The Leadway Bar & Gallery was full of fiddlers last Friday night, for the first meeting of the Fiddle Club of the World. About 30 musicians showed up. Most had a fiddle and a bow. I counted one guitar and one banjo. And a handful of folks showed up just to listen.
I got there right at 7:30, and several Fiddle Club members pitched in right away to help set up our small p.a. and arrange the Leadway’s long, narrow party room for listening and playing. (Some eating was going on as well. The Leadway has a kitchen, and Frank, the owner–he’s also a fine sculptor–had set out several trays of veggies and dip for us.)
The music started about 8 pm, as we all played a few tunes together. Since the Fiddle Club members come from various musical walks of life, I thought it valuable to talk about what people expect from a session. Old-time players jump on a tune and ride it till it finds its groove and finishes the course. You might play one tune through a dozen times. At Irish sessions, a tune is usually played two or three times through, and strung together with several others in a medley. Someone or most everyone knows what tune comes next. Bluegrass sessions start by establishing a rotation of lead breaks, and pass the tune around from one player to the next. The Fiddle Club of the World has no established set of rules, but seeks to allow players to stretch boundaries and extend horizons to experience more of what fiddling can do for the world.
Paddy Jones, a truly delightful man and musician, got started about 8:30. He was artfully accompanied by Jesse Langen, who arrived just in time after a gig with the proprietor of Chief O’Neill’s pub. Paddy’s playing was strong, sensitive and rhythmic. He enthralled the room.
(I was very pleased with the acoustics and atmosphere of the Leadway. Paddy could be easily and clearly heard. We used just a bit of p.a. reinforcement, but it may not have been necessary. The front bar room filled up as Paddy played, but the noise from that side never caused a problem. It’s a good room. It would work better if we could move the tables out of the way.)
After close to an hour of concertizing, Paddy was ready for a break. He said he was used to having a singer step up with an occasional song, so he could rest his bow arm for a few moments. We’ll keep that in mind for future meetings.
Then it was time for everyone to play a session with Paddy and each other. A few young players could hardly wait to play through the tunes we’ve had posted on this website. Paddy asked if anybody had any questions. There was a suggestion that he demonstrate how to ornament. Paddy put on his teacher’s hat and led everybody through a demonstration of grace notes, bowing rhythms, and the essentials of playing for dancers. (We’ll post some samples of his “lessons” in a few days.)
Everybody got to play. We went through the tunes posted ahead of Paddy’s visit–the Kerry Polkas, the Kerry Slides, and the unnamed reel that is, in fact, The Galtee Rangers. Jessica Zeigler and her students from Old Town School Irish fiddle classes led us through some standard Irish session tunes. We ended sometime after 11 pm.
Thanks to all who attended, participated, and helped. A special thanks to Tim Joyce and Colby Maddox from the Old Town School, and to Frank and the Leadway Bar & Gallery,
See you April 20.
Paul Tyler, Convener