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R.I.P. Oliver Schroer


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Prolific fiddler Oliver Schroer dies of cancer

Updated: Fri Jul. 04 2008 10:25:41 AM


Legendary Toronto fiddler Oliver Schroer died of leukemia this week, leaving fans and students of his unique style mourning the loss of an icon.

Schroer passed away Thursday morning at Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital after a year of fighting the disease. He leaves a legacy of a style that combined Ontario folk music traditions with elaborate classical arrangements.

"Oliver was the inventor of a completely new way to play music on the violin and was a prolific composer of his trademark improvisational style solo tunes," said Elizabeth Szekeres, a fiddler, writer and folk music composer from Caledon, Ont. "The passing of Oliver Schroer has left a giant void in Canada's creative community."

According to Szekeres, Schroer's last words were, "Well, I guess no excursions today."

Schroer gave his final concert on June 5, aptly titled: "Oliver's Last Concert on his Tour of this Planet."

"He had a terrific sense of humour, right to the end," said Szekeres.

In his years of performance, he travelled throughout Europe and North America to give concerts and wrote more than 1,000 pieces of music. He recorded with musicians including Loreena McKennitt, Sylvia Tyson, Great Big Sea and Spirit of the West.



On a personal note, I had the privilege to hear and see Oliver perform live a couple of times over the years and was deeply impressed by the music the man made. When I learned of his illness and how he dealt with it, I grew even more impressed. So farewell to a great human being and and an awesome fiddle player.

ps. I heard on the CBC just now that he died with a smile on his face.

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They said it was leukemia but I think the man died from having too big of a heart. I booked him a couple of times and had him guest lecture an improv course I was teaching at Carleton. Oliver was brilliant, inspiring, and kind, and he will be sorely missed. When he found out he was terminal he sent out a brilliant email that showed his strength and dedication to earth and life.

You can hear the man in his music, and I'm sure he would find that a nice compliment.

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I have been a fan of Oliver's for a couple of years - I stumbled across Stewed Tomatoes CD while I was living in Antigonish in 2003. Basically fell in love with his funky fiddle sound.

My girlfriend and I were fortunate to go see Oliver Schroer's Tribute at Hugh's Room. It was said that Oliver was too ill, and could not be a part of the show - but that he was backstage listening and was enjoying the show. I stepped out to the washroom and on my way back the vibe of the room was much different - the music was very emotional and you could sense the vibe has changed dramatically. I sat down, and although not knowing what Ollie looked like, i sensed right away that it was him on stage - playing solo. Tears were pouring out of my eyes - the beauty of his playing was so striking. By the end of his solo performance - there wasn't a dry eye in the house - his story and emotive playing was so strong that even Sheila Rogers (the host) stumbled over her words as she wiped away the tears.

This strikes close to home for me, my sister has been battling Leukemia for the past 4 years and has undergone a bone marrow transplant and is now living a healthy life. She is one of the few lucky ones. Our dear friend Shain lost his sister to Cancer and I offer my condolences to them and to all who've been afflicted by this disease.

I just got this email - you can listen to the show next Wednesday:

On Wednesday, July 9th, Canada Live will be rebroadcasting the Oli tribute that was produced 3 months ago. Tune in at 8:00 p.m. Radio 2,

1/2 later in Nfld. The concerts feature 100% Oliver Schroer music, spanning his entire career, and played in many different configurations, by artists such as The Stewed Tomatoes (Anne Lindsay, David Woodhead, David Travers-Smith, Ben Grossman, Colleen Allen), James Keelaghan, Jaime RT, Michelle George, Two Left (Tosh and Kit Weyman) and Bill Brennan, not to mention Oliver himself. Especially featured are the 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. Canada Live rebroadcasts our document of the event, and gives a sense of the love felt for Oliver Schroer in words and music.

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