for at least 10 years, so small towns are nothing new for them, nor is travelling in close quarters.
“We just love travelling first of all, we love performing and we realize we got to make some sacrifices to keep doing it as a group. We love doing and we’ve found our own ways of enjoying being on the road. ”