In November 2011, Karrnnel Sawitsky (Fiddle), Ivonne Hernandez (Fiddle), Eric Wright (Cello) and Trent Freeman (Fiddle) got together for the first time on Vancouver Island to start rehearsing this project. After 10 days straight of writing, arranging, practicing and an absurd amount of tea, The Fretless emerged as a band.
With the release of their debut album Waterbound in early 2012, which features their fresh styles, compositions, as well as collaborations with singers Ruth Moody and Norah Rendell, the quartet grabbed the attention of critics and fans across many genres. This recording fueled a busy summer of festivals across Canada, a month long tour of Germany in the fall, and world wide sales and radio play. The year was capped with 3 awards, bringing the album, and the band further into the public eye; Instrumental Album of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards, and at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, the Fretless walked away with both Ensemble of the year, and Instrumental Group of the Year.
The Fretless is an innovation in music that must be heard. They harbor all the energy of fiddle tunes, while shattering all expectations in writing, creativity and performance.
Who is The Fretless?
Ivonne Hernandez - violin/viola/step dancing
Some people are born to play music. By the age of three, Ivonne Hernandez was playing violin by ear, everything from her mother’s favourite Maritime reels to her father’s Chilean folk music roots. A child prodigy, she soon was playing guitar, piano, cello, flute, and percussion before joining Daniel Lapp’s BC Fiddle Orchestra. While still in her pre-teens, Ivonne played on the Orchestra’s Fiddleharmonic CD and before 60,000 at a Commonwealth Games performance with the Crash Test Dummies.
At 13, Ivonne was the youngest member of the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra and formed Fiddlemania, a dual-violin band with her younger sister, Kalissa. She was the Merritt Old Time Fiddlers’ Provincial Champion for two years running before becoming a judge at the event as a 15 year old. Ivonne is the reigning 5 time Grand North American Fiddle Champion, and has performed with Mark O'Connor, Alan Jackson, Gloria Estefan, Jann Arden, U2's the Edge, Natalie MacMaster, Earth Wind and Fire, Steve Winwood, Burt Bacharach, Juan Louis Guerra, Rosa Pasos, Ben Hepner and legendary film composer Howard Shore.
The young musician has been featured on television and radio, at folk music and fiddle festivals around the world, and played for the Governor General of Canada. Her debut recording, Playing With Fire, garnered critical raves, and in 2006 Ivonne released In Time (Warner Music Canada). She has most recently recorded and produced a twin fiddle album with her sister, Kalissa Hernandez fittingly called 'Sisters' as well as Kalissa's debut album 'Later than Last' both released in 2009. Ivonne is now a sought after session player and lends her talents on many critically acclaimed recordings and film scores from artists in both Canada and the US.
With her band, Ivonne has been performing many educational and entertaining school shows across Canada and the US to high acclaim. She has toured and taught all over North America, the Caribbean and Europe, and if that wasn't enough, Ivonne was offered a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music and graduated in 3 years at the top of her class with a dual major in Violin Performance and Music Business & Management.
Ivonne Hernandez has mastered Canada’s traditional fiddle music. She embodies the country’s 21st century multiculturalism, and her music reflects the new century’s marriage of cultural influences. The young fiddler transforms her folk music roots into an exciting and dynamic new form. Looking for something new in folk music? This is it!
Karrnnel Sawitsky - violin/viola
2010 Canadian Folk Music Award Double Nominee and 2009 Canadian Folk Music Award Nominee for Instrumental Solo Artist of the Year, Karrnnel is quickly establishing himself as one of the most dynamic and original fiddle players in the Country. As a spirited performer and composer, his music draws from the various styles that he plays - Canadian Old Time, Métis, Ukrainian, Norwegian, Irish, Scottish, Celtic, French Canadian, Cape Breton, Bluegrass, Jazz, Blues, Rock, Country, and Classical.
In June 2010, Karrnnel alongside Juno nominated multi instrumentalist Daniel Koulack (Winnipeg, MB) released a new album entitled ‘Fiddle and Banjo’ which garnered 2 Canadian Folk Music Award Nominations for Instrumental Group of the Year and Pushing the Boundaries. Karrnnel released his debut self-titled solo recording in February 2009 with rave reviews from across Canada. The album features 100% original music that showcases the diversity of the music he plays and writes.
In 2009 Karrnnel was one of 3 short listed nominees for the 30 Below Award at the Saskatchewan Lieutenant Governor Arts Awards. This award recognizes young artists who have earned significant recognition in their artistic career and show exceptional promise.
Consistently amazing audiences with his passion and expertise of the music he plays, he is increasingly in demand for solo appearances, recording sessions, and concerts. This has given him the opportunity to perform his talent for such prestigious events as the 2010 LOVE Saskatchewan Festival at the Toronto Harbourfront, the 2010 Regina Folk Festival, the 2009 Council of the Federation (Premiere’s Convention), the 2008 World President’s Organization Winter Gala, and the 2004 Canadian Brier Men’s Curling Championship, just to name a few.
Whether he is performing with a full band at a major festival or an intimate house concert, you won’t find an unresponsive toe in the audience!!
Trent Freeman - violin/viola
Trent Freeman is an innovative violin player, whose unique blend of deep groove, in depth harmony, captivating melodies and personal writing style set him apart from many others. His 2012 Canadian Folk Music Award winning record Rock Paper Scissors is an all original, instrumental album that is artistic, inspired, edgy and beautiful as it blurs the lines between jazz and folk.
Originally from Vancouver Island, Trent now lives in Toronto, and is in high demand as a side man and a studio musician.
Eric Wright - cello
Picking up the cello at age 7, Eric Wright began his musical career as a classically trained musician. By 13, he was teaching group and private lessons in Vermont, while playing in numerous chamber groups and orchestras. He has received numerous awards, as well as being accepted into the Vermont All-State orchestra, New England orchestra, and winner of the Vermont Youth Orchestra concerto competition.
While he loved classical music, his father’s background in Irish and Old Time fiddling was what really drew him in. Growing up, he had always accompanied his dad on cello, guitar, or other instruments, and knew that his love for folk music was too powerful to ignore.
From there, Eric moved to Boston and attended the Berklee College of Music where he studied folk styles with Eugene Friesen, Mark Simos, Natalie Haas, and John McGann. He graduated Magna Cum Laude as a Professional Music major, focusing mainly on Film Scoring and Cello Performance. After college, Eric started a traditional Irish group, The Red Etin, with his friends, where they played music all over the greater Boston area.
When not on tour, Eric is the Celtic/Old Time cello, guitar, and banjo teacher at many music camps, including the annual Northeastern Suzuki summer camp, works as a composer/sound designer for film, and is a music consultant for EMI publishing in Los Angeles.