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Canadian fiddling legend pays tribute to his idols

scott woods

Scott Woods and his band will perform their ‘Fiddling Legends' show Saturday, May 26 at the Fort Macleod and District Community Hall.

As a young fiddler, Scott Woods would go to sleep at night listening to recordings of legendary fiddlers such as Don Messer and Al Cherny.
Listening to the music of his idols was one way in which Woods honed a talent that would make him a future Canadian champion.
The lessons were well-learned: to this day Woods can tell you the order in which songs are played on a particular album.
“I listened to a lot of different recordings of fiddling,” Woods said with a laugh. “I would listen to an album every night as I fell asleep. Even today when we’re rehearsing we will play a tune and I will tell the band which one is next on an album.”
Woods pays tribute to the fiddlers whose music he listened to in bed during his “Fiddling Legends” show at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 26 at Fort Macleod and District Community Hall.
The show will feature a variety of music, from old-time to gospel, and from pop standards and country to polkas and western swing.
Woods got the idea for his new show from fans who would tell him after a performance that they recognized a certain fiddling legend’s style in a song Woods and his band had played.
Woods took that as a compliment and decided it was time to pay tribute in a show to the fiddling legends that shaped his career.
“The three big fiddlers I listened to were Don Messer, Graham Townsend and Al Cherny,” Woods said.
Woods liked Messer for his light style and great dance beat; Townsend for the fancy tunes he favoured such as “Mockingbird” and “Orange Blossom Special.” Cherny appealed to the young Woods with polkas and pop standards.
“I imitated all these great fiddlers,” Woods said.
Woods started studying classical violin at the tender age of four and learned to love the instrument and the variety of sound it could produce: classical, jazz, big band, country, swing, Celtic and old-time music.
“Fiddling is just fun,” Woods said of his preferred instrument. “It’s fun music to play.”
Woods would practice seven hours a day and spend the summer travelling to fiddling contests where he would compete with other young musicians for cash and prizes.
“We pushed each other along the way. Although we were fierce competitors, after we were best friends.”
Woods is a two-time winner of the Canadian Open Fiddle Contest, and also twice won the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Championships. He was also named Canadian Fiddle Entertainer of the Year.
Woods has competed and performed across Canada and in the U.S. and Europe ad is now known for his “trick” fiddling — playing behind his back, while walking on a barrel and while turning a somersault.
For seven years Woods was musical director and played the lead role in Memories of Don Messer’s Jubilee during an extensive tour of Canada.
Woods comes by his talent and musical interests honestly. His father Merv Woods started playing old-time music in 1944 and by 1950 had formed The Merv Woods Orchestra to play at dances, weddings and other events.
Pianist Carolyn Dyer joined the band in 1956 and married Merv four years later. Their children Elizabeth, Kendra, Bruce and Scott all studied classical violin and piano and were performing with the family band by the age of eight years.
The Woods family played old-time music across Ontario and the northern United States, and by the mid 1980s Scott Woods assumed the role of band leader from his father. Merv continued as manager and sound engineer until his death in 2003.
Many of the gigs the Woods family played were fund-raisers for local worthy causes — a tradition the Scott Woods Band continues. The concert in Fort Macleod is in support of Holy Cross Church.
The Scott Woods Band will perform about 150 shows a year.
“We can hardly keep up with the demand. As long as there is enough music there to keep it fun, we will keep going.”
The Scott Woods Band also continues to be a family affair, with Woods’ mother, sister Kendra, brother Bruce, nephews and nieces touring with the show. Some of the other performers, such as Ivan Felker and Karl Watson, played with Woods’ father.
People impressed with Scott Woods’ considerable talent have suggested he concentrate on classical violin and perform with symphony orchestras in major concert halls around the world.
“That doesn’t really appeal to me,” Woods said. “Big venues, small venues, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s more about the music.”
That would be music to the ears of some of those fiddling legends.