Romanow returns to roots

Ali Romanow picked up her first fiddle when she was five.

Ali Romanow picked up her first fiddle when she was five.

“Now all I have to do is think of a sound and my fingers translate it,” the 21-year-old says.

Now living in Victoria, Romanow returns to the Comox Valley for a concert and Folkestra Workshop on Nov. 20.

The concert takes place at the Cumberland United Church at 7:30 p.m., featuring the band Mission Hill and Cumberland musician Gord Carter.

Mission Hill is named after the area in Courtenay where Romanow grew up. Members include mom Wendy Knudson on standup bass, dad Bob Romanow on mandolin, roommate Jamie Elliott on guitar and vocals and Romanow on fiddle, banjo, guitar and vocals.

“We play bluegrass, folk and old-time traditional tunes,” says Romanow. “I do a lot of writing for the band, so there’ll be some original fiddle tunes and lots of three-part harmonies.”

“And we’re delighted to be playing with Gord,” she adds. “He writes incredible historical songs about Cumberland miners and people and events from the Comox Valley. His songs are simply timeless.”

Earlier in the day, Romanow and Knudson will present a Folkestra (Folk Orchestra) Workshop for all ages, all levels and all acoustic instruments from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

“It’s a lot of fun,” says Romanow. “We start everyone off singing to get them warmed up and comfortable with some vocal harmonies then introduce the instruments. Everything is learned by ear and by the the end of the session we’ve created an orchestra.”

The Folkestra is modeled after fiddle master Daniel Lapp’s folk orchestra in Victoria. As well as teaching music lessons and performing, Romanow is also working for Lapp.

Romanow admits it’s been a struggle to co-ordinate rehearsals for Mission Hill since she moved to Victoria in August.

“At least we’re only dealing with two households so can usually block out a weekend once a month or so,” she says.

Absolut Polska, Romanow’s Eastern European gypsy band which taps into her Ukrainian roots, had to be put on hold due to her move.


“It was all very spontaneous,” she says. “I was working at a lot of music festivals over the summer and kept meeting musicians I wanted to play with and they all lived in Victoria. Jamie, my roommate, was one of them. In the end, it just made sense to live there.”

Plans for the future include a Mission Hill recording and more performing, teaching and writing of songs.


Romanow was delighted to find out that Valdy wanted to record one of her songs.

“Music is the focus of my life; I couldn’t escape it even if I wanted to,” she says. “I simply can’t imagine life without music.”

Tickets for the Nov. 20 concert are $10 in advance and $12 at the door, with a family rate of $25. The Folkestra Workshop costs $10 per person. Tickets may be purchased by phoning 250-338-7659, by e-mailing or at the door.