Barrage has spent the past dozen years fiddling around -- and has no complaints about that.
The fiddle troupe from Calgary was actually in the minds of its creators for nearly 15 years before it took on the Barrage name, and since then it's become a global touring concern, a recording act with three albums and a PBS favorite each time it rolls out a new show (the first, in fact, was filmed in Detroit). With a half-dozen choreographed violinists and a guitar, bass and drums rhythm section, the show has built a following with ensemble arrangements of classical, pop and folk favorites as well as original pieces written mostly by artistic directors Brian Hansen and Dean Marshall.
"We just want to creatively push the limit of what a fiddle show could be and still be playable to the general public," explains Barrage executive producer and co-creator Anthony Moore, himself a classically educated violinist. "We had things like 'Stomp' and 'Riverdance' that paved the way for shows like ours, where you didn't need to have a big script about the 1775 revolution or something, a real performing arts spectacle.
"What we do is just fuse different elements and be whatever we want to be rather than having to fit as something else."
Moore and his cohorts created Barrage from classes they ran in Calgary during the '80s and early '90s, "geared towards students who wanted to play alternative music, or an alternative to what you do in conservatory." As time went on, these classes also "experimented with movement on stage," which eventually morphed into the full-blown Barrage presentation.
The group, which Moore estimates has gone through more than 40 fiddlers in its history -- many coming up through Barrage's Energize Your Strings! educational and developmental program -- is nearing the end of a 250-date tour supporting its latest show, "High Strung." Moore says the company is currently working on a new show, "Animado," that should roll out in the fall of 2009.
" 'Animado' means 'lively' in Spanish," Moore, 39, says, "so it's going to be sourced a little more from old world Europe. It might have a different timbre and instruments that lend a European, old world flavor to it, just to give it a bit more of a twist. We can tap tangos from Spain and Hardanger fiddle from Norway, cool sources we haven't explored outside of Scottish-American fiddle traditions.
"We like to use those influences from different cultures in developing our stuff. That's what keeps it fresh for everybody. You have to change and freshen it up if you're going to maintain a show like this for many years."
Barrage performs "High Strung" at 7 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 7) at the Meadow Brook Music Festival on the campus of Oakland University, Rochester Hills. Tickets are $29.50 and $19.50 pavilion, $10 lawn. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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