Step To It

Clearly the luck of the Irish extends to the Riverside Resort when it brings an Irish show with a Canadian twist and a party atmosphere to town for the first time.
“The Fitzgerald’s Irish Celebration” consists of a troupe of family members who create and combine a lot of different elements into this one energy-filled musical experience.
This fiddle and step-dance group features three-time Canadian Grandmasters Fiddle Champions Julie, Kerry and Tom Fitzgerald. They are joined by five-time Canadian Open Step Dance Champion and guitarist Kyle Waymouth.
From Celtic jigs and reels and Irish ballads like “Danny Boy,” to the Western swing vocals on the Bob Wills classic, “It’s All Your Fault,” while mixing in traditional fiddle tunes, these siblings continue to push boundaries by fusing traditional and modern styles of fiddle and dance to create their own unique sound and style. They even fiddle and step dance at the same time.
The Fitzgeralds have headlined Irish festivals across the United States as well as Europe, and now they travel to Laughlin.
We talked with Julie Fitzgerald about the group, their music and the show they bring to the stage. Here’s her take…

Give a little bit of background on the group and how this show came together.
The group is called the Fitzgeralds. We originally started out as a full-family group called Everything Fitz, and that was my mom and dad, and four siblings. There were six of us in the group at the time. We started out playing fundraisers just at home — local church fundraisers and community hall fundraisers — and eventually we continued on into doing more tours outside of Ontario.
So we’re from eastern Ontario, in Canada, and our first tour was in 2006 and then we’ve been touring ever since, (she laughs), but I guess our main style of music — it’s fiddle music and Ottowa Valley step dancing. Ottowa Valley is a region in eastern Ontario and the style of dancing is best described as a mix of tap dancing and Irish dancing, so it has an Irish influence in it for sure. And the same with the fiddle music, the fiddle music has a mix of French Canadian, the Irish, the Scottish and the American old-time as well — it’s a real big mix of stuff, that’s kind of what happens in Canada.

What does the Fitzgerald’s Irish Celebration entail?
Right now we’re touring as a four-person group, so we all play a multitude of instruments. There’s three fiddles — we do a lot of three-part fiddle harmonies that we enjoy playing. We always play “Danny Boy,” that’s always an audience favorite and a request. Then we do a lot of original stuff as well, that also includes a three-part fiddle, and we do our own arrangements of the standards, and we do a bit of singing as well. The singing, again, is a mixture of different influences. We actually do a Texas swing vocal number, we do a couple of Irish folk songs, and some bluegrass, that kind of thing. With the step dancing, we’ll do solo step dance numbers and we do group step dancing where all four of us dance at the same time. That’s always an audience favorite, too.

Any traditional Irish instruments, drinking songs, and audience participation in the show?
Yeah, we do play a lot of fiddle music, so sometimes we’ll play a song on the fiddle and the audience actually will sing along, so with “Danny Boy,” we’ll tell people “feel free to sing along” and sometimes it’s amazing, because it sounds like you’re performing with a choir sometimes. People really do just sing along.
My brother actually has this little novelty number where he takes his bow apart and he’s able to play three or four strings at the same time and he’ll do an Irish medley on that — the “Molly Malone” song and “The Parting Glass.” So we do those two. We actually do a song called “The Temperance Reel” — it’s an old folk tune, a drinking song, but it’s about how the fiddle players love to have their pint when they’re playing the tunes. Tom heard that from a fiddle player originally from Seattle but based in Nashville now. So it’s three-part fiddle music, we have a keyboard, couple of guitars, we have a tenor banjo, as well as a ukulele bass, which is a bass but it’s the size of a ukulele. So it’s a really small portable instrument. Not traditionally Irish, but it fits well with the show.

What are some show highlights, without giving away too many secrets?
Near the end of the show, I won’t say when, but we do this number where all four of us step dance and it’s just the dancing, and it actually caught a lot of attention over the last few years over social media.
I think there’s a couple videos and one on Facebook has about 7 million views on it and another one has 4 million views. So we’ve got a lot of people requesting that particular number all the time — that’s always a highlight of the show, and there’s a secret, a little bit of a surprise that happens in that number, but I can’t say what it is.

Is the show suitable for all ages?
Definitely. Actually we just started a tour and we were in Butler, Pennsylvania. We had kids dancing in the aisles and in the seats. Then sometimes people get up and they start waltzing or they kind of get up dancing, and it’s people of all ages — it really does suit everyone. The dancing is just such, where everyone can kind of enjoy that regardless of what music you’re into so that’s always the thing that ties the show together.

Is there one segment or song that has become your signature, or most requested, no matter where you go?
I think I’d say it would be “Danny Boy.” The particular arrangement that we play in our show is one we arranged for three-part fiddle, so there’s no accompaniment with it. It’s got a bit of a different type of arrangement to it — a little more modern arrangement — but people always come up to us afterwards and they say, “oh, this reminded me of this or that,” or they loved the arrangement of it because it’s different, and so because of that, people do request it for future shows.

What do you think it is that sets this show apart from other Irish shows out there? What makes this show unique and different?
I guess the two comments that we regularly get after the shows is that it’s a family, because it is my brother, my sister and I, and then we hire a fourth person on guitar. My mom, Pam, is actually on tour with us and she sometimes plays the keyboard. I don’t know if she’s gonna play on this tour at all, but she’s traveling with us.
The other thing people comment on is the variety we do offer in the show, again, because it’s from Canada you get that Irish influence, but you also get so many different musical influences that really make it a good blend and there’s something for everyone in the show — as opposed to being strictly hard-core Irish or hard-core Scottish or a bluegrass kind of thing. People do comment on that. My sister Kerry does a lot of emceeing in the show, and she’s somewhat Irish because she’s got the gift of the gab. I don’t know how she does it, but she comes up with the wittiest things and it’s pretty funny.

You mentioned original music. Is there one songwriter in the group, or does everybody contribute?
It kind of depends on what everyone’s doing at the time. Usually we do make it a group effort and everyone contributes one way or another.
My sister and I tend to do more of the writing and arranging and Tom is an incredible multi-instrumentalist and when we’re trying to put songs together, he’s so great. He can just pick up a guitar, or a fiddle, or he’ll pick up a bass or he’ll play the keyboard and really help make the arrangements fit together. He has a really good oversight on the order of songs in a show, or a CD, and that kind of thing. We all sort of contribute in that way.
Anything else you’d like people to know about the group?
If people want to know more about us, they can check out our website. We have one album that we bring to our shows, and it includes “Danny Boy,” “The Parting Glass,” and a couple of traditional things. Then we also have a live DVD so people can also see the full show, so that kind of stuff we will have available. We’re making a new album in April and it’ll be ready in the summer. We have a Facebook page also if anyone would like to follow us and see what we’re up to.


FITZGERALD’S IRISH CELEBRATION

Don’s Celebrity Theatre within the Riverside Resort

Wednesday-Sunday, March 13-17 (8 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info