Celtic Fiddler (Kelli Trottier) Sidesteps Teaching Career

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Celtic fiddler sidesteps teaching career
Kingston’s Kelli Trottier tours the world with Bowfire

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Kelli Trottier still shakes her head at how it all turned out. By now, she expected to be a school teacher planning lessons. But instead, she is a globe-trotting fiddler with Bowfire, the group of ace fiddlers from several musical genres.

“But things have never gone the way I’ve planned them,” says Trottier, the Kingstonian who also step-dances and sings in the show.

Bowfire performs tonight at 8 p. m. at the Grand Theatre.

Trottier comes from a musical family – she’d always played an instrument and danced. But when she came to Kingston in 1990s, it wasn’t for music – she was attending teacher’s college.

Then she got a gig for six years touring with Bobby Lalonde, who, at the time, was one of Canada’s busiest touring country artists. Next, Trottier started her own band and then played one of the leads in a musical called Swingstep for eight months at one of the big theatres in Toronto.

In 2002, when Trottier received the call to join Bowfire, the fiddler thought it would be a nice, little yearly gig.

“When I started it was just a little three-week tour once a year,” she says. “I think it was first performed at Expo 2000 and it was so successful they decided to just keep it going.”

The idea behind Bowfire was a simple one: assemble a group of eight or 10 fiddlers from different genres and then showcase their talents in a two-hour concert. The leader and organizer is jazz violinist Lenny Solomon.

“When Lenny first called me, there was supposed to be no singing in the show,” says Trottier. “But each of us has a special feature in the show, and when Lenny asked me what I wanted to do, I suggested singing, since I was already fiddling and step-dancing.”

So at the Grand, Trottier will sing two songs: a traditional Celtic song called Mist-Covered Mountains; and an original by Solomon’s sister called The Line.

“I think the idea is to eventually have all of the music be original to Bowfire,” says Trottier, who also dances twice in the show besides her fiddling duties.

As for the rest of the show, it offers a little bit of everything.

“Basically if you don’t like what you hear, just wait a minute and you will hear something you like,” says Trottier. “My speciality is Celtic, but we’ve got people who do bluegrass, jazz, classical, klezmer and we used to have someone who did gypsy music.

“So as a listener, you might have come to hear the classical but come away enjoying something you hadn’t previously been exposed to – like jazz.”

Among the other fiddlers featured are the jazzy Solomon, classical violinist Bogdan Djukic and bluegrass virtuoso Ray Legere.

The show ends with a flourish. “For our encore we play Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir and people go nuts when they recognize the tune,” says Trottier.

Although Bowfire has played all over the world, this short Ontario tour is its first real Canadian tour.

“It’s such a big cast with 15 musicians [there’s also a back-up band for the fiddlers] that when we’re touring, we have to be playing every day,” says Trottier. “We can’t afford to take a day off. And in Canada cities aren’t as close together as they are down in the U. S. which is where we do most of our touring.”

She says the Americans particularly like the dancing in the show. “Step-dancing is something they’ve never seen,” says Trottier, “It’s the icing on the cake for them.

“But in the big cities they’re used to top-notch entertainment, so they’ve got a kind of impress-me attitude. We were warned that in the big cities it takes a lot for the audience to react.”

As for Trottier’s solo career, she’s gathering songs and hopes to record a new album soon. Right now her own band usually only plays in the summer time.

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