The Fitzgeralds on June 28, 2022
A toe-tapping feel-good concert
By Neville Bowman
Special to the Daily Courier
Sometimes, you just know something is going to be good. Within moments of smelling the meal, finding that perfect beach or hearing the first few notes of a song, you can tell, something special has started. And sometimes, it's better than you imagined.
I had no idea what the KCCA crowd was in for when the music started on June 28. I've seen Celtic groups before, they can be fun if repetitive, and sibling groups can be quaint and certainly unique. The Fitzgeralds however are on another level. Hailing from the Ottawa valley (I know, who knew something positive could come from Ottawa...) Kerry, Tom, and Julie Fitzgerald were joined by guitarist Kyle Waymouth, and the four of them held the almost full Kelowna Community theatre spellbound for the entire evening. Playing a collection of music with a style of fiddle playing unique to the Ottawa valley, they brought an energy and emotion to the room that I've seldom seen. With multiple awards between them, for both fiddle playing and step dancing, the technical skill on stage was intimidating, yet never took away from the unabashed joy that this style of music often possesses.
It's not an easy task to create a balance within a show. I found this performance to be very well crafted, blending elements of Canada's East coast traditions with a little of some American swing, and some contemporary writings and harmonies, written and arranged by the Fitzgeralds themselves. Tom's arrangements were brilliant, with hints at modern jazz harmonic concepts and rhythms that never pulled the listener out of the flow of the song and always respected the heritage of the music. With one piece, he paid homage to the Irish pipes and created a piece of music that was one of the most beautiful moments I've ever heard. It needs to be on your playlist. (He's got a nice voice too, yet another talent!)
Kerry and Julie are both writers as well, with Julie performing two pieces of her own, Billy the Bully being a fun and diverse crowd pleaser and the other a gorgeous lullaby for her daughter. (Kyle's contribution to that piece I know brought a tear to more than a few audience members.) Kerry's music is more modern, edgy and harmonically challenging, and yet again, the skill of the entire group just makes it work so well, it's seamless.
They dance too. Wow, can they dance. Their step dancing is similar to American tap, and was incorporated flawlessly within portions of the evening. At times, they literally just danced, no music, and still the crowd was captivated at the skill on display. At other times they danced while playing, or danced in chairs, always with precision and energy. The addition of Kyle to the dancing lineup in the second half was a brilliantly-timed surprise, and befitting of such a well-crafted performance.
The encore upped the ante yet again, with some remarkable displays of "trick" playing, so those who left a bit early missed some fun!
It's not always easy to be objective. I went into the theatre a little wary, maybe even cynical. I came out thinking that that had been one of the best concerts I've ever seen. Technically tight, musically inspiring and always entertaining. Instrumental skill that would make the best symphony players smile, delivering a music that transcends all else and just leaves you tapping your toe and feeling better, regardless of where you're from.
I don't think many Kelowna Community Concert members would have objected to another hour of the Fitzgeralds. What a great way to end the season, and thank you for the music.
Neville Bowman is a local actor and musician