Paddy Fitzgerald, patriarch of the Everything Fitz fiddling and percussive step dancing clan, wondered Nov. 1 when he looked around and saw the snow on the band's second ever visit to Thompson if maybe they should try July next time.
"It snowed early last time we were here, too," Fitzgerald said. "Is this early?" he asked the 150 or so people in the Letkemann Theatre audience. After he heard a loud "no" groan, Fitzgerald quipped, "Maybe we should come in July next time."
Mind you, Paddy wasn't really complaining. Everything Fitz is a disciplined outfit from Bancroft, a pretty rugged town of 3,800 or so in Eastern Ontario, which bills itself as the "Mineral Capital of Canada" and holds an annual event every August called the Rockhound Gemboree.
Discipline also means an Irish Roman Catholic family like the Fitzgeralds go to mass Sunday mornings even when they're on the road. At home or away, it's still the Lord's day, which explains why the Fitzgerald clan, before they rolled their SUV and trailer with Ontario plates right up to the front door - literally - of R.D. Parker Collegiate, they first rolled into St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church on Cree Road for morning mass as a family.
The Bancroft area, near Algonquin Park, is a hotbed, Paddy noted, of fiddling and step dancing, with a competition it seems in some neighbouring hamlet every weekend. It's a small-town Ontario world where the fiddling Leahy family is just down the road an hour or so at their farm near Lakefield and where the big social event of the year is the nearby Douro Doings, which just celebrated its 81st anniversary Labour Day weekend. It's naturally the kind of environment where the youngest member of the Fitzgerald clan, Tom, now 16, can find himself jamming at a kitchen party with fellow fiddler Donnell Leahy.
Besides father Paddy and son Tom, the rest of the Fitzgerald clan that makes up Everything Fitz includes mother and wife, Pam, percussionist Pat, 21, son and brother, and daughter and sisters Julie, 20, and Kerry, 19.
With roots in the Canadian old-time fiddle tradition, their unique stage show combines a variety of musical styles- everything from Celtic, bluegrass, western swing, to entertaining novelty tunes and choreographed step dance routines.
Julie, Kerry and Tom are all champion fiddlers and can provide intricate three-part fiddle harmonies as well as solo improvisations on fiddle and mandolin.
Pam and Paddy provide accompaniment on piano and bass guitar. An audience favorite is the award-winning step dancing routines performed by all four siblings. In 2007, Everything Fitz played Silver Dollar City Festival of American Music in Branson, Missouri and at the Medicine Hat Stampede in Medicine Hat, Alberta.
Everything Fitz is on the road a lot. They played a hometown gig in Bancroft Sept. 12, but since then have made one-night stops in places like Hannibal, Missouri, McCook, Nebraska, Dodge City, Kansas, Cortez, Colorado, Rock Springs, Wyoming, Fort Benton, Montana, Hot Springs, South Dakota - and since Oct. 21 just in Manitoba, they've played in Virden, Steinbach, Pinawa, Portage la Prairie, McCreary, Deloraine, Minnedosa, Strathclair and Neepawa, before arriving in Thompson Sunday night as the second show in the City of Thompson's 2009-2010 Concert Series. Next up in the series is Winnipeg Contemporary Dancers Nov. 27.
Meanwhile, on Saturday night, Everything Fitz will be back south of the border in Rugby, North Dakota before making their way back east to the Maritimes for the 83rd annual Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions convention Nov. 20 at the Confederation Centre for the Arts in Charlottetown.