I was listening to the tail end of The Vinyl Café a couple of weeks ago, and the last song was a rather haunting piece for solo violin. It stayed with me for a few days, and I eventually felt compelled to look it up on the CBC website.

This led me to a pretty interesting recording. A Canadian fiddler named Oliver Schroer walked the Camino de Santiago, a 1,200 km pilgrimage trail that winds through Spain and France. During his two month journey, he would stop at churches and record himself playing fantasia-like pieces that were inspired by his experiences on the trail. You can check out a couple of short samples by clicking here and here.

His CD Camino consists of a number of those improvisations, with short snippets of ambient sounds from his walk in between – church bells, footsteps, children playing, etc. Normally I’d find this kind of thing tacky, but in the context of his journey I think it works. Naturally I couldn’t find a copy in the local record stores, but thanks to the miracle of iTunes I had a copy in five minutes.

Oliver turns out to be an interesting guy. He’s played with tons of great Canadian musicians – everyone from Great Big Sea and Spirit of the West to Trichy Sankaran and Bob Becker. He’s an educator, too – in recent years he’s been working with young fiddlers in a couple of small towns in BC on a project he called The Twisted String.

Unfortunately, Oliver is currently undergoing his fourth round of chemotherapy in a battle against leukemia. I hope he makes it – we need more musicians like him around.


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