Begun in April 2020, my weekly Fiddling Demystified class on Zoom continues and geographic distance hasn’t prevented us from becoming a real community. We meet every Weds. from 5-6 pm Eastern U.S. time. My dear friend, NY fiddle master George Wilson became a co-teacher in early 2022. We both began fiddling for contradances in the early 1970s and between us, we have more than a 100 years of fiddling under our bows!
We generally take 3-5 weeks to fully explore each new tune, from melody and bowing patterns to chords and possible harmonies. From time to time, I’ve also invite some of my favorite fiddlers to be our special guest. Babs Lamb played a Vivian Williams vintage waltz with us in early 2023, and Darol Anger taught us a sparkling original reel in April Calvin Vollrath joins us on June 7 to teach some Métis fiddle tunes. In previous years, English folk legend Eliza Carthy gave us practical advice on playing while singing, Cape Breton fiddler Andrea Beaton wrote a march with us, and jazz violinist Sara Caswell demonstrated playing from the heart.
We warmly welcome new class members. Classes are very affordable and you can come for as many as you like. Join us as we explore the hidden corners of fiddling. Cost is $10 singly, $80 for ten classes, $20 for a special guest. Contact Molly Hebert-Wilson at fiddlingdemystified AT gmail DOT com to sign up.
Some fiddlers have stayed with us from the start. Jon Davis of PA sums up what we’re about:
Your lessons have given me invaluable insight into techniques that I’ve been missing. Between discussions on bow handling and usage, rhythms, patterns, shuffles, etc, using the fiddle for accompaniment, applying chord theory to the fiddle, workshops on better ways to bring emotion and feeling into the music, learning ways to do tune composition, not to mention the styles associated with Acadian, Irish, Scottish and even old-time fiddling, we have covered a huge range of method and technique in the course of the last 16 months or so! And there is so much more yet to do, I have no intention of backing out now – it’s sort of like drinking from the fire-hose, as the saying goes.”
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The Infinite Dark, our 2018 CD with poet Jane Yolen is coming for download.
Jane and I collaborated with acoustic musicians Lui Collins and Max Cohen, bringing Jane’s otherworldly poetry to life in a collection of readings, songs, and instrumentals. A suite about shapeshifting Selkies and mermaids adds the voice of Molly Hebert-Wilson and the pennywhistle of Sarah Bauhan. Jane’s verses take the listener to Grimm-er lands as well, revisiting Hansel and Gretel and the forest of the Wolf, reminding us that those archetypes still people our inner and outer landscapes. Max engineered and produced this project and he adds his guitar magic to both poetry and songs.
–Music from the vaults . . .
There’s a hundred feet of air between me and the ceiling of the Cathedral del Gésu in Montréal in the video below, grabbed by a festival-goer at the 2014 La Grande Rencontre. We play the Scots-style air that I wrote with Max Cohen, Raven’s Wing. We’re un-amplified, if you don’t count cathedral reverb. This impromptu workshop jam was shared with (left to right) Bruce Molsky, Robin Bouliane, Pierre Schryer (fiddles) and Quinn Bachand (guitar). Bruce was the only one but me who’d even heard the tune before and the jam was his idea. I love fiddling – not only does it make you dance; sometimes it lets you fly!
More music – Max Cohen and I at the Upper Potomac Fiddle Summit in West Virginia – and a story. A few years ago, my daughter Molly met some kids at Falconridge Festival who were jamming on Dad’s and Circular Reels. They told her they’d learned both tunes from this video and then they played it for me through her phone. A year later the young fiddler came to a workshop and now he’s my regular student. That’s modern technology put to good use!