Verch and Walter delight hometown crowd

·4 min read

Rankin -- The husband and wife duo of Rankin native April Verch and Cody Walters delighted a hometown audience at the Rankin Recreation Centre at a concert on Sunday, August 14.

The anticipation had been heightened by a three-week wait when the concert had to be postponed as both Ms. Verch and Mr. Walters contracted COVID just days before its original date, July 24.

The Rankin concert was part of a heavy 2022 touring schedule for the duo. After recovering from COVID while self-isolating in an Air B’n’B, they hit the road to fulfill a couple of other commitments before returning to the Ottawa Valley for the rescheduled concert.

Ms. Verch and Mr. Walters tailored the concert to balance tried-and-true crowd pleasers with their own favourites for the blend that thrilled the Hometown Concert audience. All were introduced by the couple, along with the back stories of how they came to be part of their repertoire.

“We chose to play what we enjoy, while providing a good variety to include old-time tunes, classic country, and fiddle and banjo numbers,” she said.

She said they had been looking forward very much to playing for a hometown crowd and taking the opportunity to catch up with friends and family, including her parents, Ralph and Muriel Verch, over the few days they were able to spend in the community during this trip.

“We used to visit four or five times a year, but a combination of COVID and the rising costs of fuel and flights has cut that down to a couple of times a year,” she said.

The couple now calls North Carolina home.

Along with the joy of reconnecting with relatives and former neighbours, there is also a bittersweet element to each journey back to the Valley.

“So many of the people who encouraged me when I was young, and who used to play with me or taught me this or that tune, and whom I remember and respect, are now gone,” said the now 44-year-old who has been delighting audiences with her fiddling and stepdancing skills since she was a pre-schooler. “This is a big deal for me and it’s always sad to lose another one. But that’s also a part of life, and the memories are something I can always carry with me.”

Although Mr. Walters is a relative newcomer to the Ottawa Valley, he is not at all out of his element. He grew up in a small farming community of Havensville, Kansas.

“All my friends were from farm families,” he said. “I always enjoy my visits here, and every time I come I get to know the community better.”

Mr. Walters came into Ms. Verch’s life in 2007 when she hired him to be a member of the then three-person April Verch Band (AVB). They were married in 2018 and have been touring as a duo since the third band member left the band.

Ms. Verch has been touring since 2001 and over the years has participated in many aspects of the folk music scene, sometimes as a competition judge and also as a workshop instructor, all the while soaking up influences from other cultures and incorporating them in her own repertoire. One of the numbers the Rankin audience was treated to comes from Estonia.

Besides the fiddling and stepdancing skills Ms. Verch developed in her early years, she has added singer and songwriter to her skills list and has a number of recordings to her list of accomplishments.

The opening act at the concert was the fiddling and stepdancing duo of the Fiddlaires: Wilson and Lucie Lazarus from Chapeau, Quebec, accompanied by guitarist Ian Peplinskie. Ms. Verch and Mr. Walters also invited the young artists on to the stage with them to perform several numbers during the evening.

“Watching Wilson and Lucie brings back a lot of memories of when I was that age, performing with my sister, Tawnya, and the Pilatzkie brothers (Jon and Nathan) as the Duelling Dancers,” she said. “It’s heartwarming to see another generation coming along.”

Another featured guest was April’s father, Ralph, who joined them on stage to sing and play his guitar. As part of his own band he had been her earliest musical influence as a child.

The show was produced by Lynne Epps and Jane Hebert, part of the Eganville-based Off the Grid Productions team, which Ms. Epps and her husband, John, co-founded in 2017.

Marie Zettler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader