Meet Canada's answer to bluegrass — and its ambassador

The World

If you want to find Canada's answer to American bluegrass, head to the area known as the Ottawa Valley, which runs along the Ottawa River between eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

The valley is rich in musical history, featuring a style that uses lots of fiddle — just like you might expect to hear in Kentucky. And just as contemporary bluegrass has Alison Krauss an an ambassador, the Ottawa Valley has April Verch.

April Verch pointing to Ottawa Valley on a world map in the Nan and Bill Harris studios at WGBH

April Verch pointing to Ottawa Valley on a world map in the Nan and Bill Harris studios at WGBH

Credit:

Marco Werman

Verch was a child prodigy who started playing the fiddle at age six. Now the 37-year-old has released her tenth album, called "The Newpart." Like her other albums, it touches on what she calls "old time Canadian" music. She considers it a melting pot, with roots in many of the settler communities who arrived in the country. "Irish, Scottish, French, German and Polish," she ticks off. 

But while the music hasn't changed much over the years, Verch, who still lives in the Ottawa VaIley, says it's a little harder to find. "When my parents were my age, they went to the dancehall for a square dance," she says. Nowadays "you can still find [the music,] but you have to know where to look."  

Versch admits she's a little sad she didn't grow up when this type of lifestyle and music were appreciated by a larger part of the population. "It's not unknown, but it's not major market music," she says. "I do feel like being able to take it around the world and share it with people is a huge responsibility and an honor."