Posted by fiddlepogo on Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Saturday was a New Year's Day music party that one of the local musicians regularly hosts. The part went from 12 to 6 pm, which was more than I thought I could handle... so I arrived at 3:00 pm. Picky person that I am, I brought both fiddles; the Knilling for fiddle tunes and the mellower Eastman for songs. There was a big jam going on in the master bedroom, but it was pretty packed, and people standing in the door listening, so I headed for the living room where there was a folkie guitarist sitting alone looking forlorn. Pretty soon another couple of guitarists joined us, then a bluegrass guitarist and an accordion player! (A lot of local folkies are taking up SMALL accordions... piano keys, but not much bigger than a Cajun accordion). It went well, partly because I'd taken the time to warm up thoroughly on the fiddle before I went to the party. At some point a lady folksinger who also plays some fiddle got out her fiddle while I was playing Westfalia Waltz... and she wanted to do Ashokan Farewell, but in C, instead of the more normal D. It worked though. Then we did Tennessee Waltz. The wife of one of the guitarists was the one who requested Westfalia Waltz, and she mentioned she played violin and is trying to get started on fiddle.
The host had told me one of his neighbors who is a pro violinist would be there. As the living room jam wound down, I noticed the violinist with her VIELLE in the kitchen. So I moseyed over, asked her about it, and pretty soon we were playing French songs. (Mostly the classic ones I remember from childhood) Her vielle had six strings, and I think she said it was tuned DADADA! So I was aiming for D tunes. She played a Swedish tune too, but it wasn't anything I knew, so I played Appelbo Ganglat for her (I'm not messing with the right Swedish characters just now) for her. And then we got to talking about allergies, because I couldn't eat any of the potluck stuff, and people wonder why.
Afterwards it occurred to me that starting a waltz jam might be just the thing- good for the lady who requested Westfalia, good for the lady who joined in, and maybe good for some violinists who want to fiddle a bit, and a motivator for me to work on some new waltzes.
Thursday, January 6, 2011 @4:20:15 PM
There's maybe something to that waltz jam thing. I only know, as in "I can play this here and now" know 4 waltzes.
At the only event I get fiddler contact, monthly Iowa Fidder's Assn. meetings, there is a young kid, maybe 15, who handed me this book of only waltzes and I absentmindedly leafed through it while saying, "Yeah, I don't really like waltzes,' and I hand it back to him. Now he hands me that book every month now and laughs. But honestly, like the average person must think about breakdown tunes, most waltzes I hear sound alike :^) to my ears. So many of them seem to describe the chords with little melodic variation. Of course I know that's not really the case. I think since they are so darned popular (nearly everyone else at fiddle club play lots of waltzes), you might get quite a turnout for such an event.
Thursday, January 6, 2011 @9:17:59 PM
Yeah, I think there is something to it...
When I was younger, and even now to some degree, well, I liked and still like hoedowns and hornpipes... I want to play them first.
Waltzes are an afterthought for me- back in the day, I only played Wednesday Night Waltz, Peeler Creek Waltz, and Country Waltz,
and that was plenty for me. Since I've started playing again, I've learned Ashokan Farewell and Westphalia Waltz, oh yeah Tennessee Waltz, and made a start towards learning Tombigbee and Young Jane. And there are a couple of others that grab me that I'd like to learn.
Oh yeah, I play a fair number of popular song tunes that sound like waltzes, like Take Me Out To the Ballgame and Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing. Those kind of tunes and Tennessee Waltz are a big hit with the seniors I entertain for and they are a big reason why I have paid better attention to waltzes since I started playing fiddle again. And I've got to say, it's only been good for my fiddling- the longer notes give you much more time to work on your tone, and after a while, the improvement in tone spills over into your hoedowns, too.
Saturday, January 8, 2011 @3:39:09 AM
I think you hit the nail on the head. I love waltzes, not only for the bittersweet emotion of the melody's, but because they require you to produce a good tone. There's no jiving allowed. Your intonation and phrasing are exposed. It's like fiddling naked in a stream. :-) Metaphoracally speaking, of course.
Saturday, January 8, 2011 @9:14:25 AM
I love waltzes! As long as they're only played one at a jam. A bunch of 'em would have me packing up and leaving . . .
Saturday, January 8, 2011 @8:41:56 PM
bj, that's pretty much how I used to feel.
But Mudbug has a point- it's true- tone is such a big component of a waltz "working". I think I'm liking them more because
I've played them enough that my tone HAS improved... tonally, "Nothing succeeds like success", or something like that.
Hmmm.... there is maybe another factor. I think in the last 12 years or so, I've gotten more in touch with my emotions, especially while playing music.
A separation in the late '90's (due to a disagreement on where to live) gave me the blues BIG Time, and I found then
that I could sing spirituals I had learned as a child and FEEL them... and blues likewise.
And it kind of surprises me, (but maybe it shouldn't) that while it was the spirituals and blues that helped get me connected with my emotions musically, it's extended to just about everything else, including waltzes. There are however waltzes I don't like, ones that have perhaps too much sweetness or "schmalz", and not enough in the way of interesting musical structures and memorable melodies.
Just like just about any other form of music (and maybe even a little more) waltzes have their cliches, and the ones that "all sound alike".
I guess it would depend for me on WHICH bunch of waltzes got played!
The WRONG bunch could indeed have me packing up and leaving, too.
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