Smithers-based Valley Youth Fiddlers wrapped up a seven-city tour over the May long weekend of their latest production, Tanglewood. Tanglewood is a narrated musical story accompanied by vivid animations. These elements entwine to create an immersive theatrical experience.
After three sold-out shows in Smithers in early May, the multi-generational ensemble performed to enthusiastic audiences in Prince George, Williams Lake, Vancouver, Courtenay, Parksville, and Victoria with standing ovations at every show.
“It has been a lifelong dream to do exactly what we just did, and it has blown me away,” remarked Ann Bateson, a fiddler from the south side of Francois Lake who recently joined the Valley Youth Fiddlers. For the past two years, she and Cya Solecki have been driving two hours each way to attend rehearsals.
Countless hours of practice and preparations for a group of more than 75 musicians and backstage crew were required to put the show together.
“It was all worth it,” said Eden Dunbar, one of the group’s advanced fiddle players. Sponsorships from local businesses were also a critical piece of making the tour a reality.
Macey Nisbet enjoyed the camaraderie of touring. “It was really cool how we got to know the new people in the Fiddlers and everyone else even better.”
The tour included several spontaneous performances including a midnight barn dance on the outskirts of Williams Lake and a jam session on the sundeck of a BC ferry crossing the Georgia Strait that garnered a terrific response from passengers.
The group also drew a large crowd while busking on the wharf at the Granville Island Market in Vancouver.
“I was so touched by how we all chose to pull together,” said Leslie-Jean MacMillan, musical director. “We made something bigger than ourselves.”
A few hours after the final concert, 15-year-old Wren Williston, a fiddler since age four, said, “If I could, I would tour every year.”
Fiona Brienesse added, “During our last show I realized how lucky I was to be a part of something so amazing.”
“We were smiling the whole show,” said Laura Hols-Wimbush. “How can you not get the giggles when the lighting and projection team are dancing around the tech room with wigs and lampshades on their heads?”
More than 2,000 people attended Tanglewood performances, a tale that explores the connection between people and place. Animations for the show were created by Facundo Gastiazoro and Nicole Fox, while the story was written and narrated by Patrick Williston.
Leslie-Jean MacMillian directed the music, which drew on tunes written and arranged by Canadian fiddlers Jaron Freeman-Fox, Oliver Schroer, Lea Kirstein, Gordon Stobbe, and Ivonne Hernandez.
“It was almost like a promotional movie for Smithers,” said Amy Dunn, who attended the Parksville performance. “I feel like I need to visit.”
Naomi Kavka, the ensemble’s cello, guitar, and bass player captured the feeling of the Tanglewood Tour succinctly.
“My heart is overflowing,” she said.
If you missed Tanglewood, you can catch the Valley Youth Fiddlers at the Midsummer Music Festival in Smithers, June 30 to July 2.