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Fiddler on the Move 

Violins' backwoods cousins take to the city stage.

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The fiddle is the instrument of hayseeds and hoedowns, and the violin is the backbone of symphony orchestras -- but they're the same instrument. For John Crozman, one of the five creators of Barrage, that was the problem. "The only thing that's different is the way they're played," he says. "And that's the whole premise of our show."

Barrage, which will perform A Violin Sings, a Fiddle Dances Wednesday at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron, was conceived in Calgary in 1996 as a trip through world music that revealed the diversity of the violin. At first, the group of seven violinists and a five-piece backup band performed concerts on the world-beat circuits.

"We certainly concertized for the first three years," Crozman admits. "Meaning we gave concerts: 'How are you doing today, folks? We're gonna play a little Ukrainian tune for you.' Then we reached that point where we were ready for our big dream, which was to mount a cool stage show. That's what entertainment is today -- it's more than just playing your instruments."

The creators auditioned other performers for the group, because "we're too old -- we're in our late 30s." But "we picked musicians. None of them knew how to move," Crozman recalls. "With four guys on stage, you can do the rock thing, and it looks all right, but when you get more than that, it looks pretty retarded if you don't figure something out. So the choreography came from our desire to create a visually interesting add-on to our music."

The problem was that Barrage seemed like a Canadian version of Riverdance, only where the fiddle players also dance. But Crozman notes that any choreographed show that is "mass demographic popular" is going to be lumped in a genre with Stomp, Riverdance, and Blast.

"I don't think people are going to be confused by what they're seeing," he says. "It's just an easy thing for critics to label. We like to reach a wide demographic -- it was put together to be an entertaining show."

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