Oliver Schroer

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Oliver Schroer
Born June 18, 1956
Origin Canada
Died July 3, 2008
Occupations instrumentalist, composer, music producer
Instruments Fiddle, violin
Years active 1993–2008
Website OliverSchroer.com

Oliver Schroer (June 18, 1956 – July 3, 2008) was a Canadian fiddler, composer, and music producer.

Early life[edit]

Oliver Schroer grew up in Vandeleur, Ontario, a small crossroads near Markdale in rural Grey County. He attended Grey Highlands Secondary School in Flesherton, where he played French horn in the school band.[1] He also took private violin lessons. He graduated in 1974, having earned several academic awards.[1]

Schroer was dissatisfied with university life, and began to busk in the Toronto system subway with his guitar. After several years, he picked up his violin again, but to play fiddle rather than classical music. Eventually, he began to record, and in 1993 released his first album, Jigzup, which was nominated for a Juno Award in the Best Roots or Traditional Album category.

Recording career[edit]

Schroer was a prolific composer, recording ten CDs in 14 years. He performed in Europe and North America in clubs, cathedrals, and New York's Lincoln Center. Altogether, he produced or performed on over 100 albums of new traditional, acoustic, and popular music, and wrote more than 1,000 pieces of music.[2] He recorded with artists such as Jimmy Webb and Barry Mann, Canadian singers James Keelaghan, Loreena McKennitt and Sylvia Tyson, acoustic guitar mavens Jesse Cook and Don Ross, East Coast rockers Great Big Sea, and West Coast rockers Spirit of the West.

Toronto critic Robert Everett-Green described his style as a "fusion of Ontario fiddling traditions with the kind of architectural, string-crossing music of Bach's solo violin works."[3] Schroer's music also frequently employs violin harmonic and double stop techniques to create distinctly modern sounds.

Schroer taught and mentored intensively in Smithers, British Columbia, in the Canadian Pacific Northwest over the last seven years of his life. He wrote a tune for each of the young people he taught – 59 in total – and recorded the tunes with Emilyn Stam, a young pianist from Smithers. His album Smithers is a thank-you album recorded for Smithers.

As a music educator, Schroer developed The Twisted String, a series of squads of young fiddlers and other musicians. Schroer composed the music for these groups.

His album Camino was recorded in churches along the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail. Schroer walked 1,000 km of the trail in 2004 with his wife and two friends, carrying a portable recording studio. To save weight, he did not bring a violin case. He carried his instrument wrapped in a sleeping bag in his backpack, "like my own precious relic, carefully packed in its reliquary of socks and underwear."[3][4] The album features solo playing, occasionally against a background of local sounds such as church bells, birds, and monastic voices.[5]

In 2007, Schroer was diagnosed with leukemia, which proved to be untreatable.[6] A tribute concert for Schroer was held on February 19, 2008 at Hugh's Room in Toronto. It featured the Twisted String Project, seventeen kids, aged 9 through 18, led by two of Oliver's students. They raised the money through private donations to fly to Toronto from the B.C. coast, just so they could take part in the concerts. CBC Radio 2 recorded the concert, which aired on Canada Live on April 7, 2008.

Schroer's last concert was performed on June 5, 2008. In a letter to his fans on April 30 when he first announced his intention to do this concert, he called it "Oliver's Last Concert on his Tour of this Planet". He asked that his sold-out audience clap, not cry, and apologized for not being his normal glad-handing self; the risk of infection from personal contact would have been much too great. The subsequent Globe and Mail review called Schroer "an investigative fiddler".

During his final illness, Schroer said of his compositions, "I used to write a lot of jigs, reels and waltzes – as a matter of fact I still do. But over the years new kinds of melodies emerged – more rarefied, harder to pin down. There were prayers, incantations, whimsies, melismas, mysteriosos, heisenbergs, fractal reels, forest blues, blessings.... They are not so much entertainment tunes, but music that expresses other important things about my relationship to life. This music is, dare I say, more spiritual."[7]

Schroer composed his final piece of music, Poise, on July 2, 2008.[8] He died the following morning as a result of his leukemia.[9] His last words were, "Well, I guess no excursions today."[10]

Three months after his death, Schroer's CD Hymns and Hers was nominated for four Canadian Folk Music Awards:[11]

  • Pushing the Boundaries
  • Contemporary Album of the Year
  • Solo Instrumentalist
  • Producer

Hymns and Hers subsequently won two Canadian Folk Music Awards on November 23, 2008, in the categories of "Pushing the Boundaries" and "Solo Instrumentalist".[12]

Discography[edit]

  • Jigzup (1993), Big Dog Music – Nominated for a Juno Award in the Best Roots or Traditional Album category
  • Whirled (1994), Big Dog Music
  • Stewed Tomatoes (1996), Big Dog Music
  • Celtica (1998), Avalon
  • O2 (Double CD, 1999), Big Dog Music
  • Restless Urban Primitive (2001), Big Dog Music
  • A Million Stars (2004), Big Dog Music
  • Camino (2006), Big Dog Music
  • Celtic Devotion (2006), Avalon Records
  • Hymns and Hers (2007), Big Dog Music
  • Smithers (Double CD, 2007), Big Dog Music
  • Freedom Row (2010), Borealis

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Grey Highlands Yearbook 1973–1974. Flesherton, Ontario: Grey Highlands Secondary School. June 1974. 
  2. ^ John Terauds (April 27, 2006). "Music to inspire the pilgrim soul; 'Crazy Canadian' with violin both welcomed, ejected from churches". Toronto Star. 
  3. ^ a b David Gordon Duke (December 2, 2006). "Camino project weaves a rich aural tapestry". The Vancouver Sun. 
  4. ^ "Oliver Schroer – On the Camino Trail: The Diary". Archived from the original on December 10, 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-18. 
  5. ^ John P. McLaughlin (December 1, 2006). "A musical pilgrim's progress: Concert brings to life Oliver Schroer's aural travelogue". The Province. 
  6. ^ Flacks, Diane (July 5, 2008). "Oliver Schroer, Gracefully taking leave of life". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  7. ^ "Oliver Schroer O2 Essay". Archived from the original on January 13, 2006. Retrieved 2006-02-18. 
  8. ^ "Oliver Schroer: Official Website". Retrieved 2008-10-09. 
  9. ^ "Prolific fiddler Oliver Schroer dies of cancer". CTV News. July 4, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  10. ^ "Fiddler Succumbs to Cancer". Owen Sound Sun-Times. July 5, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  11. ^ "Late fiddler Oliver Schroer leads Canadian Folk Music nominations". CBC News. October 8, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  12. ^ "CFMA/PMFC Winners 2008". Retrieved 2008-12-09. [dead link]

External links[edit]