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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Acclaimed Montreal-Based Fiddler Laura Risk Returns With Brand New Album 'Traverse'

By Stevie Connor.

Acclaimed Montreal-based fiddler Laura Risk returns with a brand new album, Traverse -- a musical journey into the heart of traditional fiddle music that resonates with nuance and vitality. From Montreal to the Gaspé via Scotland, Traverse's 10 tracks draw from deep immersion into traditional musical communities, as well as a curiosity towards innovation and exploration. Her distinctive sound and compelling interpretations of traditional tunes are intensely personal yet grounded in meticulous archival and ethnographic research.

"Traditional musics are often charged with carrying a sense of cultural identity or nationhood," Laura explains. "From the inside, however, fiddling more often feels to me as if it is about carrying and creating community. Tunes are like unspoken stories: they traverse distances between people that can't be bridged by words. My last solo album was in 2004, the year before my son was born. Two decades later, this album is born of the roller coaster that is middle age: love and belonging, learning and teaching, memory and loss. For me, each of these tunes asks, what is a life well lived? These melodies document life passages and honour gifts received. They mark people met along the journey and others lost. This album is an invitation to enter into the story. To temper loss with hope. To bring joy.”

With Nicholas Williams on accordion and flute, and Rachel Aucoin on piano, Traverse features a trio composed of three top musicians who have each come to Quebec from elsewhere -- Laura from California, Nicholas from Ottawa, and Rachel from the Maritimes – and have been deeply involved with traditional Québécois music for several decades.

"The music on this album comes from two long-standing duo projects," Laura continues, "One with Nicholas Williams and one with Rachel Aucoin. These duos have been very occasional, as we all have other musical projects as well as families and other commitments. We might play a few times a year. Each time, however, it’s what I would call in French a “coup de cœur”: something very special and unusual, a sense of musical connection and communication that, at its best, feels transcendent. In each of these duos, when we are at our best, it feels as if we are walking an unknown path together, not quite knowing where we are going but following each other in the subtleties and intricacies of the tunes."

"This project brings the energy of those two duos together into a trio. It was an easy transition to make. We had some overlapping repertoire across the duos but more importantly, Nicholas and Rachel already knew each other well and had worked together on occasion. When I asked them each about expanding from a duo into a trio, their responses went well beyond a simple “yes” to something closer to a mutual fan club: they both told me how much they admired the other’s musical sensibilities and aesthetic. And when we played together as a trio for the first time in fall 2021, that sense of musical connection and communication was there from the start. Fluid, creative: easy."

Together, these three artists play with presence, knife’s-edge precision, and a rare intuitive connection that draws listeners into a riveting musical experience.

Don't miss the opportunity to catch Laura Risk playing live in May and June:

Saturday, May 27

Waterville, QC

Waterville United Church, 460 Principale Sud

Sunday, May 28

Beaumont, QC

Le Salon de Musique, 171 Rte du Fleuve

Thursday, June 8

Montreal, QC

Salle Joseph-Rouleau (Jeunesses Musicales Canada), 305 avenue Mont-Royal

with Nic Gareiss, stepdancer

Originally from California, now living in Montreal, Laura Risk performs and teaches Québécois and Scottish fiddling internationally and has over a dozen albums to her credit. Laura has toured with Cordelia’s Dad, Triptych, Ensemble Galilei, and dancer Sandy Silva; served as musical director for ensembles Childsplay and Revels North; and produced seven albums, including three for fiddler Hanneke Cassel. She is co-author of The Glengarry Collection: The Highland Fiddle Music of Aonghas Grant (Mel Bay) and co-producer of the CD Douglastown: Music and Song from the Gaspé Coast, for which she received the 2014 Prix Mnémo for documentation of Québec’s intangible cultural heritage. Laura is also an Assistant Professor of Music and Culture at the University of Toronto Scarborough. In 2017, she was awarded the Governor General’s Gold Medal for her PhD research on traditional music in Quebec.

Nicholas Williams is a multi-instrumentalist (flute, accordion, piano), composer and singer, who has developed a reputation as a versatile and sought-after musician in the traditional music scenes of Québec, Ontario, and New England, playing with ensembles such as Genticorum, Crowfoot, and the Kehler & Williams Duo. He has performed and taught around the world, always interested in exploring the meeting ground between tradition and innovation.

Born in New Brunswick with roots in Cape Breton, Rachel Aucoin (piano, co-founder of MaréeMusique) was raised in an Acadian community and now lives near Quebec City. Known equally as a concert performer, dance musician, and teacher, she is also founder and director of the Quebec trad music and dance camp Souches à Oreilles. She is a recipient of the Aldor trophy (Québec) and her recent recording, Grandes Rencontres, with accordionist husband Sabin Jacques, was awarded the Prix du Patrimoine 2019 (Chaudière-Appalaches), the Prix Gus Viseur (Paris), and honored at the Canadian Folk Music Awards.



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