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Contest Fever (or The Mild Elevation of My Stress Levels)

Saturday, August 01, 2015 @4:53:42 PM

So, this year I've decided to 'compete' in the 40th annual Iowa State Fair fiddle contest.  It was suggested by the president of the Iowa Fiddler's Association and so, on a whim, I looked up the rules.  No mention of illegal tunes (Orange Blossom Special, Listen to the Mockingbird etc) or outlawed hokum bowing, nor is there mention of no cross-tuning.  The only stipulation is no tuning onstage.  So I thought, "Hey, I'll cross tune and play some good old fashioned fiddle."  First I needed to learn a cross-tuned waltz.  I looked at the DDad tunes and heard "Midnight on the Water."  I spent a couple of weeks working it out along with the hoedown (Whiskey Before Breakfast) and tune of choice (Dry and Dusty - 3 parts by Benny Thomasson).  

After two weeks I decided the DDad tunes shared too many similar notes and thought that maybe 3 tunes in D would be detrimental.  Soooo...I have fallen back on some tunes I know well in standard and have been woodshedding them like crazy.  Now I realize that the strings on the fiddle I will use are losing their tone (synthentics, Tonicas I think, and many months old).  Strings are on order (steel, because that's what I prefer) and I've been playing one of my other fiddles with old steel strings on it.  I like that fiddle but it has some minor issues with the tuning pegs and no fine tuners for the G D and A strings.  The new strings will arrive within a week to 3 days from contest time.  I'm not too concerned with the break in period (maybe I should be) because I know these strings and they'll settle with a few hours of playing. 

Another factor is the weather - usually super hot and humid or hot and rainy (so super humid).  Not the best conditions for the bow, but everyone else will have the same issues.  Speaking of everyone else...I know of at least two fiddlers in my division (over 50) who are pretty much the winners so I'm not really expecting to win; I only want to not embarrass myself.   The tunes?  Well I was told to work up two waltzes and two tunes of choice (I know bunches of hoedowns) in case I win my division and advance to the overall finals.  That's 6 tunes.  Did I mention tie-breaker tunes?  No?  That makes for 8 tunes.  Aaargh!  Here's what I'm going with:  Forked Deer (D), Annadeene's Waltz (in A and a little advanced for my waltz skillset), Tallapoosa Bound (G).  Tie breaker - Old Joe Clark (A).  Second set:  Miss McCleod's Reel, Mockingbird Hill (D), Stephen B. Tucker's Circus Piece (a clog in D).  Tie Breaker?  Shoot.  What did I have for that?  Likely it will be Chapel Hill March (D).  I might switch the two D tunes but will have to see about that.  Stay tuned, the contest is August 16th.

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