Going in, they enjoyed a distinct advantage over some of the other audiences Fisher has entertained on his international tours.
“One of the advantages of playing in America and Canada is that they understand English. Europe it’s a bit difficult,” Fisher said before the show.
“I’m always surprised at people who go to listen to British folk music or Irish folk music in Europe. But Europe’s pretty bilingual in that sense.”
Fisher refers to himself as a folk singer, songwriter and storyteller in large part due to the strong importance his genre places on narrative.
“I don’t just sing. I talk quite a lot as well, and I try to put the songs into context,” Fisher said.
“If you don’t understand the context, the song doesn’t have quite the same meaning.”
Since the 1960s, Fisher’s music has provided plenty of meaning for listeners in his native country and beyond. Aside from his recorded output -- a mix of traditional songs and original compositions by Fisher and others -- from 1983 until 2010 he was the host of the BBC Radio Scotland program Travelling Folk.
In recognition of his achievements, Fisher was inducted into the Scots Traditional Music Hall of Fame and in 2006 was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II.
Fisher’s thoughts on the latter typify his irreverent sense of humour, which was fully on display at Wednesday night’s performance.
“We haven’t got an empire, so I’m a member of nothing,” he said with a chuckle. “It was given to me by the Queen, but basically you’re nominated by people … You never know who the nominators are, but I’m sure it was part of the new Scottish parliament, some old friends that were politicians, and fellow musicians that had already been honoured.”
The MBE came at a turning point in Fisher’s career.
“It was very important in the sense that … I knew that the radio show was going to run for a few more years and then it was going to change dramatically. One of the signs was for me that the last two bands I interviewed on the show weren’t born when I started doing it, and I thought, ‘I’ve done a shift, so it’s time to move on.’
“The moving on involved going back on the road really, and starting to record again.”
With his return to recording and touring, Fisher is in some sense closing a circle that began five decades ago when he first started performing as a young skiffle musician.
Skiffle, a form of popular music played on homemade instruments and incorporating folk, jazz and blues influences, was all the rage in Britain during the 1950s (even The Beatles first began as a skiffle group).
The genre had a substantial overlap with folk music, and as the Americana craze faded, British youth began returning to more traditional native folk.
For Fisher, both skiffle and folk provided a refreshing alternative to the slick pop music of the day.
“You have to go back well before you were born … when all we got was Tin Pan Alley, all we got was that sort of boy-meets-girl, Blue Moon and all that thing,” he said.
“OK, inside of it was some great musicality and fantastic people like Irving Berlin, whose music I still admire. But there was an accessibility about (folk) music that wasn’t there in pop as it was at the time. And rock did the same thing. We were part of the same DNA really -- it was just forked in different directions because rock came mainly from blues.”
While he built up his repertoire, the young Fisher found a job at the BBC writing educational songs for schools about different occupations -- what the singer now refers to as “hacking.”
If you don’t understand the context, the song doesn’t have quite the same meaning. - Archie Fisher
Yet the experience helped his songwriting, and he gradually progressed from augmenting song fragments to writing complete compositions. His first solo album was released in 1968.
Fisher’s Scottish heritage plays what he calls a “fundamental” role in his music and songwriting. A devotee of Scottish poetry, he has been asked on several occasions to set Scottish poems to music.
“My parental background is Gaelic,” he said. “My mother is a Gaelic speaker, my father was from a Gaelic family as well, and the lyricism of Gaelic melodies -- I’m not a Gaelic speaker, but the lyricism of their melodies is very deeply ingrained in me.”
Having retired from his radio program and returned to the road, Fisher once more has time to share that lyricism and melody with folk fans throughout Europe and North America.
His Prince Albert show marks the beginning of a tour that will take Fisher to Edmonton and on to British Columbia, after which he will embark on a one-month tour of England.
The performer is also planning an extensive tour in 2014 with Canadian folk musician and longtime collaborator Garnet Rogers.
Despite Fisher’s long and illustrious career, he shows no signs of slowing down.
“I never thought about where I was in my career,” he said. “Maybe I’m starting all over again. It has that kind of feeling, because I still find it very fresh and enjoyable.
“I don’t feel stale about what I do and I don’t feel stale about the music either, which is quite surprising at 73.”